Yanks sign Thames, make Winn official
Left fielders expected to compete with Gardner for time
NEW YORK -- The Yankees announced Monday that they have signed right-handed-hitting outfielder Marcus Thames to a Minor League contract, inviting him and 19 other non-roster players -- including top catching prospect Jesus Montero -- to Spring Training.
The Yankees also made their acquisition of outfielder Randy Winn official, signing him to a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
Winn and Thames will battle Brett Gardner for the starting left-field job vacated by departed free agent Johnny Damon. The Yankees could also choose to platoon the left-handed-hitting Gardner with Winn, Thames or some combination of the two.
Thames, 32, hit .252 with 13 home runs in 258 at-bats last year with the Tigers. Originally drafted by the Yankees in 1996, Thames made his Major League debut in New York six years later, making a name for himself as a low-average, high-power outfielder. Although he is a .243 career hitter, Thames has batted 22 points and slugged 42 points higher against left-handed pitching.
To challenge Gardner for the starting job in left, Thames will also have to unseat Winn, who reached an agreement with the Yankees on Jan. 27 but needed to pass a physical before the deal became official. Winn's contract, which sucked up the last of the team's budget and eliminated any chance of Damon returning to New York, has a base salary of $1.1 million and includes an additional $900,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.
Unlike Thames, Winn is not a significantly better hitter against left-handers, batting .158 against them last season.
The two outfielders will be among a group of 60 total players in camp for the Yankees this spring. Highlighting the non-roster invitees is Montero, the club's 20-year-old top prospect. Hitting .317 as a 19-year-old at Double-A last season helped Montero gain status as one of the game's top overall prospects. MLB.com recently named him the league's 19th-best prospect overall.
Headlining the pitchers in camp is lefty Kei Igawa, who will be entering the fourth season of the five-year, $20 million contract he signed in late 2006. Igawa, who didn't throw a single pitch in the big leagues last season, was 10-8 with a 4.15 ERA for Triple-A Scranton.
He will be joined in Tampa, Fla., by left-handed pitchers Wilkins Arias, Jeremy Bleich and Royce Ring, and right-handed pitchers Grant Duff, Jason Hirsh, Zach McAllister, Amaury Sanit, Zack Segovia and Kevin Whelan.
The Yankees also invited outfielders Colin Curtis, Reid Gorecki, Jon Weber and David Winfree to camp, along with catchers Kyle Higashioka, P.J. Pilittere, Mike Rivera and Austin Romine.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.