The St. Louis Cardinals have signed first baseman Josh Phelps to a minor-league contract. The right-handed hitter would earn a major-league salary of $750,000 and $250,000 in performance bonuses if he makes the team, according to FoxSports.com.
Phelps, 29, was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the tenth round of the 1996 draft. During the 2004 season in which he had a two home run, seven RBI game for the Jays, he was traded to Cleveland. Phelps moved to Tampa Bay in 2005 and then Detroit in 2006, where he spent the entire season in Triple-A. In fact, Phelps is familiar with the Triple-A shuttle, with 2004 being the only season prior to 2007 in which the Alaskan native spent the full season in the majors.
The 6-foot-3, 215 pounder signed with the Orioles in November, 2006 only to be claimed in the Rule 5 draft a month later by the New York Yankees. Always a strong performer in spring training (career line .355/.401/.629), Phelps not only made the Yankees in 2007, but earned the nod as their Opening Day starter at first base. However, it didn’t last as he was waived in June.
Phelps was claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the first of his seven MLB organizations that was a member of the National League. He posted a .351/.463/.649 line (BA/OBP/SLG) in 77 at-bats with the Bucs, including a career-high four-hit game on August 23. As a result, it was a minor surprise when the Pirates dropped him from their 40-man roster in November. He cleared waivers and was subsequently released.
In his career, Phelps has put together a .273/.344/.476 line in 1360 career MLB at-bats. Though more effective against lefty hitters (.296/.364/.500), Phelps has been ok against righties, too (.263/.333/.463).
While not known for his glove, Phelps is versatile defensively with his potential role being as a backup to Albert Pujols at first base and as third string, emergency catcher. Yet, making the team is far from assured. With outfielder Chris Duncan able to play first base as well as incumbent reserve Scott Spiezio around, Phelps could end up playing the role of departed Tagg Bozied at first base for Memphis in 2008, serving as major league insurance.
Phelps becomes the Cardinals’ ninth non-roster invitee to spring training, joining fellow infielders Rico Washington and D’Angelo Jimenez, catcher Mark Johnson, and pitchers Dewon Brazelton, John Wasdin, Hugo Castellanos, Ron Flores and Cliff Politte.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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