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Nats sign veteran catcher Hill to minor-league deal

Feb 5, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT

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Adding yet another catching option as a backup to Wilson Ramos, the Nationals have signed Koyie Hill to a minor-league contract, offering the veteran an invitation to big-league camp.

Hill, who turns 35 in March, is a career .206 hitter in parts of 10 major-league seasons with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Marlins. He appeared in 18 games for Miami last season after spending time with three different organizations in 2012. Included in that time was a stint with the Nationals’ Class AAA affiliate in Syracuse, where he hit .163 in 31 games.

Hill joins a growing list of catchers the Nationals will bring to spring training, all of them competing to serve as Ramos’ backup come Opening Day. Jhonatan Solano, who has appeared in 36 games for Washington over the last two seasons, is the likely frontrunner heading into camp, with fellow prospect Sandy Leon also in the mix.

If the Nationals prefer a veteran No. 2 catcher, they’ll have options between Hill and Chris Snyder (a career .224 hitter in 10 seasons with the Diamondbacks, Pirates, Astros and Orioles).

The Nats also have invited organizational catchers Brian Jeroloman and Jeff Howell to big-league camp.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Okay, I spend way too much time following baseball and I think I have a fairly broad knowledge of the sport and MLB players. But I’ve got to say that before seeing this on MLBTR I had never, ever heard of this guy before.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      I heard of him couple of times from his Cubs days.

  2. masterfishkeeper - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Actually, given that he was in the Nats organization (Syracuse) in 2012, you probably have heard of him, but he’s not very memorable. Seems to me to be organization depth.

  3. zmunchkin - Feb 5, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    I remember the name as well. This is almost certainly minor league depth. And this signing might suggest that talks with the Rays for Lobaton got stalled. Unless they both have a horrible ST, one of Solano or Leon will be the backup and the other one will be the starter in Syracuse with Hill and/or Snyder as the backup there.

    • jd - Feb 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM

      zmunchkin,

      I think it has to be Leon. I think Solano has had his chances and I dont think he is good enough to play 20% of the games or more if Ramos is hurt. Hill was a long time backup to Soto in Chicago. He’s ok as a backup I guess as long as you don’t need any offense from him. I think Snyder is likely better.

      • sjm308 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        jd – like you I am hoping its Leon and the performance this winter is a hint of what he might actually be able to do.

      • zmunchkin - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        I am also hoping it is Leon. Based on the few times I saw him play, he seems to be better defensively than Solano. And as sjm says, if he hits like it did this winter, all the better.

  4. natsjackinfl - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    These last two catchers invited to camp are there to provide able bodies to handle all the arms that will be showing up next week. By my count, this should bring the total to 7 or 8 catchers which will handle the work load for bullpen sessions for the first 6 or 7 days of camp.

    • jd - Feb 5, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      can’t yo just use low minor league catchers for that purpose? IMO it’s organizational depth just in case.

      • sjm308 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        My thoughts on that & I could be totally wrong is the more veterans you have in spring training the better. What you want as these pitchers start to ramp up is someone who is experienced enough to handle them, even in just bullpen sessions. I am actually happy to see these last two guys added as they have both been through a bunch of spring trainings and know how to pace the pitchers as well as themselves.

  5. David Proctor - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Here’s a Grantland article on the Orioles. Nobody cares about them. However, there’s a long section devoted to the Nationals and the MASN situation.

    http://grantland.com/features/baltimore-orioles-offseason-spending-al-east/

    In that article, there’s an interesting tidbit that I was unaware of:

    “For now, the MASN status quo remains. The Nationals aren’t completely helpless, though: According to a source close to the Washington franchise, MLB has sent the team an undisclosed sum every year to help bridge the gap, and to prevent the Lerners from taking matters to court, until the deal becomes more balanced.”

    Was anyone else aware of this?

    • nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      Never heard of that and never read that anywhere. That sounds like “hush” money from Bud. It could make sense but how long does MLB want to bridge that gap? The Nats are being under-compensated by close to $50 on the low side and $80 million on the high side.

      • David Proctor - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:24 PM

        Indeed, I wonder how much exactly MLB is sending. It must be a sizable amount, no?I believe what Grantland is reporting because Jonah Keri is very good at his job. That puts a new wrinkle into everything, imo.

    • MicheleS - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:22 PM

      David.. that is the most interesting fact about the Nats getting this money from MLB. It’s basically paying the Lerners not to SUE Angelos to get out of the deal.

      • Jb - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:21 PM

        The Lerners wouldn’t sue Angelos, they’d sue MLB for not suitably arbitrating a reset payment. And if MLB arbitrates a reset payment that satisfies the Nats, it’s a given that Angelos will be unsatisfied and he will sue MLB. So it makes sense that when MLB missed the deadline to arbitrate the reset payment they would make the Nats whole until such time as they could negotiate an agreement with Angelos. This would also explain why everyone is up in arms over this except for Ted Lerner.

    • shawndc04 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      That’s the first I heard of that. If it is true, I’d like to know the amount. I’d also like to know what alternatives the Rays, Pirates, and Rays have proposed.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:37 PM

      Wow. Whether you call it ‘an undisclosed sum…to bridge the gap’ or ‘hush money’ or make-up compensation’ it’s effectively a bribe. Now, don’t get me wrong. As long as the payments aren’t illegal — and there’s no reason to think these are — they’re a legitimate conflict-management tool (think many, many international agreements that includes large transfers of cash). But wow; fascinating that MLB would pay Peter Angelos’ legitimate debts for him.

      Mark Zuckerman: Thoughts?

      • nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        “According to SNL Kagan, a group that analyzes cable and broadcast network deals as well as regional sports networks (RSNs), MASN properties generated $167.8 million in total revenue in 2012.5 The bulk of that money came from advertising and subscriber fees, with 5.4 million consumers paying $2.14 a month. That’s well below the $2.47 industry average for 2012 and $2.69 projection for 2013,6 and several of the media experts and sports deal makers interviewed for this story said MASN should be getting much more. Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, which primarily airs Washington Capitals and Wizards regular-season games, got $4.02 per month in 2012, indicating the market would likely support a higher rate for MASN. It’s hard to know whether to blame the network’s low subscriber fee on inept management, the timing of the deal,7 or other factors, but whatever the reason, it’s clear MASN will be leaving tens of millions on the table until it renegotiates with local cable providers.”

        Look at that disparity between MASN and Comcast Sports Net Mid-Atlantic. That’s mind-boggling. $2.14 vs $4.02 That’s almost double and a big part of that is Comcast gives high quality TV not that garbage that looks like 2 ten year olds produced using web cams in there bedrooms.

        Amazing to me to think what MASN is potentially worth if it was run properly. Sure we would all see our cable bills go up by $2 per month buy may be we get better content and it would be worth it!

        In the end since Angelos owns over 80% its really him losing out on all the cable money plus all the advertising revenue. The best he seems to do is get crappy advertisers like LUNA and the local Toyota dealership. With the affluence of the Washington DC area, you think they could do much better.

        This article if accurate is about the most “insider” info I have read. We still dont know if the hush money is true and if true how much it is.

    • zmunchkin - Feb 5, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      I guess it is time for a snarky comment: turn-about is fair play.

      Selig caved to Angelos’ threats to sue if the Expos located to DC by giving him this sweetheart TV rights deal. Selig did not want the dirty money deals he orchestrated so John Henry could buy the Red Sox and Loria the Marlins exposed in court.

  6. nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Might just be leverage to pry away Lobaton from Tampa Bay. The Rays wont go into the season carrying 3 catchers in the 1 million + range.

    Lobaton is set to make over $900,000 and is a 3rd catcher. Have to believe they will want to trade him and replace him with a $500,000 outfielder.

    The Rays never want to make a trade unless they get extra value. Cant blame Rizzo for looking elsewhere instead of getting fleeced.

  7. nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 1:53 PM

    “Wow. Whether you call it ‘an undisclosed sum…to bridge the gap’ or ‘hush money’ or make-up compensation’ it’s effectively a bribe. Now, don’t get me wrong. As long as the payments aren’t illegal — and there’s no reason to think these are — they’re a legitimate conflict-management tool (think many, many international agreements that includes large transfers of cash). But wow; fascinating that MLB would pay Peter Angelos’ legitimate debts for him.

    Mark Zuckerman: Thoughts?”

    Its only a bribe if MLB approached Lerner with the idea of paying the Nats off for “silencio por favor”. If it is an olive branch until its resolved, its all legal. Again, all “unnamed source hearsay” right now.

  8. nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    http://www.bloomberg.com/infographics/2013-10-23/mlb-team-values.html

    That Wheel of Fortune is cool however I cant understand how they say the Nats have $83 million in Media Rights if they really arent receiving it.

  9. langleyclub - Feb 5, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Since MLB brokered the deal that gave the Orioles the TV rights for Nats games, MLB would be a defendant in any lawsuit seeking to free-up the Nats TV rights. So, MLB’s “hush” money to the Nats is not just to protect the O’s from a lawsuit, but MLB is also protecting its own interests. To resolve this, MLB will likely be forced to wait until Angelos either dies or sells the team. At that point, MLB will negotiate an additional payment to Angelos or his estate in return for excluding the Nats TV rights as part of the sale of the O’s. I don’t see any chance of Angelos negotiating away his ownership of the Nats TV rights.

  10. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 5, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    The Nats are going to have catchers lined up in ST like the dancing hippos in Fantasia. Not a pretty sight to contemplate.

    • ArVAFan - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:07 PM

      Now, that’s a scary thought. I will report next week! With or without the tutus.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:05 PM

    About the MLB hush money, I don’t know whether to be surprised — or not. It might be something like “an advance on what you’re entitled to,” with a reckoning/redistribution when a final deal is agreed to. Or it could just be a cash hand-out (less likely). Either way, it makes it impossible to guess-timate what the Nats real budget is. Ticket sales can be estimated, local TV revenue is fairly well known, national TV revenue can be estimated, plus a factor for jerseys, etc. But now there’s this unknown pot of money that comes in on the Brinks truck. How to guess how much money they actually have to pay players? These stories about the Nats’ “budget” or the so-called $140MM “ceiling” appear to be just so much misdirection. (I didn’t believe — or want to believe — the stories about the “ceiling” anyway.)

    • Jb - Feb 5, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      Misdirection, thy name is Kilgore.

      • Nats128 - Feb 5, 2014 at 4:41 PM

        Good answer. That’s where that smoke started. Still shocked that an outsider on Grantland got this info and not a beat writer. Of additional surprise is that the writer buried this story in a 0s piece instead of a dedicated story on the subject.

        This revelation of rumor is the biggest news since the signing of Mclouth. It really explains alot in my mind to the lack of urgency however with the Phillies TV RSN it really tells you that the Nats are probably owed an additional $65 million in a safe estimate to a shortfall in that MASN deal. Doubtful MLB is forking over that type of loot.

  12. letswin3 - Feb 5, 2014 at 7:46 PM

    Maybe I’m way off base here, but I’m guessing that Peter Angelos’ personality isn’t about to change it’s stripes …… ever. He absolutely loves to bully folks (witnessed by a number of Baltimore real estate deals where lawsuits trumped negotiated business agreements). His greatest enjoyment is gloating over having taken advantage of someone. His ownership of MASN, and a settlement with The Nats, will likely be announced about 2-3 years after his estate is settled … the family will sell off MASN, and all will again be right in Mudville.

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