The Los Angeles Dodgers have reached agreement on a minor league contract with free agent Eugenio Velez, a once-promising prospect who never seemed to gain a major league foothold during his five seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization and who suffered the unusual indignity this fall of not being offered a contract by the Giants despite not yet being eligible for arbitration.
The Dodgers also finalized their minor league contract with veteran infielder Juan Castro and re-signed former major league catcher J.D. Closser to another minor league deal. Velez, Castro and Closser all will be invited to big league spring training.
Velez, 28, can play adequately at second base and at all three outfield positions, and he is a switch hitter with speed. Most of his time in the outfield has been logged in left field, but he doesn't appear to be a viable candidate to fill the everday left field spot the Dodgers have been looking all winter to fill. He likely will compete for the 25th spot on the roster and would fit right in with a team that will be deep in versatile, multiple-position players for rookie manager Don Mattingly to weave into various spots.
Velez has played in the majors intermittently over the past four seasons, but has hit just .256 with a total of eight homers and 71 RBI in 225 games. He batted just .164 for the Giants in 2010, when he spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Fresno.
In fact, Velez has logged at least some time in Triple-A each of the past four seasons and performed well there, including a .372 on-base percentage in 42 games for the Grizzlies in 2008. But whenever he has been called to the majors, his performance has usually slipped. Although he made just a prorated share of a $416,000 base salary in 2010 and didn't figure to get much more than that in 2011, the Giants let him go simply because they didn't think they had an opening for him on their roster.
Velez wasn't on the Giants' 2010 playoff roster for any of the three rounds.
Castro, 38, agreed to terms last week on a deal that will pay him $500,000 if he makes the club. He can play second, third, shortstop and, in an emergency, first base.
Closser, who will turn 30 next month and who spent three seasons in the majors with the Colorado Rockies, appears destined for another year at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .268 in 92 games in 2010 without receiving any callups from the Dodgers. Already this winter, the Dodgers have signed veteran Rod Barajas to be their primary catcher, and they are expected on Tuesday to finalize their one-year contract with veteran Dioner Navarro to be Barajas' backup. Barring an injury, that probably will push longtime prospect A.J. Ellis back to Albuquerque, where he would get the majority of the starts over Closser.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.