The Dodgers will have to find a new utility infielder, as the Athletics have plucked free agent Nick Punto from the market by signing him to a one-year, $2.75 million contract for 2014. The team announced that there is a vesting option for 2015, and the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser reports that the option will vest with fewer than 30 days on the disabled list.
Punto will make $2.75 million in 2014, and can make another $2.75 million in 2015 should the option vest. If it does not vest, it becomes a club option with a $250,000 buyout. For that low price, it's likely the Athletics will pick up the option unless Punto's game completely falls apart or he's injured.
The switch-hitting utility infielder spent the last season-and-change with the Dodgers, following his move to Los Angeles from Boston in the eponymous Nick Punto trade that helped shape both franchises. He hit .258/.335/.325 with the Dodgers in 138 games, but was, as usual, lauded for his clubhouse presence and for his versatility.
At this low price, Punto makes sense as a piece on the bench, especially for a team with Jed Lowrie at shortstop. While Lowrie was healthy in 2013, it was the first time he managed to appear in over 100 games or log over 400 plate appearances: insurance against a return to the darker days of his career is a good thing. As the Athletics relied more on platoons in their infield in 2013 than on utility players like Punto, he represents a slight change in direction for the bench.