The Braves signed Mat Gamel to a minor league deal, a low-cost move that could give them a bench player with good left-handed power. They plan to use him at first base and third base.
Gamel, 28, is a former top Brewers prospect who missed most of the past two seasons after twice tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. In his last healthy season in 2011, he hit .310 with 28 home runs, 96 RBIs and a .372 on-base percentage in 128 games at Triple-A Nashville.
He’ll be invited to major league spring training and compete for a spot on the 25-man roster.
A former fourth-round draft pick by the Brewers, Gamel was Milwaukee’s starting first baseman before tearing his ACL on May 1, 2012, while chasing a pop foul ball. He tore the ACL again at 2013 spring training and missed the entire season.
Gamel has a .229 average with six home runs and a .305 on-base percentage in 269 plate appearances in the majors during parts of five seasons with the Brewers.
He’s been a hitting machine at the Triple-A level, batting .301 with 71 doubles, 53 homers and 214 RBIs in 290 games, with a .374 OBP and .886 OPS in 1,247 plate appearances.
Gamel is out of minor-league options, and the Brewers placed him on waivers after the 2013 season rather than restoring him to their 40-man roster. He was quickly claimed by the Cubs. Eligible for arbitration for the first time, he went non-tendered by Chicago, making him a free agent.
Gamel accrued most of his three-plus years of service time while on the 60-day disabled list the past two seasons.
Baseball America rated him as the No. 34 prospect in baseball before the 2009 season. Gamel hit .242 with five homers and a .338 OBP in 148 plate appearances and 61 games in 2009, the only season when he played in more than 21 big-league games.
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