MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Spring to action: 9 late signings that made impact

Spring to action: 9 late signings that made impact

In the last couple of days, the Royals reportedly have agreed to terms with right-hander Jason Hammel to fill a rotation need. Relievers Matt Belisle with the Twins and Sergio Romo with the Dodgers also came to agreements on deals for the coming season.

Better late than never.

Spring Training camps open in a week, but what has become apparent is that teams can make key additions with reporting dates just over the horizon -- and after they pass.

And the list of remaining free agents includes the likes of catcher Matt Wieters, first basemen Mike Napoli and co-2016 National League home run leader Chris Carter.

It's a recent trend.

A year ago, the late signees included the likes of center fielder Dexter Fowler by the eventual World Series champion Cubs, and shortstop Ian Desmond, who found himself in center field for the American League West champion Rangers.

Here are nine key late signees of a year ago:

1. Fowler, Cubs
Fowler wound up signing one-year contract to return to the Cubs on Feb. 25 after coming close to signing a three-year deal with the Orioles. He flourished in center field for a Cubs team that won its first World Series since 1908, and he parlayed that into a five-year, $82.5 million pact this offseason with the Cardinals.

Must C: Fowler's leadoff homer

2. Desmond, Rangers
Caught in limbo last winter, Desmond signed with the Rangers four days after Fowler's deal with the Cubs. Desmond, a shortstop throughout his career, went through a crash course on learning to play left field, only to find himself in center field two months into the season. He didn't have to wait around this offseason, signing a five-year, $70 million deal on Dec. 13 with the Rockies, who have him focused on learning to play first base.

3. Fernando Rodney, Padres
The Padres weren't contenders, but they provided a landing spot last February for Rodney, who was so dominant in the first three months of last season that San Diego shipped him to the Marlins for pitching prospect Chris Paddock. Paddock wound up needing Tommy John surgery but showed enough that he is still ranked the eighth-best prospect in the Padres' farm system. Rodney, meanwhile, signed Dec. 9 with the D-backs.

4. Howie Kendrick, Dodgers
Primarily a second baseman in his days with the Angels, Kendrick tested free agency last offseason after spending 2015 with the Dodgers. He wound up returning to the Dodgers on Feb. 4, claiming a starting spot in the outfield for the NL West champions, who then dealt him the past November to the Phillies.

Kendrick's running grab

5. Yovani Gallardo
Gallardo didn't land with the Orioles until Feb. 25 a year ago, and it turned out that Camden Yards wasn't an ideal spot for him. He did, however, finish out the season with Baltimore, and he now finds himself getting a chance to pitch in the much friendlier confines in Seattle after the Orioles dealt him to the Mariners on Jan. 6 to acquire left-handed-hitting outfielder Seth Smith.

6. Christian Friedrich, Padres
Released by the Rockies the opening days of Spring Training a year ago, Friedrich signed with the Padres the first week of March. He wound up with his first legitimate shot at the big league level, and while the numbers weren't eye-popping, he did lead the Padres' staff with 23 starts and ranked second with 129 1/3 innings pitched.

7. Belisle, Nationals
Belisle spent seven weeks on the disabled list with a strained calf muscle and shoulder inflammation in 2016, but the Feb. 18 signing did provide solid bullpen depth for the NL East champions when he was healthy, compiling a 1.76 ERA in 40 games and providing a quality clubhouse personality. This year, the Twins are looking for Belisle to provide maturity for their young team.

8. Juan Uribe, Indians
The veteran wasn't signed by the Indians until Feb. 28, and he was released on Aug. 5. But in between, he provided strong leadership and a third-base solution until the Tribe felt it was time for Jose Ramirez to settle in at the position.

Uribe's barehanded play

9. Dae-Ho Lee, Mariners
Lee signed a Minor League contract with the Mariners on Feb. 3, and he wasn't even added to the big league roster until March 27. From there, he provided a quality platoon at first base with Adam Lind. The two combined for 34 home runs and 107 RBIs. At the age of 34, Lee decided to return to his native Korea in 2017.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.