Miguel Tejada's road back to the big leagues will be paved through Jupiter.
The six-time MLB All-Star has signed a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins and will soon report to the club's spring training affiliate in the Florida town, he told Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com. Tejada, who turns 40 on Sunday, plans to briefly work out at the facility before pushing for his promotion.
"I'm in great shape, I've been training every day for months," Tejada said. "I feel that I can still help a team. I will work hard to achieve game shape, and then to earn a promotion to the big club."
If all goes as planned, Tejada could be with the Marlins by the end of the month. He is currently serving the tail end of a 105-game suspension levied by Major League Baseball for violating the joint drug agreement. The suspension took him through the end of his 2013 season with the Kansas City Royals and would come to full term 64 games into this year, per Rojas.
Rojas reported that MLB is currently planning to allow Tejada to join Miami on May 31. That would mean Tejada sat out the first 56 games of Miami's 2014 season, therefore shortening his initial suspension by eight games. MLB has not commented on Tejada's status, nor have the Marlins officially announced his signing.
The 2002 American League MVP, Tejada was a surprisingly solid addition to Kansas City last season when healthy. He hit .288/.317/.378 with three home runs and 20 RBI, moving back and forth between second and third base when needed. Tejada has a career .285 batting average with 307 home runs and 1,302 RBI.
While obviously a significant leap down from his peak in Oakland and Baltimore, Tejada should be an interesting platoon fit for an already elite offense. Miami, a surprising 23-22 on the season, ranks in the top 10 in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
Second baseman Derek Dietrich and third baseman Casey McGehee could both cede playing time to Tejada. Dietrich is tied for the lowest batting average (.250) among Miami everyday starters, though he does a solid job of getting on base. McGehee is having a better season, but he's yet to hit for much power and was out of MLB entirely in 2013.
Tejada won't start over either guy at first. Marlins manager Mike Redmond has done a nice job exceeding expectations and will likely want to keep his lineup intact. But it's very possible that Redmond will make a change if Tejada is bringing his bat through the zone well and either Dietrich or McGehee goes through a long slump.
It's equally possible this is a signing we never hear about again. Tejada failed to make the Orioles' roster in 2012, and his career looked over until Kansas City rolled the dice. That experience wound up a mixed bag, and Tejada will instantly become one of MLB's oldest players. There are only four players currently 40 or older on big league rosters.
With any luck, Tejada will become the fifth. Just don't be surprised if Miami takes a long look before deciding a 40-year-old with a slowing bat and middling defensive metrics carries more risk than reward.
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