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Austin Nola signs 1-year deal with Royals after Brewers release

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The Kansas City Royals signed veteran catcher Austin Nola to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Nola's deal is worth $975,000 if he's on the major-league roster, and $175,000 if he's in the minors, according to The Associated Press. The contract alson contains up to $250,000 in bonuses based on games played in the majors.

Nola returned to the open market earlier Thursday when the Milwaukee Brewers granted his release. He signed a minor-league deal with Milwaukee in January, but the Brewers' addition of Gary Sánchez this week left Nola as the odd man out of their 2024 catching plans.

"With the addition of Gary Sánchez and our other depth at the catching position, we thought the chance at a new opportunity would be the right thing to do for Austin," Brewers general manager Matt Arnold told Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Nola, 34, spent most of the last four seasons with the San Diego Padres, where he served as one of their primary catchers. He's coming off a career-worst season in which he hit .146/.260/.192 with one homer and eight RBIs in 52 games. Though he's been a reliable defensive catcher throughout his career, Nola also struggled with the glove in 2023, tallying minus-3 defensive runs saved and minus-3 catcher framing runs.

In Kansas City, Nola will compete with Freddy Fermin to become Salvador Perez's backup. Both Fermin and Nola - the only primary catchers on the Royals' 40-man roster besides Perez - have minor-league options remaining. Outfielder MJ Melendez, a natural backstop, also caught 10 games last year and could do so again in an emergency.

General manager J.J. Picollo reiterated Friday that Fermin is the frontrunner to back up Perez, but added that "there's a chance" the team carries all three catchers on the Opening Day roster, according to Jaylon T. Thompson of the Kansas City Star. Nola could help the Royals' overall bench depth thanks to his versatility; while catcher remains his primary position, he has significant experience playing first and second base in the majors.

Nola is a lifetime .249/.326/.370 hitter with 24 home runs and 136 RBIs over parts of five big-league seasons with the Padres and Seattle Mariners.

To make room for Nola on the 40-man roster, Kansas City placed left-hander Kris Bubic on the 60-day injured list.

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