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Braves sign Ryan Howard to minor-league deal

The veteran joins an NL East rival after spending his entire career with the Phillies.

MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves have signed veteran first baseman Ryan Howard to a minor-league deal, per a club announcement. He will head to extended spring training before likely joining Triple-A Gwinnett.

Howard, whose contract with the Phillies expired last season, had a tough time on the free-agent market after hitting just .196/.257/.453 with 25 homers for Philadelphia last year. He will provide insurance for Atlanta in the case of injury to Freddie Freeman, and also could be an option to join the club as a designated hitter-type for interleague games.

Howard, 37, is earning $10 million this year as the result of the Phillies buying him out of his contract at the end of last year. The 2006 NL MVP is a career .258/.343/.515 hitter with 382 homers in 13 major-league seasons, all with the Phillies.

Howard is a 3-time All-Star, and owns six top-10 MVP finishes for his work with Philadelphia in 2005 through 2011. He has earned over $190 million in his career, but will try to add to his legacy by providing depth for the Braves this season.