Although it is not expected to pay dividends in the short term, the Phillies made an intriguing addition to their system yesterday when they signed 28-year-old outfielder Willy Taveras to a minor league deal.

Taveras fell out of favor early this season with the Nationals and was released, but he led the National League with 68 stolen bases in 2008 and has the potential to give the Phillies some much-needed speed on their bench during the stretch run. Taveras will join Triple A Lehigh Valley, where veteran outfielder Dewayne Wise has exercised an out-clause in his contract, making him a free agent.

In his first three seasons in the majors, Taveras hit .293 with a .338 on-base percentage and converted 100 of his 129 stolen-base attempts for the Astros and Rockies. Despite hitting just .246 in 2008-09 with the Rockies and Reds, he stole 93 bases.

In other news, righthander Nelson Figueroa cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Lehigh Valley, where he will provide much-needed depth in the rotation.

Figueroa, who signed on Opening Day and spent the first 2 months of the season on the active roster, appeared in just nine games for the Phillies before he was designated for assignment. Figueroa allowed two runs in five innings in his only start of the season. He allowed eight runs, walked six and allowed 14 hits in 13 2/3 innings of relief.