Baseball's tightest race

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With the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds all losing seven of their last 10
games, the six NL Central teams are currently separated by just four
games.

Milwaukee – 34-29
St. Louis – 34-30
Chicago – 30-30
Cincinnati – 31-30
Pittsburgh – 30-33
Houston – 29-32

It’s not just the records that are similar either. The NL Central is
the only division without a team that’s scored at least 300 runs. It’s
also the only division without a team that’s allowed at least 290 runs.
The six NL Central teams rank between 15th and 28th in the majors in
runs scored and between third and 13th in the majors in runs allowed.
Four of the six teams have run differentials within 10 runs.

Milwaukee – 288 RS, 272 RA
St. Louis – 279 RS, 269 RA
Chicago – 253 RS, 245 RA
Pittsburgh – 278 RS, 270 RA
Cincinnati – 262 RS, 266 RA
Houston – 250 RS, 283 RA

As winnable as the division would seem to be, one wonders if the
Pirates will come to regret trading Nate McLouth. The Astros,
certainly, have no reason to give up now, even if their run
differential suggests that they’re fortunate to be where they are.
While Pittsburgh and Houston still look like the weakest teams in the
division, all of the clubs have clear flaws and it’s unlikely that any
will play .600 ball from here on in. As tight as things are, the
Brewers and Cardinals may be better off overpaying for help now rather
than waiting another six weeks to see if price tags come down at the
deadline.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.