Amid reports that the Pirates are interested in signing a veteran left-handed hitter coming off a down year like Rick Ankiel, Hank Blalock, or Kelly Johnson, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette suggests that they may end up simply going with young, in-house left-handed hitter Jeff Clement instead:
The deeper we get into this offseason, the clearer it is becoming that the Pirates want to see what Clement has, with maybe some urgency toward doing so before Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata arrive to crowd things further. They do nothing less than rave about what Clement did at the plate in Indianapolis right after the trade, and they sound as if they are very much looking forward to seeing if that translates.
Clement was once a top catching prospect, but just about everyone seems to have given up on the notion of him sticking behind the plate defensively and Pittsburgh got him from Seattle in the midseason deal for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson. While playing first base rather than catcher significantly lowers Clement’s overall upside, his bat still projects to be an asset. He’s struggled through 75 games in the majors, but the former No. 3 overall pick hit .279/.368/.492 with 59 homers and 95 doubles in 359 games at Triple-A.
Those aren’t spectacular numbers, especially spending four seasons at the same level, but Clement has 25-homer power and should supplement a modest batting average with a good number of walks. And as Kovacevic notes, at 26 years old and with over 1,500 plate appearances logged at Triple-A the time has come to see what Clement can do with 150 starts against big-league pitching. He’s certainly no worse of a bet than someone like Johnson or Blalock, and at a fraction of the cost with much more upside.
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.
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.