John Baker has just recently started soft-tossing from 45 feet following September elbow surgery and likely won’t be cleared to catch again until at least May even if he avoids setbacks, but he’s still hoping to win a spot on the Marlins’ roster coming out of spring training.
He’ll be able to swing at full strength long before he’s able to do the same throwing, so Baker will try to show the Marlins that he’s capable of providing value as a pinch-hitter. When healthy Baker has a solid bat, hitting .273 with a .358 on-base percentage and .406 slugging percentage in 744 career plate appearances, but it may be tough for the Marlins to justify filling a roster spot with someone who can’t play defense at all.
Baker started 112 games behind the plate in 2009 and looked like the Marlins’ long-term answer at catcher before last year’s elbow injury, but this offseason Florida signed John Buck to a three-year, $18 million deal that seemingly makes him Baker’s replacement in 2011 and beyond. Where that leaves Baker, at age 30, is unclear, but he’s saying all the right things about focusing on getting healthy and being willing to fill whatever role he can while recovering.
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.