Nate McLouth’s strained left oblique will put him on the disabled list, according to the Journal-Constitution’s Dave O’Brien, and the Braves are set to call up Jordan Schafer to replace him.
Schafer, who opened 2009 as the Braves’ center fielder, is back in the majors for the first time since June of that year. There was plenty of hype this spring that with Schafer finally healthy, he’d overtake McLouth as a regular at some point this season. However, he failed to perform well in March and he was hitting just .256/.309/.323 with one homer in 164 at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett.
That makes McLouth a pretty big loss, even if he was hitting a modest .238/.332/.341 in 164 major league at-bats. The Braves don’t have another legitimate center fielder on the roster, so Schafer figures to get a chance to play everyday in the McLouth’s absence. The team is in better position to cover Jason Heyward’s absence, with Eric Hinske and Joe Mather likely to platoon in right field. Wilkin Ramirez will serve as the fifth outfielder.
The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.
Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.
Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.