Atlanta is down its top two center fielders after Nate McLouth was placed on the disabled list Friday due to a lower abdominal strain.
Jordan Schafer was previously placed on the DL on Wednesday because of a chip fracture in his left middle finger.
Taking McLouth’s place on the roster and making his major league debut in center for Atlanta tonight is minor league veteran Jose Constanza. At 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, he becomes one of the tiniest players on a major league roster, and he has the power to match, as he had collected just seven extra-base hits — two doubles, four triples and one homer — in 333 at-bats for Triple-A Gwinnett this season. He was hitting .312/.361/.351 with 23 steals in 31 attempts.
As a stopgap, a team could do worse. Constanza will play pretty good defense and do his best to slap some grounders through the infield. Still, the Braves have a greater need for an outfielder than ever now, and while Hunter Pence and Ryan Ludwick are supposed to be atop their list, a legitimate center fielder like B.J. Upton or Coco Crisp might do them more good.
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.