Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have issued a joint statement regarding the Wilson Ramos kidnapping:
“Our foremost concern is with Wilson Ramos and his family and our thoughts are with them at this time. Major League Baseball’s Department of Investigations is working with the appropriate authorities on this matter. Both Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals have been instructed to make no further comment.”
I assume those instructions came from law enforcement. When someone is being held, it’s probably best to keep mum for fear of inspiring rash action by the kidnappers. This is all so horrifying.
Going beyond the specifics a bit, it’s inescapable that Major League Baseball is going to have to reevaluate its relationship with the Venezuelan baseball establishment. As ESPN’s Jorge Arangure tweeted a while ago, MLB has a say in the playing conditions of the Venezuelan Winter League — things like turf and infield dirt and locker rooms and stuff — to ensure player safety. What is unclear, however, is what level of involvement MLB has with respect to security, whether they should have such involvement, how much, how should it be effected and that sort of thing. Personal bodyguards?
Or, heck, maybe we’re at a point where MLB should strongly consider or outright ban its players from playing in Venezuela altogether. I don’t know. That’s probably a kneejerk reaction. Ramos is a Venezuelan native, after all, and while he was playing in the winter league, it’s just as likely that he could have been taken from his home even if he was merely resting all offseason. Any player in Venezuela is a potential target, whether he’s playing there or simply living in the town in which he was born.
But as Arangure notes, things are getting bad down there: players threatened, scouts mugged in the airport, etc. This was probably inevitable. And, absent something being done, will certainly happen again.
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.