It was easy to be cynical about the Marlins in the early days of the Hot Stove. With their new name/logo/uniforms and stadium, many believed that their courtship of big-ticket free agents was all an elaborate publicity stunt designed to drum up season ticket sales. Well, now that they have landed both Heath Bell and Jose Reyes, it’s about time we take them seriously.
With that in mind, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the Marlins plan to make an “aggressive push” over the next two days to sign free agent first baseman Albert Pujols.
Of course, the Marlins already made an offer to Pujols, though it was reportedly much lower than the one by the Cardinals (roughly $198-210 million over nine years, depending upon which report you read) way back in February. And that won’t get it done. They’re still a longshot here — all things being equal, he’d probably prefer to stay in St. Louis — but perhaps this is the leverage he needs to get the Cardinals to improve upon their offer.
By the way, the Marlins might not be the Cardinals’ only competition for Pujols. According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, other teams believe that the Cubs will make a push by offering Pujols a higher average annual salary over less years.
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.