Last week I wrote about Carlos Zambrano tying Walter Johnson and Bob Gibson for the seventh-most homers by a pitcher in baseball history, but when Zambrano tweaked his back Saturday manager Ozzie Guillen suddenly wasn’t so interested in his power potential.
Here’s what Guillen told Joe Frisaro of MLB.com:
We’re going to cut down on his swings. He ain’t swinging no more. He’s done with that. Now he’s just going to bunt, bunt, and bunt. No more home run derby for him. You see Carlos, Carlos puts on a show when he hits. He does. That’s why we have to control that and make sure. I’m not going to say he’s not going to hit, but I don’t want him to. You don’t win games in batting practice. I don’t want him to start swinging the bat like that.
Zambrano has 24 homers in 682 at-bats and while his career .640 OPS is in backup catcher/utility infielder territory that production has been worth 75-100 runs more than a typical pitcher at the plate during that time. In other words, asking Zambrano not to take such big hacks might help him avoid some injuries but it would also take plenty of runs off the board for the Marlins’ lineup.
Zambrano’s next start is against the Rays under AL rules, so Guillen won’t have to worry about him hacking for a little while.
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.