Sure, Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown. But that’s only because no one wanted to give Dan Johnson 550 at-bats.
Johnson hit his first three homers of the season for the White Sox in a 9-0 win over the Indians on Wednesday. He took David Huff deep in the second and fifth innings and then hit the second of back-to-back homers with Dayan Viciedo off Vinnie Pestano in the ninth.
Johnson had just 17 at-bats this season going into the night. He was in the starting lineup primarily because the White Sox didn’t want Adam Dunn to get two strikeouts and break Mark Reynolds’ single-season record of 223.
As you may remember, Johnson also came up big in last year’s season finale. Playing for the Rays, he hit a pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth to send the game against the Yankees into extra innings. The Rays went on to win in 12 to overtake the Red Sox for the AL wild card.
In all, Johnson has 56 homers in 1,320 major league at-bats. The first 42 of those came with the A’s from 2005-07. After getting overtaken in Oakland’s plans, he briefly went to Japan, but didn’t find it to his liking. He’s mostly torn up Triple-A ever since. When he has played in the majors, he’s hit .184 with 12 homers and 40 walks in 217 at-bats over the last three years.
Johnson is 33 now and he’s not an exceptional first baseman, so it’s hard to say whether anyone will give him a real opportunity next spring. The White Sox don’t have room for him with Paul Konerko and Dunn under contract, so they’ll likely make him a free agent later this month.
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.