As tempting as it is to blame Fredi Gonzalez for managing a winner-take-all game as if it were just another regular-season game or umpire Sam Holbrook for his brutal infield-fly call, the fact that the Braves lost to the Cardinals 6-3 on Friday can be chalked up to poor defense from a team that made the fewest errors in the National League this year.
– Up 2-0, third baseman Chipper Jones threw a potential double-play ball over the head of Dan Uggla and into right field in the fourth inning, opening the door for the Cardinals to score three runs.
– Second baseman Dan Uggla bobbled and then threw away David Freese’s grounder with the Braves down 4-2. Freese took second on the play.
– After a sac bunt advanced the pinch-runner, Pete Kozma hit a grounder to shortstop. Andrelton Simmons bobbled the ball and then foolishly threw home anyway. Not only did the run score, but Kozma was able to go to second when the throw went wide.
– It wasn’t an error, but the Cards scored again in the seventh to go up 6-2 when a Matt Carpenter swinging bunt turned into an infield single and an RBI, as Kozma scored from second after pitcher Jonny Venters missed the tag and had his momentum carry him past the first base line.
Atlanta went on to lose from there despite outhitting the Cardinals 12-6 and outwalking them 3-0. This one isn’t on Gonzalez or Holbrook; it’s all on the Braves.
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.