Left-hander Andrew Oliver, considered one of the bright lights in the Detroit farm system a couple of years ago, was shipped off to Pittsburgh for minor league catcher Ramon Cabrera on Wednesday.
Oliver, a 2009 second-round pick out of Oklahoma State, was rushed to the majors in 2010, only to go 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in five starts. He also made two starts for the Tigers in 2011, but he spent all of 2012 in Triple-A, going 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA and a 112/88 K/BB ratio in 118 innings. The Tigers tried him as a reliever at the very end of the year, and while he did strike out 20 in 16 2/3 innings, he also walked 12.
Cabrera, the son of former Diamondbacks first baseman and Japan League superstar Alex Cabrera, hit .279/.342/.367 in 384 at-bats for Double-A Altoona last season. The 23-year-old is considered below average defensively and it seems unlikely that his bat would play well anywhere other than catcher, so his chances of having a future in the majors hinges on him improving behind the plate. He could return to Double-A or move up to Triple-A with the Tigers.
There hasn’t been any word yet on whether the Pirates intend to use Oliver as a starter or a reliever, but given that he’s primarily a two-pitch guy with his fastball and slider, the bullpen would make the most sense for him.
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.