Everyone who woke up early this morning to watch MLB Network got to see a helluva game, as the Netherlands advanced to the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic and knocked Cuba out of the tournament with a 7-6 walk-off win.
Facing a 6-4 deficit in the eighth inning, 23-year-old Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons smacked a two-run homer for the Netherlands that sent the game into the ninth inning tied. From there Andruw Jones reached base on a fielding error by Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gurriel and then scored the game-winning run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Kalian Sams, a 26-year-old outfielder who spent last season playing at Double-A for the Mariners.
The victory was probably extra sweet for the Netherlands, because after they defeated Cuba for the first time in a 6-2 game last week Cuban manager Victor Mesa said: “I don’t think they’re a very good team, to be honest. I think we could’ve scored more. I think we should’ve scored four or five more runs.”
Not sure what that says about Mesa’s team, but either way Cuba and their micro-managing skipper are going home and the Netherlands are going to San Francisco for the semi-finals. They join Japan in the Final Four and await the top two teams from among the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy.
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.