The sad news of Darren Daulton’s brain cancer diagnosis inspired the Philadelphia Inquirer to conduct a research project — reviewed by a University of Pennsylvania epidemiologist — into incidents of brain cancer among Phillies players and coaches who spent time in Veteran’s Stadium. The results suggest an elevated risk of brain cancer among those who plied their trade at the Vet, with Daulton, Tug McGraw, John Vukovich and Johnny Oates all being stricken.
That’s just four, but as the Inquirer’s story explains, it is a rate 3.1 times higher than in the general population. The story and the epidemiologist note that, obviously, we’re dealing with small sample sizes and the results could be a matter of chance, but it is both an interesting and potentially worrisome statistical observation.
And not necessarily a new observation. You may recall that, two years ago, friend of HBT and former Royals pitcher Bob Tufts raised this question regarding players from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. Tufts himself is a cancer survivor and several other Royals including Paul Splittoroff, Dick Howser and Dan Quisenberry died from various forms of cancer after spending time in K.C.
At the time, Tufts — while acknowledging that this is anecdotal information, not anything like a scientific study — suggested that the MLBPA and Major League Baseball study cancer rates and types among former major leaguers. While the Inquirer study itself isn’t more than a statistical observation itself, it’s not a bad suggestion that someone do something more.
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.