Yesterday Aaron noted that former Mariner and current Yakult Swallow Wladimir Balentien was threatening the NPB single season home run record. As an update, know that he has hit a solo home run today/tonight and now has 51, putting him four short of the record 55, held by Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
My question — and anyone with good knowledge of the NPB should chime in — is whether or not he’ll get anything to hit once he gets to 55. A decade ago when Rhodes threatened the record it was widely assumed — and there much evidence showing — that he was stuck on 55 when opponents refused to give him anything to hit, lest a non-Japanese player break the immortal Oh’s record. I’m not sure if Cabrera got that treatment too. Or if, in reality, it was really a major factor in Rhodes not breaking Oh’s record.
I assume that a decade in which several Japanese players have dominated in the United States — and in which people are just generally cool about such things — will mean that Balentien will get pitches down the stretch. And I assume with 32 games left and only four homers to go, he’ll break that record.
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.