For whatever reason — money? — the Cardinals decided to let Football Championship Series (FCS) schools Southern Illinois University and Southeast Missouri State University play a college football game Saturday afternoon on the outfield grass at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. The game was attended by only 14,618 and it left the field at “Baseball Heaven” in need of a full sod replacement.
Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was on the scene and wrote about the damage:
Worst case: Pretty much what happened. Thursday night’s rain and Friday’s day-long soaker followed an extended smoldering and dry period that had left the outfield a slip-and-slide zone. Conditions were dicey enough that the Cardinals and the two schools discussed canceling the event, which would have forced SEMO to host the game Sunday. Recent flooding in Colorado imperiled some grass farms just as the Cardinals decided they would need 13 truckloads of sod.
Head groundskeeper Bill Findley is racing against the clock to get the field back into baseball shape with the Cards due back in town Monday for the start of a six-game season-ending homestand against the Nationals and Cubs. Postseason games will follow, and over 100,000 square feet of new grass has to take hold.
Matt Holliday spoke openly about his opinion of the event Saturday to lead beat writer Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch: “It was already kicking up when the baseball players were on it,” said the Cardinals’ starting left fielder. “It’s something you think about — the condition of the field, how it’s going to play and what a football game would do to that. And you think about at this point of the season, being in a pennant chase and the timing of it. You don’t want anything to keep the field from being at its best.”
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.