White Sox sign Dioner Navarro

The Chicago White Sox have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal of unknown value with catcher Dioner Navarro, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

After the White Sox non-tendered Tyler Flowers, the addition of another catcher was not a complete surprise. Navarro will be 32 years old next season, and will likely backup behind Alex Avila, another addition to the White Sox for 2016. Navarro is no stranger to being a backup, as he played the entirety of the 2015 season behind Russell Martin.

Navarro’s season last year was below his personal average (the last three years, his batting average hasn’t been lower than .274) but still decent, as he posted a .246/.307/.374 (88 OPS+) clip with 5 home runs and 20 RBI over 192 plate appearances in 54 games.  Over the entirety of his 12-year career, the Venezuelan has hit .255/.313/.375 (86 OPS+) with 71 home runs and 332 RBI in 908 games.

This is a move that further weakens the market for catchers, with Matt Wieters taking the qualifying offer of the Baltimore Orioles, and Alex Avila already signing a one-year deal with the White Sox. It appears that if any team wants to upgrade at catcher, it’ll be via trade or by calling up a prospect.

Here’s what you need to know about the deal: The White Sox get a veteran backup catcher with a decent history.

For a more in-depth look, check out Cover Those Bases’ full story here.

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Hot Stove Update – 11/17

Here are the top stories from today’s Hot Stove action.

Tigers Acquire Francisco Rodriguez from Brewers

In a not-so-surprising deal, the Milwaukee Brewers parted ways with their closer of five seasons, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, affectionately dubbed “K-Rod”. On the other end of the deal were the Detroit Tigers, who sent a Class A Advanced infielder, Javier Betancourt.  The deal makes sense for the Tigers, who’ve struggled in the bullpen for the past few seasons, especially considering Rodriguez’s stellar 2.21 ERA in 57 innings pitched in 2015, with 38 saves. Over his fourteen-year career, Rodriguez has a 2.69 ERA with 386 saves. The Brewers are slated to get a player to be named later, and the Tigers possibly may acquire one as well, according to GM Al Avila, who told MLB.com that there’s a scenario where Detroit “could receive a second player as well”. Rodriguez will make $7.5 million next season, and has a $6 million club option for 2017.

TL;DR: The Tigers get a great closer for a relatively low price.

-There were almost serious discussions Freddie Freeman deal which sent him to the Astros

Continuing the Braves’ crazy fire sale of the past year, which has been capitalized by sending SS Andrelton Simmons to the Angels, an exclamation point could’ve been put on the sequence with a trade of the face of the franchise, 1B Freddie Freeman. The trade would’ve involved five players, and Freeman was apparently a key part of the discussion, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jeff Passan. Talks fell apart, and some hypothesize it’s due to Freeman’s monstrous contract of over $100 million (an extension signed after the Braves’ 2013 season, the last one in which they won over 80 games.) Even though Freeman didn’t leave in that instance, with the current state of the Atlanta Braves and Freeman’s talent, he could easily be wearing another uniform of a team on the brink by opening day.

TL;DR: Freeman stays a Brave… for now.

The Pirates are listening to inquiries about Neil Walker

After 3B Jung-Ho Kang’s breakout rookie season, there are questions in Pittsburgh about SS Neil Walker, especially with IF/OF Josh Harrison waiting and ready, and even more questions now, as his free agency looms next winter. Naturally, the Pirates are listening to offers. According to Roch Kubato of MASN Sports, the Baltimore Orioles and the Pirates discussed a deal, but nothing came of it. Walker is an above average hitter (career .272 hitter), and posted a .269/.328/.427 (OPS+) line last season with 16 home runs and 71 RBI over 603 plate appearances. However, Roch notes that the belief is that the Pirates would be much happier to part with 3B/1B Pedro Alvarez (positions the Orioles are weak at), but would like young pitching, which the Orioles aren’t eager to give up. Walker is slated to make around $10 million next season, per Roch.

TL;DR: Mainly speculation and inquiries for now, but the Winter Meetings may send Walker to Baltimore. 

The Dodgers’ managerial search is down to two candidates

It’ll either be Gabe Kapler (already in the Dodgers front office) or Dave Roberts (San Diego Padres coach), according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. The second interviews are underway and a decision will be made by Friday or Saturday.

Bud Black and Ron Roenicke will join the Angels

 Black will join the Angels in a front office role, and Roenicke will join as the third base coach. A kind of happy ending to Black’s long odyssey that took him from coast to coast.

Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel took home the Cy Young awards.

Both won 20+ games, while Keuchel (LHP) posted a 2.48 ERA and led the Houston Astros to the playoffs, and Arrieta (RHP) posted a 1.77 ERA and led the Chicago Cubs to the NLCS. There was more question in the NL as many wondered if Zach Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers deserved the award more. Arietta won by an extremely slim margin (four votes).

Game 162

This season has already been improbable. Because, let’s be honest, who actually had the Rangers and Astros battling it out for the top of the AL West? And when the Astros looked hotter than ever, who had the Rangers retaking the division lead? Only to be close to letting the Astros back in to win the division? And then, the Angels, who looked dormant all season, suddenly woke up and woke up quickly, to put themselves into contention for the Wild Card.

This morning, the Astros had a magic number of two to clinch a Wild-Card spot. The Rangers had a magic number of one to clinch the AL West. The Angels looked to play spoiler, but also to keep their playoff hopes alive. They, barring that Houston loses both of their remaining games to sub-par Arizona, have to win out.

And this afternoon, the Rangers were three outs away from winning the division. They had come back from a 5-2 deficit, and turned it into a cushioned 4-run lead, and their closer, who had finished 35 games this season, on the mound. But something out of the normal occurred; Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun hit back to back home runs to make it 10-8. Then, the Angels strung together a few hits to tie the game, and Johnny Giavotella gave Los Angeles the lead. In the bottom of the ninth, down to their last out, the Rangers had the tying run, Elvis Andrus, on base. Rougned Odor was at the plate. Andrus went on the first pitch, and got into second easily. There was only one issue. He overslid the base, and Erick Aybar tagged him out.
Now, tomorrow’s games promise a dramatic ending to the season, especially considering they all start at 3:10 PM eastern time.

Here’s the situation.

A) Angels go 0-1

B) Angels go 1-0

C) Astros go 2-0

D) Astros go 1-1

E) Astros go 0-2

For HOU/TEX to go to a one-game playoff, then scenarios B & C.

For HOU/LAA to go to a one-game playoff, then scenarios D & B OR E & A have to occur.

For TEX to win the AL West and for HOU to get WC Spot #2, then scenarios A and D have to occur.

For TEX to win the AL West and for LAA to get WC Spot #2, scenarios E & B have to occur.

So in other words, not confusing at all. In all likelihood, Texas will win the division, as they can win tomorrow or Houston can lose either of their games for that to happen. But more questions arise. Who will pitch in the bullpen tomorrow after both Los Angeles and Texas blew leads and went through a total of 18 pitchers? If there is a one-game playoff, who starts that? Will any team be able to survive a one-game playoff loss just to play in the Wild Card game the next day? It’s a complicated and exciting situation – something only the last day of the season can bring.

Barry Zito, Bruce Chen, Reed Johnson sign minor league deals

Barry Zito is finally back in Oakland. Well, the Oakland system. The 36 year old veteran LHP reportedly signed a deal with the Oakland Athletics worth $1 million if he makes the roster, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. The deal comes with a big-league camp invitation. Zito last pitched in the majors in 2013, with the San Francisco Giants. He went 5-11 with a 5.74 ERA over 133 and 1/3 innings pitched, posting a 5.8 K/9 rate. Over his career, Zito has pitched exclusively in the Bay Area with Oakland and the San Francisco Giants. He has gone 165-143 with a 4.02 ERA over 2569 IP. Zito will provide a cushion if any Athletics starters end up being injured or struggle, or provide long relief in the bullpen.

Bruce Chen, another veteran left hander, has reportedly agreed to a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The 37 year old journeyman has pitched all across the league, a career spanning 16 years with ten different teams. The deal is worth $1m. Last season with Kansas City, he had the roughest season of his career, going 2-4 with a 7.45 ERA over 48.1 IP. Over his career, he has gone 82-80 with a 4.58 ERA over 1525.2 IP. He walks the line between reliever and starter, but will either provide long relief or backup in the rotation in case of injury.

Reed Johnson also waited until the last day before the official beginning of Spring Training, although after all the wait, he stayed where he was. The Miami Marlins announced that they had signed the 12-year veteran to a minor-league deal. With Miami last season, he batted .235/.266/.348 with 2 home runs and 25 RBI over 201 plate appearances in 113 games. He has been invited to the big league camp, so he could presumably fill a bench role or back up for an injury later in the season. Over his career, Johnson has hit .280/.336/.406 with 65 home runs and 405 RBI.

Blog: Chemistry can’t be bought – so why try?

Look at that car in the window. Yes, that one. The used one with the flames on the side, the full entertainment system, the engine more powerful than one of a jumbo jet. It’s beautiful. It’s also pricey and has a history of not being reliable. You take it anyways. But will it ever work? The answer, is almost always no. As it turns out, car buying is not unlike assembling a baseball team.
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James Shields has offers in hand – expected to sign within the week

Big deals typically take a while – they can come late in the offseason. Just never this late. James Shields is the biggest name left on the free agent market, but he’s taken what feels like eons to the baseball world to sign a deal. The wait, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, is almost over.

According to Morosi, Shields has multiple offers in hand and is expected to sign by the end of the week.

Robert Murray of MLBDailyRumors.com reported that a major-league team believes the New York Yankees are likely involved due to Shields’ suddenly low price. Another major-league team reportedly has seen the San Diego Padres in discussions with Shields’ representatives.

Shields led the Royals to an AL Championship at the forefront of the pitching staff, going 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA over 227 innings pitched and 34 games. According to Morosi, Shields is expected to command about $76 million on a four-year deal.

Other names that have been thrown around as suitors for Shields are the Toronto Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

-Will

Follow me on Twitter – @PieceOfThePlate