One of the more interesting moves the Chicago Cubs‘ front office made this winter was the inking of catcher Dioner Navarro to a one-year $1.7 million deal to back up youngster Wellington Castillo. It looked like the Cubs were overpaying for the 29-year-old journeyman backstop who was seemingly on the downslope of his career.
In 2008, with the Tampa Bay Rays, the husky Navarro hit .295 with 27 doubles, seven home runs and 54 RBI. He made the American League All-Star team at just 24 years old and it seemed like he would make many more. Since that year, Navarro has hit just .215 including years of .194 and .193 in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Last season, Navarro found himself playing with the Cincinnati Reds‘ Triple-A club after years of playing time at the MLB level. It makes me wonder why Theo and Co. would invest that much money in a guy whose productivity has completely fallen off the table in recent years.
Hopefully Castillo, who turns 26 on April 24th, continues what he had going in the second half of 2012 when he hit .265 and carried a .337 OBP. If he does, Navarro won’t have to carry a very heavy load of the catching.
However, one thing you know you’re getting with Navarro is a better-than-serviceable backstop who bats from both sides of the plate. If Castillo can become the regular starting catcher, Navarro would, at least, provide a dependable replacement for Castillo every four or five days. Furthermore, his switch hitting ability makes him a valuable pinch hitting option, and he has a little pop.
Navarro batted .290 in 24 games when given an opportunity to play with the Reds in 2012, and he hit a home run in his first spring at bat today, so maybe he’s got it figured out. If he really struggles, I wouldn’t mind seeing Steve Clevenger get another chance. As it stands now, Clevenger will start in Triple-A Iowa.