Daniel Nava Rumors
In yesterday's Insider-only column, ESPN's Buster Olney broke down the budget problems facing the Orioles this offseason. The team has interest in signing Chris Davis and Matt Wieters to long-term deals, but both are Scott Boras clients and each is just two years removed from free agency. According to Olney, the O's tried to strike up extension talks for Wieters in Spring Training 2013 and were met with a counter-offer in the range of Joe Mauer's eight-year, $184MM deal with the Twins. Coming off the worst offensive season of his career, the price for a Wieters extension is likely down, but that contractual demand shows that the two sides "are speaking a different languague in negotiations," as Olney puts it. More from Olney and the rest of the AL East below...
- Rival executives feel that Jim Johnson represents "the most painless cut" the Orioles could make in order to ease their payroll constrictions, Olney wrote. I agree that for a team with a tight payroll, Johnson's $10.8MM projected salary is too steep a price to pay despite his strong ground-ball and ERA numbers.
- MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski weighs in on Johnson in response to Olney's piece, writing that the decision to non-tender Johnson "would be a bombshell" that he simply cannot picture. Melewski points out that in addition to being one of the team's best arms, Johnson is a leader in the clubhouse and has the complete trust of manager Buck Showalter.
- Even after reaching an agreement to bring Brendan Ryan back into the fold in 2014, the Yankees are still pursuing free agent shortstop Stephen Drew, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports noted within his report on the Ryan signing. The fit seems a curious one at this point, as the Yankees seem to have bigger needs in the rotation and have already committed $12MM to Derek Jeter.
- Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger writes that the Yankees are expected to meet with Robinson Cano's camp this week. McCullough's piece also includes the highlights from a recent Brodie Van Wagenen appearance on MLB Network Radio. Van Wagenen, the CAA agent who is partnering with Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports, said that Jay-Z will be "intimately involved in all areas" of Cano's contract negotiations.
- The Red Sox are likely to dismiss any trade proposals offered to acquire Daniel Nava this offseason, writes WEEI.com's Rob Bradford. As Bradford writes, Nava's ability to play either corner outfield position or even first base gives GM Ben Cherington and his staff the flexibility to cast a wide net of free agent targets. Shane Victorino could play center field with Nava taking one corner outfield spot and Carlos Beltran occupying the other, and he also keeps them from having to get into a bidding war to retain Mike Napoli, Bradford points out in a pair of hypothetical scenarios.
Daniel Nava, whose three-run homer helped the Red Sox to a dramatic victory Saturday, has come a long way since repeatedly considering retirement, Rob Bradford of WEEI.com writes. Nava played independent-league baseball in 2007 and considered quitting before catching on with the Red Sox in 2008. Then, after playing with the Red Sox in 2010 and spending 2011 with Triple-A Pawtucket, he didn't get invited to Major League spring training in 2012, and he considered quitting again. He ended up staying, and spent much of the 2012 season with the big-league team, hitting .243/.352/.390. This year, he's an important part of the Red Sox outfield. Here are more notes from around the majors.
- Outfielder Julio Borbon had a "whirlwind day" after being claimed off waivers on Friday, MLB.com's Carrie Muskat writes. After learning he'd been claimed by the Cubs, Borbon got to Milwaukee's Miller Park in the eighth inning Friday night. Manager Dale Sveum, who had been ejected, told Borbon to suit up. Borbon did, and entered the game as a pinch-runner, then ended the game when he got thrown out trying to steal. Borbon expressed excitement at being claimed by the Cubs because he's a fan of President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. "My fiance, she’s from Boston, and she knew him, and she was the first one to tell me he had done great things for the city of Boston," said Borbon. "From his background and his resume, he’s on his way to doing the same thing here."
- Jason Giambi of the Indians looks forward to becoming a coach one day, but for now he's enjoying the end of his big-league career, Gene Duffey of MLB.com writes. Giambi interviewed for the Rockies' manager position last year (the job went to Walt Weiss) and has declined coaching jobs with other teams while he continues to play. "I want to enjoy this while I can," says Giambi. "Unfortunately, this game will let you know when it's time to walk away. Sometimes it's not your choice. I've been lucky enough and blessed enough to be in my 19th Major League season. And I'm going to enjoy every minute."
The Rangers have financial flexibility following a relatively quiet offseason, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). However, they aren’t desperate for a starting pitcher at this stage. Here are the latest links from around MLB...
- Daniel Nava represented himself for the early part of his MLB career, but he has now hired an agent, Alex Speier of WEEI.com reports. Joe Sambito of SFX now represents Nava, who posted a .243/.352/.390 batting line in 317 plate appearances for the Red Sox in 2012. Check out MLBTR’s Agency Database for more information on player representatives.
- Troy Renck of the Denver Post would be “really surprised” if Todd Helton plays again in 2014 (Twitter link). It’d be complicated for the Rockies to bring Helton back in anything but a part-time Jason Giambi-like role. Helton will earn $5MM in 2013 before hitting free agency.
- ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wonders if the Nationals could pursue Robinson Cano as a free agent next offseason (Twitter link). Cano will appeal to many teams if he reaches free agency, though there’s no guarantee that’ll happen. The Yankees appear to be prepared to discuss a significant long-term contract with their longtime second baseman.
- Olney suggested in his most recent blog entry that the Cubs and Dodgers could also bid for Cano. The Yankees' baseball operations department could be prepared to commit $189MM or so over seven years for Cano in Olney's view.
It has been six weeks since the Red Sox and Mike Napoli agreed to terms on a three-year, $39MM contract. The holdup in finalizing the deal is concern with one of Napoli's hips and the team's desire to write protective language into the contract. Recently, we learned the Red Sox are continuing negotiations with Napoli, but would like to shorten the deal to just one year and have been in contact with the Nationals about Mike Morse. A major league source told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this about Napoli's hip, "It’s one of those things where it could go anytime or five years from now. Nobody really knows, which is why the Red Sox want strong language after putting $40 million on the table for him.” Cafardo believes it's starting to make sense for the Red Sox to trade for Justin Morneau or to make Daniel Nava a first baseman/left fielder. More from Cafardo:
- That Kyle Lohse is still available at this late date is somewhat of a stunner to Cafardo. Lohse's market has been stunted with him being tied to draft pick compensation and that no one seems willing to go beyond two years, although several teams needs starting pitching and his stuff translates to both leagues.
- Draft pick compensation has also shrunk the market for Michael Bourn. Another factor, according to a NL GM, has been the Twins trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere and the Braves signing B.J. Upton.
- Cafardo thought it was strange for Justin Upton to reject his trade to Seattle since it's one of the nicest cities in the country and the fences at Safeco Field have been moved in.
- Cubs President Theo Epstein has come to realize Alfonso Soriano is an excellent clubhouse presence because of his willingness to help younger players. With that and his excellent 2012 season, Epstein wants a player of note in any deal where the Cubs eat a majority of the $36MM left on Soriano's contract.
- Discussions to include Garrett Jones in the Joel Hanrahan trade never progressed very far because "the Pirates really valued Jones highly," a major league source told Cafardo.
- One NL GM told Cafardo Roy Oswalt may still want to pitch, but on his terms and perhaps for only a half a season. Many teams have given up trying to persuade the 35-year-old to pitch, feeling the vibe is that he just doesn’t want it bad enough. Cafardo also notes Oswalt suffered a forearm strain at the end of his time with the Rangers last season.
- Bobby Valentine has turned down some opportunities to serve as an advisor for teams. Valentine has instead decided to focus on expanding his restaurant business, growing his film company, and working for NBC Sports since being fired as manager of the Red Sox.
Teams are calling the Red Sox about the availability of “several” outfielders, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reports. The Red Sox are “open-minded” about trading away an outfielder now that Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are nearly ready to return to the MLB roster.
Ryan Sweeney and Daniel Nava could be trade chips for the Red Sox, but the team is “not looking to move Sweeney,” Silverman reports. Scott Podsednik and Ryan Kalish are at Triple-A, and Cody Ross fits well with Boston’s current needs.
Though the Cubs aren’t interested in Sweeney, the Red Sox are eyeing a pair of Cubs pitchers. Boston has expressed preliminary interest in Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, but is “not fully engaged yet,” Silverman reports. I recently previewed the trade market for starting pitchers and outfielders.
Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explained how Boston’s 40-man roster will impact the team’s next few weeks. The Red Sox are far more likely to trade surplus players such as Sweeney, Kelly Shoppach or Matt Albers than make major changes this month, MacPherson writes.
Here’s the latest on some minor moves:
- The Brewers outrighted Brandon Boggs to Triple-A to clear roster space, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy. The outfielder can decline the assignment and elect free agency istead of accepting his third outright of the year.
- Robbie Weinhardt, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, according to the Tigers (on Twitter).
- Daniel Nava has cleared waivers after being designated for assignment, according to Red Sox reporter Maureen Mullen (on Twitter).
The Red Sox designated outfielder Daniel Nava for assignment to create 40-man roster space for Drew Sutton, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com (Twitter link). The Red Sox created room on the active roster for Sutton by optioning Jose Iglesias to the minor leagues.
Nava, 28, has a .192/.321/.262 line in 156 plate appearances at Triple-A this year. In 2010 he was a major contributor in Pawtucket, hitting .289/.372/.458 and earning a promotion to Boston. He made an impression early, hitting a grand slam on the first MLB pitch he saw and posting a .242/.351/.360 line in 188 plate appearances for the Red Sox.
Here's a more detailed look at Nava's path to the Major Leagues.
Two Red Sox players are joking about their respective agents.
“Mine takes me out for dinner,” one says. “With my own money!”
“At least he buys you champagne,” another responds, gesturing towards an expensive bottle in his teammate’s locker.
Their conversation continues, and before long it turns to Daniel Nava, who is sitting nearby. You’ve heard of him by now. He’s the 27-year-old rookie who hit a grand slam on his first major league swing. The former indy leaguer who’s now hitting .300 at the highest level. Nava takes some good-natured ribbing from his teammates, because he doesn’t even have an agent. When the Red Sox signed him for $1 in 2008, he simply didn’t need one.
“There really wasn’t much to negotiate,” Nava told MLBTR. “It was just 'here - here’s the standard protocol for what you sign - here’s the contract.' So I was in no position to negotiate anything anyways ... I just took what was given to me.”
Not a whole lot of leverage.
“Zero leverage,” Nava said. “I’m sure they just would have said ‘well, we can grab someone else.’”
Nava didn’t have an agent when the Red Sox purchased his contract from the Golden Baseball League’s Chico Outlaws, but he and other independent leaguers do have some support. Golden League commissioner Kevin Outcalt actively tries to show off his league’s best players to MLB organizations. Sometimes that means making a sales pitch.
“We’ll take our player of the week or player of the month and almost do a mini-Heisman campaign on them where we’re sending out a bio on them, what they’ve done lately, what have they done in the past,” Outcalt said. “I’ll blast that out to all of the [major league] farm directors.”
If MLB teams like what they see, they can call the Golden League and make a deal. But even players who do join big league organizations have to work their way through the minors, so Nava’s two-year ascent from complete obscurity to minor celebrity stands out.
“That’s a New York rise,” Outcalt said. “But given the kind of experience someone like him gained in independent ball, he knew he had the ability to hit pitchers at almost any level and he was able to take that and work his way up very quickly.”
Nava has hit at every level, never posting an OPS below .856 for any of his teams, including the Red Sox. He says he is still adapting to the speed of the game, but that’s just part of the adjustment process.
“Your first time going on a road trip or a homestand it’s all new and once you’ve done it once or twice it’s like ‘OK that’s how it works,’” Nava said. “Just basic stuff like that that you’ve done for years in the minors, all of a sudden it’s all new up here.”
Every time a player like Nava graduates to a major league organization, an independent team loses one of its top players. But that doesn't bother Golden League officials. Outcalt compares the league to a trampoline that helps independent leaguers find jobs in MLB organizations. Every time the league bounces a player back into affiliated baseball, it becomes a more appealing destination for others looking to prolong their pro careers.
Outcalt generally fields three types of calls from MLB teams. Sometimes, clubs will ask about a specific player, like Nava. In that case, the league works out an agreement with an MLB organization for a standard purchase price. These deals can be in place within an hour.
Sometimes, teams are looking for a specific type of player, like someone who has caught at Triple A or a left-handed reliever. And sometimes MLB executives inquire about the league’s best players, regardless of position. Outcalt estimates that 20 or more players make the leap from the Golden League to affiliated baseball each season, most recently Gilbert De La Vara.
Not all teams comb through independent leagues aggressively. The Golden League, for example, hears regularly from the Tigers, Brewers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Mariners, Padres, Phillies, Astros and Dodgers.
“Some other teams you never hear from,” Outcalt said.
Tonight, scouts from many organizations gathered to search for the next Daniel Nava, when the Golden League’s All-Stars faced off against the Northern League’s top players in Tucson. The All-Star Game is an informal filter for scouts, who regularly sign players soon after the contest.
Back in April of 2009, when Nava was still playing for the Salem Red Sox, another Golden League alum was emerging as the poster boy for former independent leaguers. Scott Richmond had pitched his way from the Edmonton Cracker-Cats to the Toronto Blue Jays and become the AL Rookie of the Month.
Richmond’s story shows that scouts and front office types are willing to listen when independent leagues come calling. Rob Ducey, a 13-year MLB veteran who now scouts for the Rays, was scouting for the Blue Jays in 2007 when two of his former teammates recommended that Ducey consider Richmond. The right-hander was pitching well and Ducey thought he could produce in affiliated ball.
“You know what, I kind of expected him to pitch well,” Ducey recalled. “He wasn’t a spring chicken. It wasn’t like he was 20 years old and immature. He had a lot of weapons as far as pitches and he threw strikes.”
Richmond, now 30, pitched to a 3.69 ERA in the first half last year, striking out 71 and walking just 30. He has struggled since, but last year's hot start helps explain why teams scout independent leagues: talent can turn up in unexpected places. Ducey can think of another reason.
“Some players, when they get back to professional baseball, not only is their attitude a whole lot better, but they work a whole lot harder because they know what’s on the other side of the fence,” Ducey said.
Richmond encountered shoulder problems in the second half of 2009 and his ERA ballooned to 5.52. He’s now pitching in the minor leagues, but his major league future is largely uncertain. Like Richmond, Nava could find himself in the minors once again. In fact, that reality helps motivate him.
“You’re never going to sit there and say you’ve got it all figured out,” Nava said. “And if you do, usually something’s coming the other way so you don’t have it all figured out.”
Nava may not have enough job security to seek out an agent, but he sure doesn’t mind playing baseball for a living, whether it’s in front of Fenway Park's Green Monster or back in Chico, California.
“There’s plenty of time to get a nine to five job,” he said. “So you may as well enjoy the chance to do something you love.”