Outfielder Daniel Nava, who was in camp with the Pirates as a non-roster invitee, underwent back surgery yesterday, Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic was among those to report (via Twitter). The recovery process is expected to keep Nava out for ten to twelve weeks.
At the time of his signing, Nava was viewed as a likely candidate to earn a share of a corner outfield platoon. But that had already come into question with the team’s recent acquisition of Corey Dickerson, who is now expected to see near-regular duty.
With the news of the surgery added in, Nava’s outlook in Pittsburgh is decidedly unclear. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly concerning medical outlook; rather, he’s said to be slated for a microdiscectomy, a fairly common procedure that will presumably enable Nava to return without pain.
Rather, it’s increasingly difficult to see how Nava will fit on the roster. While he’s a switch-hitter, the 35-year-old has long been utilized mostly against right-handed pitching. The results support that usage, as Nava has nearly a 200-point platoon spread in his career OPS numbers.
With Dickerson and Gregory Polanco on two corners, the Bucs already have a pair of lefty outfield bats. And switch-hitting first baseman Josh Bell likely won’t be asked to sit down very often. With Pittsburgh already carrying two third basemen (Colin Moran and David Freese) and two infield/outfield capable utility players (Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez), at most there’ll only be one more bench opening available. Of course, things could look quite a lot different once Nava is ready to return.