According to Ken Rosenthal, the Pittsburgh Pirates are expected to sign outfielder Daniel Nava as a minor league free agent with an invitation to Spring Training. Nava played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2017, where he hit .301/.393/.421 in 80 games. He missed a brief amount of time in August, first due to a hamstring injury, then a back injury, which later kept him out of action for the final four weeks of the season.
The 34-year-old Nava (turns 35 in two weeks) is a .266/.357/.380 hitter over seven seasons in the majors. His stats last year were a major improvement over the .590 OPS he put up in 2016 and .560 OPS he had in 2015, both in limited playing time. Nava had two trips to the DL in 2016 and another in 2015, all for different injuries from the ones listed above.
He plays both corner outfield spots and has seen some time at first base over the years. Rosenthal notes that he expects the switch-hitting Nava to be part of a left field platoon, with Starling Marte moving to center full-time this season. More on this move shortly.
Source: #Pirates signing free-agent OF Daniel Nava to minor-league contract with invitation to major-league spring training. Expectation is that he might become part of LF platoon.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 6, 2018
UPDATE 3:15 PM: Analysis from Tim Williams…
Adding Nava is a pretty low-risk move as a minor league free agent. If he shows up and looks like his old self, then he would be a nice addition to the bench, or as a platoon option. If he doesn’t look like a good option, they don’t have to add him to the MLB roster.
The question is where does he fit in on the team if he does look like a good option? Is he a platoon option with Jordan Luplow? Are they looking for another half of the platoon and relegating Luplow to the bench?
Right now the starting lineup looks to be the following:
C – Francisco Cervelli
1B – Josh Bell
2B – Josh Harrison
SS – Jordy Mercer
3B – Colin Moran
LF – Platoon, apparently
CF – Starling Marte
RF – Gregory Polanco
That would leave a bench of Elias Diaz, Adam Frazier, Jordan Luplow (one half of the platoon?), David Freese, and Sean Rodriguez. That scenario would put Max Moroff back in the minors, unless the Pirates ended up trading Harrison or one of the veterans on the bench.
This isn’t a bad plan if there’s more in store. If the Pirates had plans for a bigger move to add a potential top of the rotation starter (even if that’s a reclamation project), or a hitter for another position, then a smaller move to try and get a platoon in left field might make some sense. But if the Pirates are going with the roster they’ve got now, and are just adding a guy like Nava in a weak attempt to catch lightning in a bottle and try to sneak into the Wild Card game, then this plan doesn’t look good, and the roster spot would be better used on a younger player.
This is a situation where we will have to see all of the other moves the Pirates make in order to fully evaluate things. Not to mention, we’ll have to see what happens with Nava in Spring Training. Either way, he looks like a minor piece at best. It just depends on whether it will make sense for the Pirates to even try and add a minor piece for an outfield platoon.
UPDATE Friday, 4:05 PM: Pirates officially announced the deal, one year and a spring invite.