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.

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.

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107 COMMENTS

  1. It would be a shame to see him take away at-bats from Luplow, Frazier and Moroff. Given his solid performance last year, why did no one else grab him as a 4th?

  2. Tim Williams I have a question…..
    What does Moran’s service time look like? And not just super 2, but also gaining that extra year of service?

  3. I would much rather unload Freese, Rodriguez and even Harrison and play the young guys and build a core of young players and then build around that next off-season when the free agent market is considerably better. I’ve been reading in the newspapers from time to time that agents such as Scott Boras are a little upset that MLB teams aren’t spending this off-season, compared to previous off-seasons. I think the big reason for that is because everyone knows that the 2018-2019 free agent class has a bunch of big names (Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Pomeranz, Elvis Andrus, Brian Dozier, David Price, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, A.J. Pollock, Daniel Murphy, Marwin Gonzalez, Gio Gonzalez, D.J. LeMahieu, Andrew McCutchen, Nelson Cruz, Zach Britton, Cody Allen) to name a few.

    http://www.espn.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/84604/looking-ahead-to-baseballs-2019-free-agent-bonanza

    I think the Pirates have to land one of the bigger names next off-season during free agency or they’ll be laughed out of Pittsburgh. From the sounds of it, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to spend the money they saved from unloading McCutchen, Cole and possibly more. That and the money they’ve saved not having to pay Kang’s salary. I think the chances of Kang’s potential return to MLB, let alone the Pirates just took a nosedive when Indianapolis Colts LB Edwin Jackson along with a Uber driver were killed by an illegal immigrant driving without a license while under the influence of alcohol.

    http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/22354665/man-charged-drunken-driving-crash-killed-nfl-player

  4. Luplow, Frazier, and/or Osuna are never going to be particularly good leftfielders. For that reason, I am all in favor of getting a veteran to play the position. Is this guy the guy? I haven’t seen them play and he’s bounced around the league so I doubt it.

    It’s hard for me to see this as a major move. He only had 180 at bats last year and that was his most productive season in a long time. If they were serious about contending, this would be a minor low risk sort of deal where they were getting some outfield depth. I don’t know what their expectations are, however If Nava is more than a bench player, to me, that would mean something has gone horribly wrong.

    • Looks very high risk to me, except in the sense that they can just not keep him. He’ll be 35 shortly and he was plagued by injuries throughout 2015-16, and for half of 2017.

  5. 4th outfielder only. not a platoon. you don’t sign a player to a minor league contract “expecting” him to be part of a platoon……ever.

  6. Ok, can someone answer this question?

    Are the Pirates rebuilding with youth for the future?
    or
    Are the Pirates dumping salary?

    Feel free to comment and answer.

    • They’re straddling the line between building for the future and competing. The Cole trade, for example, gave them some possible pieces for the future but also may have returned enough current value to make up for what they’re losing with Cole.

      The McCutchen trade looks more like a salary dump, though I like what I’ve read about Reynolds. An angle that hasn’t been discussed much is that trading Cutch was the best way to open up the opportunity for Luplow and then Meadows to get playing time, and that’s part of the rebuilding process. The rebuilding angle in the Cutch trade extends beyond the acquisition of Reynolds and Crick. In terms of straddling the line, they do need to find a make up about 3-4 wins from losing Cutch from the roster, but that’s where adding a win here and there might allow you to compete while also rebuilding.

      (Note that I said going into the offseason I’d trade Cole for a good package but would hold on to Cutch. I’m probably one of the few on here that is okay with the straddling the line approach.)

      • Thank you for a real, quality, intelligent response. I am just about where you are. I feel (and hope) the Cole trade just allows us to take advantage of our pitching depth and yet we fill a big need at 3rd. I sure hope it works out. Trading McCutchen, well, I am where you are with that as well.

    • They aren’t doing either. They’re a team that is going to try to hover around .500 every year and hope to catch fire every once in a while.

      I love Cutch, but man was it hard to watch him these past two years. We all would have liked to see a better return, but that return just wasn’t there. The odds of cutch going to San fran and killing it are just as good as cutch going to san fran and being the same guy we’ve seen the past two years, especially in April and May. I’m ok with moving on from that. I’ll love you forever Cutch. The Cole trade doesn’t bother me at all. If we get an actual MLB 3B then I see it as a win. If Cole hits his upside and pitches like we saw in ’14, then damn, woulda liked to see that.

      I’m an optimist, and I don’t really see any reason not to be when it comes to my sports teams. This is supposed to be fun after all. I just feel like people are down on this team more than they should be. Remember last year? It was crazy. Cutch was miserably bad through May, Cole couldn’t keep balls inside the park, polanco couldn’t stay healthy, taillon got cancer, Kang couldn’t get into the country, Marte got busted. Watson and Melancon couldn’t close down ballgames. Just a crazy year.

      I don’t look at this team and think world series. I do look at this team and think that they have a chance to shock some people. Would love to see the org. keep adding, even if they are small pieces that may or may not help. I’ll cross my fingers.

    • Comments like these are silly, but seriously Nava was worth a little over a win in part-time action last year (80 games played, 214 PA’s). You never know when that one win is the difference of making the postseason or not. Obviously he doesn’t take us from 76 wins to 86 wins, but if he takes us from 86 to 87 wins and 87 turns out to be enough to make the postseason (as it was for the Rockies last year), then this signing is huge.

      Obviously this is unlikely to happen, but a GM has to try to get as much value as possible from each spot on the roster, including the 25th man and depth in AAA. You never know when that 1 win will make a difference.

  7. Interesting factoid: If the Pirates’ bench ends up Diaz, SRod, Freese, Moroff and Nava, the average age of all of the Pirates’ hitters in April will be one year and two months OLDER than the weighted average age of a MLB hitter in 2017.

    Rebuilding: They’re doing it wrong.

    • Hurdle has a blind spot in his vision where he can’t see anyone under 30 over his shoulders on the bench. They are just accounting for this.

      The Pirates bench is full on AARP-R (Active in Aging Role Player Re-Load) Reminds me of 10-20 years ago when the next step after playing off the Pirates’ bench was retirement.

      • Just an FYI Hurdle is not the GM. He does not create the team. All of those seniors will have been brought in by our GM. Hurdle plays who he thinks is best for the team if it happens to be Nava heaven help us.

      • Yeah, with the roles that Bell, Polono, Matte, Stallion, Clle, Rivero have filled I can see why you come too that conclusion,

    • Who knows what to call what they’re doing. Nava is a minor league signing so I’m not gonna get too worked up over this. Odds are, if he’s any good, he makes the team. If that’s the case, it kind of smells like project vogelsong 2.0, the outfield chapter. They don’t want to block Meadows, but they expect him up at some point after super 2.

    • Eh, I disagree. The bench is where you stick veterans on a rebuilding team. The bulk of the playing time can still go to young guys who will be around for a while, and having some older guys around to back them up and help show them the ropes isn’t a bad thing.

      • If this is such obvious wisdom, then why is the average team, which also had a better record than the Pirates, younger than the Pirates?

  8. I may be crazy but I’m excited about this team. Despite all the negativity the MLB team is talented and has promising prospects behind them. I think they compete for a wild card.

    • if they just spend $10 million on the right player, and get to 90 million instead of the usual 100, they could be right there.

  9. If the team is going to be bad, at least be bad with young players who have the opportunity to play, learn, and improve and be part of a hopefully winning future. We already have an aging, bad contract in SRod, now we have two. Guys like Luplow, Frazier, Moroff, Bostick, Osuna, and possibly Meadows will all need opportunities to play….

  10. Why?? IS NH still delusional about competing and contending in 2018?
    Waste of payroll dollars in my opinion, but a typical Pirates signing. Block younger players who need to play to see if they are part of the future or not.

    • Yeah, what a waste. If he isnt good enough to make the opening day roster we dont pay him. He is blocking nobody. Luplow and Meadows both need more minor league AB and regular playing time. This prevents a shortage of OF like in 2017. Good stop gap solution until we either make a better deal or Luplow/Meadows are ready.

      • If he makes the roster, he is blocking someone. This kind of signing is made to fool fans like you with a Pirates half-____ed attempt to show they are trying. A better deal? Who do you think the Pirates are going to sign to this “better deal”?

    • devil’s advocate…

      Why rush Luplow when he’s only had 200 PA in AAA? why is THIS the one prospect that we don’t give a s*** about rushing?

  11. I assume this move is to find out if Nava has more value than Luplow, Frazier, or Meadows? Because if Luplow, Frazier or Meadows are likely to have more value than Nava, then why wouldn’t they just let some combination of those three get the outfield at-bats?

    Or, to a lesser extent, Moroff – b/c if Nava is on the team it means Frazier can play outfield and Moroff can play infield. But with Nava on the team then Frazier will be in the infield more and Moroff will be, as you said, in the minors.

    So this seems to only make sense if the plan is more likely to include Nava than Luplow/Frazier/Meadows/Moroff. What is the answer to that question? Which of those five players is most likely to be part of the plan?

  12. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a good answer to this….

    What is the argument that Luplow shouldn’t bake more in AAA?

    Why is this the one prospect that we are okay with having only 200 PA in AAA?

    Luplow to AAA. Harrison is the platoon partner in LF vs lefties, 2b vs righties. Moroff makes the team and plays 2b vs lefties and SS vs righties.

    Platooning and bullpenning their way to the wildcard.

    All they need to do is pop a sweet 10 million on Lucroy 😛

      • Enthusiasm would mean that I actually thought that all those platoons would happen haha.

        I do not think they will take my plan.

        I think the plan would work pretty well though

    • I like the conventional wisdom that platoons don’t work but when Maddon and the Dodgers work the crap out of them it’s brilliant.

      • People just remember Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz and cringe haha

        You’re right about the cubs and Dodgers though

      • The Dodgers made it work. Maddon over-manages, which may partially explain why his super talented team didn’t run away with the division last year. He’s overrated because of the image he’s worked so hard to create.

    • Neal has said, he’d prefer Luplow get more AAA time. I don’t disagree with it. However, once Meadows is ready, he’s going to play everyday I would think. You can’t platoon him right out of the gate. Of course, with Hurdle, you never know. He loves his veterans.

    • in 2017 in AAA, he ops’d 1.1 vs lefties, and .87 vs righties.

      in 2017 in AA, he ops’d 1.0 vs lefties, and .87 vs lefties

      maybe he was better against righties in Hi freaking A, but i feel like your statement is a little misleading. made it sound like he was perfectly even both seasons.

  13. I felt all along that NH was going to sign some FA to a one-year deal instead of getting a Gomez/CarGo/Maybin multiyear guy. Question was whether it would be Nava/Seth Smith/John Jay. I don’t hate getting Nava. I think he’ll be fine defensively. Big issue to me is even if he keeps up a high BABIP and OBP, who’s driving him in?

  14. He’s a fine stop-gap option until Meadows is ready. Decent upside for the limited risk. Doesn’t really prohibit young guys from playing necessarily (though I wonder if the team wants Luplow to start in AAA since he’s spent so little time there), and is on a sort of contract which makes him expendable if either he’s bad or we need room for someone else.

    • yep. i dont really understand the hurry to have Luplow in the majors.

      half the time, “we” end up kicking “ourselves” for not letting guys stay in AAA long enough.

  15. In a vacuum, this is fine. Just…. who plays CF when Marte isn’t…?

    honestly, Nava is probably better than Melky. I’m just relieved about that, to be honest.

  16. Nava hit really well last year. He’s a line drive machine, and has an almost freakish ability to avoid pop ups. His fielding doesn’t look too bad, either.

    The Pirates only have one outfielder I trust right now, and that’s Marte. No harm in adding a bat to this lineup.

  17. This guy really hits righties, and he isn’t a butcher in the outfield. He tore it up at the beginning of last season for the Phillies. If he’s bad cut him.

    I still think Luplow starts the season in AAA, and the short end of the LF platoon will be SRod, Osuna, or even Harrison (with Moroff filling at 2B).

  18. Rather see them let Rodriguez go (looked so bad last year) & keep Moroff
    & if they must Nava. Let the kids play!

      • I don’t have much confidence that SRod will rebound to anything close to his 2016. But given that he was expected to miss all of last season after the crash, I don’t think his performance last year should count against him.

  19. I felt sure they’d sign a veteran OF as insurance against Luplow not being ready and Polanco not being healthy. As a low-cost insurance plan, Nava makes sense.

    They still need a backup for CF, and I think we’ll see another OF signed (I’m hoping for Dyson).

    • I’m still a little shocked they went this low with the veteran signing since they could be in play for almost every FA position player if this market continues to go this way. I don’t know if they read the barometer correctly on this. Hope I’m wrong!

      • I still expect them to make another signing in this market–Marte is too injury-prone* to not have another quality CF on the roster.

        *Not a knock on Marte as it’s simply how he plays (slides head first, crowds the plate, dives for balls in the OF).

  20. Worked out OK when they signed Matt Joyce a couple years ago. Worst that can happen is he minds the position until one of the kids is ready to take over full time. Even then he could be the 4th outfielder.

  21. Honestly this is ok. Not Gomez but on a minor league contract not bad. There’s no obligation to start or even play this guy he blocks no one. The v rhp numbers play. Darvish incoming 😉

  22. John Jaso, part deux. Decent player but hardly the kind of addition that will put the team over the top. What is it with the front office and these slightly-better-than-mediocre free agents? If one has $19 mil to spend, one can buy 19 $1 mil players or 2 $9.5 mil players. We always go with the 19.

    • Better to sign the two really good players. We could have signed Frazier and put Moran in LF.

      • You would really put the slow footed Moran in the outfield? There already is talk of him not being able to handle 3rd base this year because of a lack of range…

        • Looking for bats, and adding a Frazier or Moustakis would really help. We have SRod to play late inning defense.

          • His bat isn’t good enough to make up for the terrible defense he would have in left…especially at PNC Park. they need to have good defense and pitching. that’s there only chance of competing.

          • I’m glad we didn’t sign Fraizer.. he is walks a ton and has no power or hits a bunch of homers and can’t get on base over a .310 clip. Moose would cost wayyyy too much and he had one really nice year last year but that’s it. He is mediocre at best with the bat at third base

        • Is Moran related to Erin Moran? She dated Chachi and if I remember my Happy Days old Chach was a pretty fair ball player. May get him cheap and he’s bout same age as Nava

    • If it’s me calling the shots, I sign Neil Walker (2 yrs) and Dyson (3 yrs). Then I put together a package of players including Harrison, Kevin Newman and Elias Diaz (add 1 more if we must – maybe Bostick) and get J T Realmuto from the Marlins. We’re set at catcher, the OF is Polanco, Marte and Dyson with Nava as 4th, the IF is Bell, Walker/Frazier, Mercer/Rodriguez and Moran/Freese. I think if our pitchers come through we can compete and give the young guys a year to begin to take over.

      • That wouldn’t come remotely close to getting Realmuto. They want one of the Nationals top two prospects, both top 100 guys and you’re offering scraps. It would take Meadows or Keller as a headliner for that deal to happen.

        • OK. Take out Nelwman and add Meadows. I’d be okay with giving up Meadows as long as we have Dyson for 3 yrs.

          • It would be more like, Meadows, Newman, and probably some sort of pitcher. They would not want Harrison. Picking up Realmuto in a trade is gonna hurt. With Cervelli under contract for 2 more years, I can’t see Neal stepping up for a deal like that.

  23. I don’t get why people are complaining about this already. If this is a signing like Joyce, a fourth outfielder on a low risk contract, even if I doesn’t pan out I really like the idea. But if he really is platooning in left and is the only OF we bring in then I just don’t get how NH expects to contend.

    • This sign is just okay, in my opinion. I expect Meadows to be finally, FINALLY, called up this season after Super 2 cutoff, so Nava’s not going to be a full year starter of sort.

      But I still hoped the team would give more ABs to younger players like Luplow (Nava) or Moroff (JHay).

        • He’s 22. So what? He was injured in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Without those, 2016 September call up would have been possible in my opinion. And if not, last year was the year, especially when the team was using John freaking Jaso and Jose Osuna as their 4th OFer.

          I don’t think using ‘FINALLY’ is an exaggeration after all those injuries delaying his development and a full year of seeing a former catcher and 1B playing RF for the team. (Also I personally have high hopes for Meadows so his call up was the no.1 event I was looking forward to for year 2017.) Wasn’t saying he’s becoming too old for a prospect.

          • To be completely honest, I personally believe that Jordan Luplow will have a better career than Austin Meadows. I understand that I am in the minority on that, but I will believe it until proven wrong.
            Anyway, I was referring more to the point that Meadows has less than a full season of AB’s at AAA.

    • For me it is not so much that I am against the signing, but the signing kind of goes against what that GM and manager have said. They have said the Pirates plan to contend this year, yet they seemingly have done nothing to support that. Even with the glut of quality FA’s still available, they have not been reported to have had discussions with any of them. I have no belief at all that the Pirates would ever sign one of them, but at least go talk, find out if any of them would take a 1 year deal and hit free agency again next year. The Pirates select 10th, so that pick is protected, IMO, there is no reason to not have discussions.
      This signing though, if it wasn’t for the fact that Nava has major league experience, no one would know of care about it.

  24. So as Huntington said… the team is trying to contend, I guess, kinda. And I feel like Huntington would rather have Luplow playing full time in AAA than to platoon him.

    • Hope Meadows has added some slow-twitch muscles to his hamstrings…this is a place-holding move until Super 2

    • Hard for hitters like Osuna (not mentioned) and Luplow to replicate MLB AB’s at AAA. Osuna posted a .697 OPS in 215 MLB AB; Luplow .660 OPS in 78 MLB AB. Anyone interested in seeing how MLB experience matters should take a look at Josh Harrison’s first 3 years where he posted OPS numbers of .656, .624, .699 before exploding to an .837 in 2014.

      Nava is probably a nice guy, as are Rodriguez and Freese, but they will absorb precious innings and AB that will, therefore, not be available to younger players. Freese had 426 very productive AB in 2017 in 130 games; Rodriguez in only 39 games had 100 PA with a .528 OPS.

      So can we realistically expect Hurdle to not play them in 2018? In April 2018 Freese will turn 35 and Rodriguez 33. Freese will make $4.25 mil and Rodriguez $5.0 mil in 2018 – about 10% of our team payroll?

      • Agree with your general theory about getting the youngsters playing time. I think Luplow needs some more AAA ABs though. He was rushed last year. If we fall out of contention early, which is likely, hopefully we will see a big youth movement to get the young guys experience.

        • Lup’s posted a .903 OPS in 250 AB in AA and then a .914 OPS in 160 AB in AAA. 22 doubles, 23 HR combined and also had 45 walks. Those numbers indicate that he was not rushed to the majors. He earned his promotion and did well at the MLB level with 3 doubles, a triple, and 3 HR in 78 AB.

          This is a middle of the order hitter, and this team needs that right now, not next year.

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