Phillies offseason targets: Navarro, Hanigan

Phillies offseason targets: Navarro, Hanigan
November 17, 2013, 9:00 am
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Dioner Navarro, left, hit .300 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs for the Cubs last season. (AP)

Over the next several weeks we’ll unveil a list of potential free agents and trade targets the Phillies could pursue this offseason, one in which they’ll need to plug holes behind the plate, in the corner outfield and, most importantly, on the pitching staff.

On Saturday, we examined two left-handed, back-end-of-the-rotation starters (see story). Today, we take a look at two catchers the Phils should consider if they lose out on the Carlos Ruiz sweepstakes.

Dioner Navarro

Age: 30 in February

2012-13 stats: .298 BA, .352 OBP, .482 slugging; averaged eight homers, 23 RBIs in 170 plate appearances

Most recent contract: One year, $1.75 million

The Phillies still wish to re-sign Carlos Ruiz, and with the Rockies reportedly withdrawing from the Chooch sweepstakes after he let their two-year, $15 million offer sit, the competition has dwindled.

But if the Phils lose out to the Red Sox, another catcher to consider is switch-hitting journeyman backstop Dioner Navarro, who reemerged last season with the Cubs at age 29.

Navarro hit .300/.365/.492 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs in 266 plate appearances for Chicago in 2013, batting .361 from the right side and .279 as a lefty. It was his first solid campaign since 2008, when he was the Rays' starting catcher all the way through their World Series with the Phillies.

In '08, Navarro hit .295 in 120 games. Then from 2009-12 he hit just .215 with a .270 on-base percentage for the Rays, Dodgers and Reds. He went from being a starter on a World Series team to a spare part released by one team and given minor-league and one-year deals by others.

Navarro isn't in the same stratosphere as Brian McCann, nor is he in that second tier with Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski. The Venezuelan is by himself in Tier 3.

The reason he'd make some sense for the Phillies, though, is financial. Navarro is not in line for a three-year deal like Saltalamacchia, and he's not going to come close the $8-10 million annual salary Ruiz and Pierzynski are looking for. A contract like two years, $6-8 million seems logical for Navarro, who made $1.75 million with the Cubs a year ago.

Ruiz is the Phillies' top priority but they won't wait forever. Ruben Amaro Jr. has used the phrase "it takes two to tango" several times regarding the negotiation process with Chooch.

If the talks with Ruiz fall apart and the Phillies look to bring in another stop-gap catcher until Cameron Rupp and/or Tommy Joseph are ready, Navarro is a player to consider. And with the money saved by signing a Navarro rather than a Saltalamacchia, the Phils could go ahead and bring in a late-inning reliever. You'd imagine that over a two-year span, "Navarro plus free-agent setup man X" would outperform "Saltalamacchia plus farmhand reliever Y."

Wouldn't be too bad a fall-back plan.


Ryan Hanigan

Age: 33

2012-13 stats: .243 BA, .341 OBP, .306 slugging; averaged two homers, 22 RBIs in 316 plate appearances

Remaining contract: One year, $2.05 million

The Reds plan to trade Hanigan following the signing of Brayan Pena, who will back up Devin Mesoraco in Cincinnati.

Hanigan has been an underrated catcher for some time. He has elite defensive skills and a very disciplined eye at the plate.

He led the National League in both 2012 and 2013 in caught stealing percentage, at 48 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Offensively, he has 30 more career walks than strikeouts, to go with a .359 on-base percentage.

But still, he's a 33-year-old part-time catcher with no power, so he won't cost a lot on the trade market. The Reds think they'll land a decent prospect for him, but don't be surprised if that prospect is a minor-league reliever.

Would you trade Phillippe Aumont for him? There's an idea. Cincy might be attracted because of Aumont's former first-round status and blazing fastball, thinking a change of scenery would work to turn him into a solid late reliever. It would especially make sense if the Reds transition Aroldis Chapman into a starting role, a move they've flirted with two years in a row.

Like Navarro, Hanigan would be an inexpensive short-term solution at catcher. His ability to control the running game is valuable in itself, and his patience in the eight-hole makes him a legitimate candidate to start, even if he's never received the lion's share of duty behind the plate.