The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.
Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.
Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs.
Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.
Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.
Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.
Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.
According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.
Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.
Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).
These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez.
Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.
Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.