The Twins are "one of about five" clubs trying to land 29-year-old catcher Dioner Navarro, according to Mike Berardino of the Pioneer press.
Following Brian McCann's deal with the Yankees, Navarro is one of the top free agent catchers remaining, along with former-Red Sox backstop Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Like Salty, Navarro is coming off of a career year at the plate in 2013. He hit .300/.365/.492 in 266 plate appearances backing up Wellington Castillo for the Cubs. In ten years in the majors, he has hit .251/.313/.371. Berardino says Navarro has a reputation as a top defender but it is hard to see how he could reach that conclusion. In fact, Navarro has been average or below-average by most measurements. He has thrown out 29 percent of base runners in his career (average is 27 percent) and his abilities blocking pitches and fielding the position grade out close to average in most defensive metrics as well. His big deficiency is comes in framing, however. He has gotten low marks for that skill in studies by Max Marchi of the Hardball Times in the past and those numbers tend to remain consistent year-to-year.
The Twins are planning to move starting catcher and 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer to first base for the 2014 season, opening up a hole behind the plate in the Twin Cities. Minnesota has the defensively challenged Ryan Doumit on the roster and 24-year old prospect Josmil Pinto saw some time at the position in 2013, but the team lacks a clear starting option with Mauer moving off the position. They see Navarro as better bargain than Jarrod Saltalamacchia and they feel he can mentor Pinto according to Berardino.
Navarro is expected to sign soon, according to Peter Gammons of MLB Network. If he does reach a deal soon, three of the top options behind the plate will have signed ahead of the Winter Meetings.
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