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There was a time when Dioner Navarro was a catching prospect of the highest order (right up there, incidentally, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia). That was a long time ago, but Navarro has still carved out something of a big league career as a mostly-back-up catcher.

And now it looks like he’s going to be a mostly-back-up catcher for the 2013 Chicago Cubs.

His agents just announced on Twitter that the 28-year-old backstop has signed with the Cubs, on what I presume is either a big league deal for a small amount of money (terms have not yet been disclosed), or a minor league deal. Early guess/hope? The latter.

Navarro had his best year in a long time last year with the Reds, hitting .290/.306/.449, albeit in just 73 plate appearances. He spent most of his year at AAA, putting up a solid .832 OPS in the International League (not quite as hitter friendly as the PCL). In the years before 2012, however, he’d had a rough go of it in the bigs, with OPS+ marks of just 68, 49, and 54 in 2011, 2010, and 2009.

We’ll know more about the plan for Navarro when the terms of the deal are disclosed, but given his success last year and his switch-hitting bat, I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan is to pair him with Welington Castillo next year, with Castillo as the nominal starter (though it’s worth pointing out that Navarro, for his career, has been far better on the right side of the plate than the left). It’s similar to what I was thinking the Cubs could do with Saltalamacchia, about which I wrote just moments before this news came out.

If the Cubs somehow got Navarro on a minor league deal, we’ll have to see what the rest of the offseason holds. Steve Clevenger probably will be removed from the 40-man roster at this point, particularly if Navarro got a big league deal (and a 40-man spot). If he sticks in the organization, he’ll be at Spring Training, competing with, presumably, Navarro for the right to back up Castillo.

And, not to make today all about Matt Garza, but he and Navarro have a bit of a past.

UPDATE: Jon Heyman says it’s a deal worth $1.75 million, which suggests that it’s a big league deal (for about three times the minimum). That … surprises me. Navarro is certainly a capable big league back-up, but he’s probably light-hitting even for that class of player. He’s solid defensively, and it’s not a huge amount of money. Still, it’s a bit surprising. If it were a minor league/major league split deal, where, if he makes the big league team out of Spring Training, a $1.75 million salary might make more sense. But $1.75 million guaranteed up front to a guy who was some 40% below average offensively for three years before hitting decently in a whopping 73 plate appearances in 2012? That, again, is a surprise.

  • Dustin S

    After I thought about this deal for a little bit, it is probably the fallout from the fact that the team had to resort to signing Koyie Hill (or someone like him) last year due to injuries. This could be their way of saying we need to keep 3 ML-caliber (albeit not great) catchers available, even though 1 of the 3 will be at Iowa. Plus it makes any of the 3 trade bait. So I can’t complain about it too much.

  • nkniacc13

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Clev as a throw in into a deal. I think the cubs make atleast 1 trade before the roster set of nov 20

  • The Next Theo Epstein

    Hey guys, Brett, does anyone know whether the new national TV deal the baseball owners signed will be shared equally across all teams? It was for 12.4 billion over 7 years.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I believe they’ve said that, yes, it will be shared equally. But I could be wrong on that.

    • King Jeff
      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Wow. That is a magnificent article. Thanks, Jeff – and excellent work by Wendy.

      • The Next Theo Epstein

        Thanks Brett and King Jeff!

        That is a significant sum of money coming to the Cubs starting in 2014.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yes – but since it goes to every team, it is almost not worth considering, you know? Since it doesn’t give a relative advantage.

        • King Jeff

          No problem TNTE. Can I call you TNTE? I agree with Brett, Wendy did a phenomenal job on that article.

      • Mick

        Reading that article was like revenue sharing P90x, I hate, but I love it.

        • Mick

          I re-read it and still don’t fully understand all of the nuances. I’ll re-read it again because I want to know how much the Marlins will recieve in 2013 and also how much money the Yankees will net in 2015 if they can bring their payroll below the luxuary tax in 2014.

          • FFP

            I felt like John Locke on the island in Lost when I read that fangraphs article. Remember when he found the partial reel of 16mm movie from the Dharma Initiative? I will have to read it again, too. Thanks, King Jeff.

            • King Jeff

              I get thanks and a Lost reference, nice!

      • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

        Good stuff Jeff. Amazing article.

  • Jackalope

    Brett, any chance the front office views him as a ridiculous pitch framer, a la Jose Molina–5 WAR pitch framer. Any one know where you can find pitch framing stats online?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t know the latter, but it’s possible about his framing ability. He didn’t used to be thought of as a good defensive catcher, but he’s apparently improved quite a bit in the last few years (probably when he realized his bat wasn’t going to keep him in the league).

  • Jackalope

    Bradley Woodrum’s take at

    Cub’s stats

    :

    But as a fan of the Tampa Bay Rays since Dioner Navarro’s MLB debut, I can say with conviction that Navarro is neither a good hitter nor a good defender — and if the reports of a $1.75 million MLB deal are true, then the Cubs unfortunately overpaid for him.

  • Jeff1969

    The new Barry Foote!

    • Tommy

      You’re dating yourself, Jeff.

      I guess the 1969 on the end of your name does that anyway, though.

  • Dan

    Better than Koyie Hill.

    ….Maybe….

  • fromthemitten

    He was an all-star a few years ago in Tampa Bay… and he’s entering his peak years could have high upside here.

  • calicubsfan007

    I think that Navarro has a good chance to make a solid impact here. I am just thinking, but based on how inconsistent Castillo played last year, it is entirely plausible to think that Navarro could be our starting catcher this year with Castillo waiting in the wings. I know it isn’t as ideal as it could be, but it isn’t as bad as it has been. I just think that Castillo is too green to be just handed the starter’s job.

  • Kubphan82

    5 levels 18 Catchers… WTF?

    Clev/Cast/Nav
    Bren/Bosc/Noble
    Gibbs/Lopez
    Krist/Burr/Cabezas
    Contreras/Esco/Marra/Rym/Rosie/Mineo/Petit

    • cjdubbya

      Sign ALL the catchers!

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