Indians Ink Flaherty and Navarro to Minor League Pacts

The Cleveland Indians added two more names to the guest list at the club’s spring training complex at Goodyear, Arizona.

The Indians announced on Thursday that the club had come to agreements with free agents Ryan Flaherty and Dioner Navarro on minor league contracts with invitations to spring training.

Flaherty, 32, is a utility man with seven years of Major League experience under his belt. He is a familiar face to some after spending his first six MLB seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, bouncing all around the playing field in a variety of roles for the club. He made at least ten starts at six different positions in his time with the Birds, playing first, second, and third bases, shortstop, and both left and right field.

He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies last February on a minor league contract but was cut towards the end of camp, leading to him joining the Atlanta Braves. He spent the bulk of his time at third base for the Braves, playing in 40 of his 48 defensive games there. He served the club down the stretch as a bench player, pinch-hitter, and defensive replacement, and was actually designated for assignment late in August, leaving the Braves roster for two weeks before his contract was selected from Triple-A Gwinnett.

The left-handed hitter owns a career .216/.286/.347 slash in his seven MLB seasons with 50 doubles, five triples, 37 homers, and 141 RBI in 533 games. He has hit as many as 15 doubles in 2014 and ten homers in 2013, but his career-best average has topped out at .224.

Navarro – Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Flaherty could find his way on the roster if he is able to beat out Max Moroff, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the offseason and appears to be the first in line for a utility role with the club. Yu Chang, a 23-year-old right-handed hitting infielder who spent time at second, third, and short with Triple-A Columbus last season, could also press for playing time as part of the team’s youth movement.

Navarro, 34, did not play in 2017 due to a family medical emergency, but he got back into action in 2018 with 20 games for the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League (.268/.299/.437 with three doubles, three homers, and 13 RBI). He followed it up this winter in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional, playing in 22 games for Tiburones de La Guaira in his native Caracas while hitting .278. A switch-hitting catcher, he last played professionally during the 2016 season when he appeared in 85 games for the Chicago White Sox and 16 more for the Toronto Blue Jays after a late August trade. He hit a combined .207 that season with a .265 on-base percentage, and a .322 slugging mark with 13 doubles, two triples, six homers, and 35 RBI.

Navarro started his 13-year MLB career with the New York Yankees, playing in five games for the club that signed him as an amateur before he was dealt to Arizona as part of the Randy Johnson trade, but he was immediately bounced to the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a four-player prospect package for outfielder Shawn Green. He played for the Dodgers in 2005 and part of 2006 before he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, where he found his longest stay to date. He played for the Rays through the 2010 season and was named an All-Star during the 2008 season when he hit a career-high 27 doubles, drove in 54 runs, and hit .295.

He returned to Los Angeles as a free agent for much of the 2011 season and followed that with single seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs over the next two years. He played for the Blue Jays in 2014 and 2015 before signing a free agent deal with the White Sox in 2016, but he was traded back to a Toronto club bracing for a trip to the playoffs, one that ended with a loss to the Indians in the American League Championship Series.

How Navarro factors in to the Indians’ catching situation remains to be seen. Roberto Perez is thought to be the number one catcher on the roster, with trade acquisition and four-year MLB veteran Kevin Plawecki (27) backing him up and prospect Eric Haase (26) waiting in the wings in Columbus. The Indians have also invited minor leaguer Li-Jen Chu (24) to camp after playing at three different levels in his fifth season in the organization last year.

Navarro could be the usual non-roster camp addition for the Indians so that they have enough catchers to handle the pitching staff, but it could be a legitimate opportunity for the veteran to showcase himself for other teams or to take a leadership role and work in tandem with Haase in the minors to better prepare the latter for the Majors. The Indians signed veterans Ryan Hanigan last season, Adam Moore ahead of the 2015-2017 seasons, Anthony Recker and Omir Santos prior to 2016, and Brett Hayes before the 2015 campaign in similar veteran backstop roles.

Photo: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

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