2011 Dodgers Player Profile: Dioner Navarro, Welcome Back

Dioner Navarro
02/08/1984, Venezuela
 5'10 / 190
Switch/R
Originally signed as a FA by Yankess

Dioner Navarro was the apple of GM Paul DePodesta's eye in the winter of 2005. Having traded Paul LoDuca the previous summer, failed to acquire Charles Johnson, and watched David Ross flail in September, DePodesta must have felt the Dodgers were short on catchers and went after Navarro.  

His first attempt was on December 22, 2004, in a deal where the Dodgers would have received Javier Vazquez and top prospects Eric Duncan and Navarro from the Yankees, along with pitcher Mike Koplove from Arizona. Arizona would have received Shawn Green, Brad Penny, Yhency Brazoban and Brandon Weeden from the Dodgers. The Yankees would have gotten Randy Johnson and  Kazuhisa Ishii.

At the last minute the Dodgers pulled out of the deal, leaving bad feelings with Yankee management and prompting Yankee team President Randy Levine to declare:

The Dodgers reneged on the deal that was agreed to last Friday, unequivocally and with no contingencies except for a window for contract extensions and physicals, For some reason, the Dodgers over the weekend started to backpedal. Why they would break their word is only something they can answer. It sure is disappointing, and we'll have to think long and hard before ever doing business with the Dodgers again

I guess Levine thought long and hard because three short weeks later the following trade was made between the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Dodgers:

Navarro did not make the Dodgers opening day roster in 2005, but the just-turned 21 year old made enough of an impression in AAA that he was brought up to the big club on July 29, and played with the Dodgers for the rest of the season. By the time the season had ended in 2005, Navarro was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dreary season. At only 21 years old Navarro put up a very respectable .729 OPS, displaying excellent plate discipline not just for a 21 year old but for any major league baseball player. 

Headed into 2006, it looked like Navarro would be the Dodger catcher of the future. However, several things changed. DePodesta had been replaced by Ned Colletti, who over the next few years would waste little time in pruning the team of anyone DePodesta had acquired not named Jeff Kent. More importantly, an AA catcher had caught the fancy of some members of Dodger management. Many wondered if Russell Martin was the Dodger future catcher, not Dioner Navarro.

Navarro held off the Martin challenge in spring training and entered 2006 as the starting catcher; he even hit better in 2006 than he had in 2005. On May 4th, he had an OPS of .759 but an injury sidelined him for the next month. While Navarro was hitting, rumblings could be heard that he was lackadaisical behind the plate, and the pitchers who enjoyed throwing to him in 2005, were not saying the same thing in 2006. When Navarro hit the DL, Russell Martin hit the Dodgers by storm, and Navarro would never play another game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. On June 26 Colletti quickly dispatched the one time starting catcher to the Rays along with pitcher Jae Seo and outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for catcher Toby Hall and pitcher Mark Hendrickson.

Navarro struggled with the Rays in 2006 and 2007, while Russell Martin shined. Things changed in 2008 as Navarro had a blistering first half to win a spot on the 2008 American League all-star game. Navarro had .905 OPS in April, and an .802 OPS in May to secure his spot on the team.

Much like Russell Martin the first half of 2008 was the highlight of his career so far. Once the 2008 season was over, Navarro went back to struggling, posting an OPS of .583 and .523 over the last two years making him one of the worst hitters in baseball over that time span.

For those who care about such things, Navarro had a WAR of 3.0 in 2008 which was good for 3rd best in the AL for catchers with more then 350 plate appearances. His total WAR as a Tampa Ray is 3.0, so I'll let you do the math on what his combined WAR was during the non-2008 seasons.

Navarro was married at the tender age of 18 and has seen more then his share of family grief. According to Wikipedia:

On September 27, 2003, their first wedding anniversary, Sherley suffered a cerebral aneurysm in Tampa. Doctors gave her less than a 5% chance of surviving surgery, and said it was likely she would die on September 30. She survived, and made a full recovery. Navarro has worn the #30 in her honor ever since.

On July 5, 2006, days after his acquisition by the Devil Rays, Navarro's SUV was clipped by another vehicle, causing his SUV to roll over. He and his family escaped serious injury, but the other vehicle fled the scene.

His son, Dioner Jr., was born with multicystic dysplastic kidney. He needed to have one of his kidneys removed in September 2006, and further surgery in 2007.

His mother, who still resides in Venezuela, suffered a cerebral aneurysm in early February 2008. Navarro left the Rays' pre-spring training workouts to be with her and returned when her condition stabilized.

Trivia

I believe Dioner Navarro is the first Dodger to rejoin the team that had been previously acquired by Paul DePodesta, but I'm just guessing.

Contract Status

Navarro signed a one-year deal worth $1,000,000 for 2011.

Stats

Year Age 2B HR Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
2008 24 27 7 43 54 .295 .349 .407 .330
2009 25 15 8 38 32 .218 .269 .322 .258
2010 26 5 1 11 7 .194 .270 .258 .242
2011 Projections - Age 27 Season



Year
2B HR Runs RBI BA OBP SLG wOBA
Bill James 13 5 26 26 .240 .309 .352 .294
Marcel 14 5 30 28 .249 .306 .352 .292
Baseball HQ 3 17 17 .223 .284 .319
ZiPS 21 7 39 41 .261 .319 .374

2011 Outlook

Navarro enters this spring as the backup, but when the incumbent ahead of you is Rod Barajas, you have to like your chances for getting plenty of playing time. The splits say that Navarro is better against LHP, which isn't going to help him, since Barajas also does his best work against LHP.

What are the TBLA community thoughts on playing time and production?

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