Out goes one Major League veteran at Triple-A and in comes another.
As the St. Louis Cardinals and Memphis Redbirds said goodbye to Japan-bound Carlos Peguero on Friday, they welcomed 30-year-old Efren Navarro.
The new Redbird, a first baseman-outfielder, has been well-traveled, especially recently. After being released by the Seattle Mariners from their Triple-A roster on June 29, Navarro suited up for the Toros de Tijuana of the Mexican League, where he played in just one game, on Tuesday, July 5.
Three days later, the left-handed hitter became a Cardinal and was immediately written into the Memphis lineup. On Friday night, Navarro, batting third and playing at first base, went 1-for-3 with a strikeout in his Redbirds debut. He batted just behind another brand-new Redbirds outfielder in Harrison Bader, just promoted from Double-A.
Now in his 10th professional season, Navarro joins his fifth organization in the last five months, four affiliated, with the Angels, Orioles and Mariners being the others. The California native was the Angels’ 50th round draft pick in 2007 after playing college ball at UNLV.
Navarro worked his way up through the Angels system and first reached Triple-A in 2011. He made his eight-game MLB debut at the end of that season, but was outrighted off the 40-man roster in 2012. Navarro made it back to Anaheim two years later, in September 2013, and appeared in a total of 118 games for the Halos over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. In the bigs, his line is a pedestrian .246/.303/.324/.627 in 280 plate appearances.
Los Angeles designated Navarro for assignment this January 19. Ironically, former Cardinals minor league outfielder Rafael Ortega had joined the Angels organization the month before, securing a 40-man roster spot.
A week after his DFA, Navarro was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations. However, he did not get a chance to prove himself in spring training as the O’s turned around and DFA’ed him on February 26. Because of his 2012 outright, Navarro had the right to declare free agency, which he did.
A week later, on March 2, Navarro settled for a minor league deal with the Mariners and received an invitation to Seattle’s big-league spring training camp, but he did not make the M’s. Assigned to Triple-A Tacoma for the regular season, the 6-foot, 200-pounder slashed .243/.316/.362/.678 with five home runs and 31 RBI in 268 at-bats over 72 games before being released.
Prior to joining Memphis, Navarro played in 1,057 career minor league games with a .296 batting average, 53 home runs, 526 RBI, a .362 on-base percentage, a .414 slugging mark and .775 OPS.
Doling out playing time should be interesting for manager Mike Shildt. Jose Martinez and David Washington are two other first baseman-outfielders on the roster, along with three other outfielders in Nick Martini, Charlie Tilson and Bader, with the latter two considered top prospects. (Jeremy Hazelbaker is on the disabled list.) That makes six active Redbirds for three jobs – four when a designated hitter is used versus American League teams.
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