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Classic Player Profile: Dioner Navarro

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The Venezuelan catcher who was crucial to the Rays turnaround in 2008.

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Player: Dioner Navarro

Born: February 9th, 1984 (Currently 31 years old)

Positions: C and DH

Drafted: Not drafted, on August 21st, 2000 was signed as an amateur free agent by the New York Yankees

Tenure: 2006-2010

Start of Tenure: On June 27th, 2006 was acquired by the Tampa Bay Rays along with Jae Weong Seo and a PTBNL (Justin Ruggiano) from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson

End of Tenure: On December 2nd, 2010 was granted free agency

Teams: New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks*, Los Angeles Dodgers (2), Tampa Bay Devil Rays / Rays, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, and the Toronto Blue Jays

Currently: Navarro is currently a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays

Rays Stat Line: 1.9 WAR, Slashed .243/.300/.352, 367 Hits, 29 HR, 157 RBI, and 9 SB in 458 games

Sudden Rise

(2000-2004)

Dioner Navarro signed on August 21st, 2000 by the New York Yankees at the ripe age of 16 out of Caracas, Venezuela. He made his professional debut the following year in 2001 with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in Tampa, Florida, managed by current Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton. In 43 games for the GCL Yankees, Navarro slashed .280/.345/.406 with 2 HR and 22 RBI. He was also named to the Gulf Coast League All Star Team after the season's conclusion.

In 2002, Navarro (now 18) was assigned to Single-A Greensboro, where he spent the majority of the season. Navarro played in 92 games for Greensboro and slashed .238/.317/.360 to go with 8 HR and 36 RBI. Navarro played one game with High-A Tampa as well and went 1 for 2.

Navarro with Yankees

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In 2003, Navarro was sent to High-A and hit very well there. In 52 games, Navarro slashed .299/.352/.467 with 3 HR and 28 RBI. At the season's halfway mark, Navarro was promoted to Double-A Trenton, where he just went on an offensive tear. In 58 games for Trenton, Navarro slashed .341/.385/.471 with 4 HR and 37 RBI. Navarro managed hit very well, even after battling nagging injuries for the duration of the season.

Entering 2004, thanks to his breakout season, Navarro was named the #1 prospect in the Yankees system and 41st overall in the MLB by Baseball America.

Navarro has a short, compact swing but manages to cover the plate, and he's tough to strike out. He stays back on breaking balls and has the bat speed to catch up to plus fastballs.

Fresh off earning the top spot in the organization, Navarro was back in Trenton. He spent 70 more games at Double-A, during which he slashed .271/.352/.369 and hit 3 HR with 29 RBI. After that, Navarro was promoted to Triple-A Columbus and performed at a mediocre level, but nonetheless warranted a call-up when rosters expanded in September to help out with the Yankees postseason run.

On September 7th, Dioner Navarro at 20 years old (3rd youngest AL player that year behind B.J. Upton and Andres Blanco) made his MLB debut. He came in for the top of the 9th as a defensive replacement to catch for Steve Karsay, against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Yankee Stadium. It was a quick 1-2-3 inning as the Devil Rays went down quietly and lost 11-2.

Navarro had to wait almost a week to play again, on the 13th he was used as a pinch hitter against Chris George of the Kansas City Royals in the bottom of the 9th of a game that New York was being blown out, 17-3. Dioner Navarro came on as a pinch-hitter with 1 out and runners on 1st and 2nd. After a first pitch ball, Navarro hit a sharp grounder through the left side for a base hit and brought Alex Rodriguez in from 2nd for Navarro's 1st hit and RBI. He would later score on a Ruben Sierra triple, but despite the late rally, the Yankees lost, 17-8.

Navarro only played in 3 more games in 2004 and had 3 hits (all singles) in a total of 7 at-bats for New York.

Going to Arizona Los Angeles

(2005)

On January 11th, 2005 the Yankees sent their former top prospect along with Brad Hasley, Javier Vasquez, and cash to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for 2015 Hall of Fame inductee, Randy Johnson. Before that trade occurred though, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Diamondbacks had an agreement that L.A. would send Shawn Green to Arizona for an allotment of players.

So when the Randy Johnson deal became official, Arizona dealt Dioner Navarro, William Juarez, Danny Muegge, and Beltran Perez to L.A. for Shawn Green.

Navarro with Dodgers (2005)

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Navarro failed to make the Dodgers opening day roster and was assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas. In 75 games for Vegas, Navarro slashed .266/.362/.390 with 6 HR and 29 RBI. Jason Phillips, the Dodgers primary catcher, was struggling to throw runners out, and by July 29th, he had only caught 14% of base stealers. So on that date, Dioner Navarro, along with Jonathan Broxton, were called up. Backup catcher, Mike Rose, was sent to Vegas and Scott Erickson was DFA'd to make room.

Navarro started that night in a game against Matt Morris and the St. Louis Cardinals and went 1-3 with a walk.  A couple of weeks later, Navarro came up big against the New York Mets during a game at Dodger Stadium on August 12th. In the bottom of the 10th, Navarro stood in the box, having already gone 0-2 with a couple of walks. The game was tied at 6 with Braden Looper pitching for New York. After battling for 8 pitches, Navarro took Looper's next offer that hung over the center of the plate and hit a laser beam to deep right-center field. Victor Diaz gave chase, but didn't have a chance as the ball sailed over the wall and banged off the bleacher fencing and back onto the playing field. It was a walkoff HR that gave the Dodgers a 7-6 victory, it was also Navarro's 1st career HR.

Navarro finished the year as the starting catcher for L.A. and slashed .273/.347/.375 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 50 games.

Heading to St. Pete

(2006-2007)

In 2006, Navarro made his first opening day roster when he beat out Russell Martin for the catching spot and was used as a pinch-hitter in the 8th, but struck out. On May 4th, Navarro was batting .280 and had 2 HR and 8 RBI. In the 2nd inning of the day's game against the San Diego Padres, Vinny Castilla fouled a ball off that nailed Navarro's wrist.

Navarro was placed on the disabled list with a bruised right wrist as a result of the foul ball. He was on the shelf from May 5th until June 16th, at which point he was optioned back to Triple-A. Navarro was only Vegas for about 2 weeks though, when on June 27th, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays along with Jae-Weong Seo and a player to be named later (Justin Ruggiano) for veteran catcher, Toby Hall, and starting pitcher, Mark Hendrickson.

Navarro was in the Devil Rays starting lineup the next night in Miami against the Marlins, batting 8th. He'd go 0-2 with 2 walks in his debut. Navarro was a pretty consistent offensive player during the rest of the season though, except for in September when his bat fell off a little bit. He did have 2 clutch homeruns down the stretch for Tampa Bay and was also part of one of the rarest plays in baseball. On August 6th, entering the bottom of the 8th against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field, the Devil Rays were trailing 6-4 with Mike Timlin on the mound for Boston.

Navarro in 2006

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After Travis Lee absolutely crushed a home run off Timlin with 1 out to make it a one run game, Terry Francona called upon Jonathan Papelbon, who had been nearly unhittable in 2006. Papelbon came out and struck out Greg Norton on 3 pitches to bring up Navarro with 2 outs. Papelbon got Navarro down quickly 0-2, when Navarro took a high fastball and sent it to the identical spot as Travis Lee's, tying the game at 6. The Devil Rays would eventually win in 10th, thanks to a walkoff home run from Greg Norton.

On August 31st, against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, Navarro again came up in the 8th inning of a 1 run game. Matt Thornton was on the mound for Chicago and had just retired Norton for the 1st out of the inning. With the count 3-1, Navarro sent a long fly ball down the left field line, and over the White Sox bullpen and into the seats to tie the game at 3. The D-Rays eventually won the game, 5-3, after Jorge Cantu's 2-RBI single in the 10th.

On September 2nd, Navarro was a part of the first ever 2-6-2 triple play. The Devil Rays were taking on the Seattle Mariners with J.P. Howell getting the start for Tampa Bay. Seattle started the game with a single, a walk, and another single that brought it a run. Raul Ibanez came up with runners on 1st and 3rd and none out. The count reached 3-2, when Adrian Beltre took off for 2nd. Howell's pitch was a called strike 3 on Ibanez, Navarro received the pitch and made a perfect throw to Ben Zobrist who was covering the bag. As Zobrist caught the ball, Beltre turned and ran back towards 1st, but was caught and tagged out by Zobrist. During the rundown, Jose Lopez who was on 3rd, attempted to score, but Zobrist was alert and got the ball into Navarro quickly, who tagged out Lopez to complete the first ever 2-6-2 triple play.

Navarro played in a combined 81 games between L.A. and Tampa, and slashed .254/.332/.354 with 6 HR and 28 RBI.

In 2007, Navarro was Joe Maddon's opening day catcher and batted 8th. He'd go hitless in that game and go 1-14 to start the season, but then hit around .300 to finish the month of April. After April though, Navarro's average slipped below .200.

Navarro's production only slipped more in June and finished the month batting .187. After the All Star Break, Navarro turned his season around. He slashed .285/.340/.475 with 8 HR and 31 RBI.

Towards the end of the year, Navarro had another big hit for Tampa Bay. On September 25th, in a game against the Yankees at Tropicana Field, Navarro came to bat in the bottom of the 10th of a game tied at 6. Earlier, Navarro served as a catalyst to a Devil Rays rally. In the bottom of the 6th with the D-Rays down, 5-0, Navarro was up with Upton on 1st and 1 out against Edwar Ramirez.

Navarro in 2007

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On a 1-1 pitch, Navarro sliced a ball into left-center field that split Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera. Damon fielded it off the wall, but Upton had scored easily and Navarro coasted into 2nd with a double. Ramirez walked Jonny Gomes, then was taken out of the game in favor of Brian Bruney.

Bruney came in and walked Norton, struck out Josh Wilson, and walked Akinori Iwamura to score Navarro and also bring up Jorge Velandia. With a 0-1 pitch, Velandia promptly deposited Bruney's offering into the left field seats to give Tampa Bay, a 6-5 lead. Dan Wheeler was unable to hold the lead though, and New York came back to tie the game in the 8th.

Now, back to the bottom of the 10th with Navarro was leading off against Jeff Karstens. With a 2-0 count, Navarro turned and sent a high flyball towards right field. Bobby Abreu ran back on it, but it soared over his head into the seats for a walkoff homerun to give the Devil Rays a 7-6 victory.

Navarro would finish the season a slash of .227/.286/.356 with 9 HR and 44 RBI.

24-Year-Old Allstar

(2008)

Navarro batted 8th on opening day 2008, going 3-4 with a double and a RBI. A few days later though, Navarro was the victim of a freak accident during a game Yankee Stadium. In the top of the 3rd inning, Navarro was heading out onto the on deck circle when he slipped and fell. He tried to catch the netting, but it sliced his ring and middle fingers on his right hand. It would require stitches and a DL stint.

Inaugural Devil Ray, Mike Difelice was called up to fill in for Navarro during his time on the shelf. Navarro returned on April 22nd and 3-4 with 2 RBI's in a Rays victory against Toronto at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex. In the 11 games that Navarro played in April, he batted .400. Navarro continued his torrid hitting in May and finished the month with a .352 average and a decisive grand slam in extra innings in Toronto on May 8th -- the first extra inning grand slam in team history.

Navarro had a very eventful beginning of June. On June 5th, Navarro was involved in the Red Sox brawl that resulted in suspensions for 8 people, but not Navarro. James Shields hit Coco Crisp, who in turned charged the mound. Shields threw a big haymaker and missed while Crisp landed a quick right jab. Navarro was close behind Crisp though and bear hugged him from behind and dragged him into the ground while players from both sides piled on top.

A few days later on the 8th -- a sweltering day that registered in the triple digits in temperature at the Ballpark in Arlington -- Navarro was involved in another skirmish, except this time with his teammate, Matt Garza. In the 3rd inning, Garza had run into some trouble due to errors made behind him, but he was able to pitch out of it. In the 4th though, Garza struggled after giving up 3 straight hits (including a HR to German Duran) all while shaking off signals from Navarro. After Ian Kinsler's single, Navarro went out to the mound and confronted Garza, making contact with him. They were separated by Jim Hickey, but after the inning was over, the two players met in the dugout and had another altercation that spilled into the locker room.

The very next day, against the Los Angeles Angels, Dioner Navarro was apart of the first back-to-back-to-back homers in Rays history. Evan Longoria led off the inning by crushing a ball off Joe Saunders over both bullpens and into the seats in left. Willy Aybar followed by connecting for his own, sending it into the first bullpen in left. Dioner Navarro capped it off by hitting a laser beam homer into the bullpen.

Heading into the All Star Break, Navarro had put up probably the most impressive offensive numbers for a catcher in team history. In 69 games, Navarro slashed .310/.361/.424 with 4 HR and 35 RBI. Thanks to those numbers, Navarro was selected to the AL All Star Team along with Scott Kazmir and final vote recipient Evan Longoria to give Tampa Bay their largest contingent ever of All Stars. Navarro's selection made him the first catcher in team history to make the All Star Game.

Navarro went 1-4 in the 15 inning game. He came close to ending it in the 10th, but was thrown out at home on a close play. His teammate, Scott Kazmir, was the winning pitcher in the game, though, as the AL walked off with a 4-3 victory. Heading down the stretch, Navarro had some pivotal hits during some crucial games in September.

On September 9th, a game famously remembered for Dan Johnson's heroics, it was actually Dioner Navarro who gave the Rays the lead in the 9th. Heading into the 9th inning, the Rays bullpen had just blown a 1-run lead and the Boston Red Sox took a 1-run lead of their own. Dan Johnson had hit a remarkable pinch-hit HR off of Jonathan Papelbon to lead off the inning and tie the game. Willy Aybar flew out to center, but then the speedy Fernando Perez hit a double to set the stage for Navarro.

With a 0-1 pitch, Navarro sliced a ball down the left field line and into the corner. Bay ran to the corner to get it, but Perez had scored easily and Navarro was standing on 2nd with a double, giving the Rays a 5-4 lead. Troy Percival made it interesting in the bottom half of the inning, but closed it out and gave the Rays their first victory at Fenway Park all season.

A week later, in another pivotal game against Boston that would decide the division leader, except this time it was at Tropicana Field, Navarro would come up big once again. In the top of the 6th, Andy Sonnanstine had allowed a run to score due to an error committed previously in the inning to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Carlos Pena tied the game in the 7th though, with a solo-HR to tie the game at 1. The Red Sox threatened in the 9th, but Dan Wheeler was able shut them down, and the Rays came up for the bottom half.

Jason Bartlett led off with a single off of Justin Masterson and Pena followed with a walk to put runners on 1st and 2nd with none out. Evan Longoria came up with a chance to end the game, but struck out. Cliff Floyd was now up and he has had some pretty big hits as well for the Rays during the year, but quickly got down 0-2. Masterson's next pitch ran inside, though, and drilled Floyd in the calf, loading the bases with 1 out for Navarro. The count got to 2-2, when on the next pitch, Navarro lifted a long flyball to center field. Crisp initially ran back on it, but knew there would be no chance to throw out Bartlett and gave up as the ball landed on the warning track. Bartlett scampered home and the celebration was on as Navarro had given the Rays back their AL East lead.

The Rays eventually won their first ever division title and beat the Chicago White Sox in their first playoff series in 4 games. Then they'd played a dramatic seven game series against the Red Sox in the ALCS, but were able to come out on top and advance to the World Series. It was ill-fated though, as they played a sloppy series and lost in five games. Navarro was one of the few Rays players to have some good numbers during the world series, going 6 for 17 (.357).

Navarro finished the regular season having played in 120 games and slashed .295/.349/.407 with 7 HR and 54 RBI.

Fall from Grace

(2009-2010)

Dioner Navarro struggled mightily in 2009. In 2008, he was one of the best hitting catchers in the league, but in 2009, he ranked among the league's worst. He spent the majority of the season battling to stay above .200 and finished the season having played in 115 games and slashed .218/.261/.322 with 8 HR and 32 RBI. When the season concluded, Navarro had surgery to stabilize an ulnar nerve in his left elbow with the expectation that he'd be ready by spring training and hopefully replicate his 2008 numbers.

The Rays had meanwhile acquired Kelly Shoppach from the Cleveland Indians to either replace or backup Navarro depending on how the season progressed

Navarro managed to keep the catching job out of spring training and was the opening day catcher for the fourth-straight year. Navarro started the season poorly and his job was in jeopardy, but on April 13th Kelly Shoppach suffered a right knee sprain in a collision with Curtis Granderson. The Rays would have to go to Durham for a replacement, but it seemed that Navarro would get to keep his starting job. Unfortunately for Navarro, the callup of John Jaso provided an unlikely offensive force, and he quickly took Navarro's job.

On June 25th, Navarro was sent to Triple-A for the first time since 2006 and the Rays called up Matt Joyce to take his roster spot. In Durham, Navarro was able to find his bat and slashed .284/.380/.390 with 2 HR and 21 RBI. He returned to the majors when rosters expanded in September.

Navarro somehow managed to hit worse in September than he had the rest of the season, going 2-19 (.105). Nonetheless, the Rays had won the AL East for the 2nd time, but left Navarro off the postseason roster in favor of Shoppach and Jaso. The team asked that Navarro stay with the team though, in case of injury or if they wanted to use him the next rounds, but Navarro chose to leave the team and head home.

On December 2nd, the Rays non-tendered Navarro ending his 5-year tenure with Tampa Bay and making the 26 year old a free agent for the first time.

Struggling back in L.A.

(2011)

On December 14th, 2010 Navarro re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was to share catching duties with Rod Barajas. Sadly during the last week of spring training, Navarro suffered an oblique tear that required a month-long DL stint. Navarro was activated on April 25th and went 0-1 in his return for the Dodgers.

He would record a hit the next night as a pinch-hitter, but Navarro got back to his struggling ways. After his first full month of play, he was batting .213. The Dodgers kept Navarro around for a while though because Barajas was dealing with injuries.

Navarro Dodgers 2011

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On August 23rd the Dodgers decided they'd have enough of Navarro's minuscule production and DFA'd him and eventually released him. Also claiming Navarro's professionalism as part of the reason for his release, the Dodgers called up A.J. Ellis from Triple-A to take his place.

Trying to Catch On

(2012)

On January 16th, 2012 Navarro signed a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds to serve as a potential replacement if Devin Mesoraco or Ryan Hanigan were to go down with injuries.

On August 1st, Mesoraco was placed on the 7-day DL for a concussion, Navarro was called up to take his place. Something interesting to note, Jonathan Broxton was activated before the game. It was the 2nd time that they both were put onto an active roster at the same time. They were both called up together back whe Navarro made his debut for L.A. in 2005. Mesoraco returned on August 9th and Navarro was sent back down to Triple-A Louisville, during his limited playing time, he went 1 for 9.

Navarro with Reds

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On the date that Mesoraco's injury occurred, he was ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes. As he was protesting, he made contact with an umpire resulting in a 3 game suspension. He appealed it, until the suspension was reduced to 2 games and would start serving on August 21st. Navarro was again called up, but this time impressed with his play and stayed on the team until the season's conclusion. Excluding his first 4 games in Cinncinati, Navarro slashed .317/.339/.450 with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 20 games. At the end of the season, Navarro was again a free agent.

Entering the prime of his career

(2013-2014)

On November 16th, 2012 Navarro signed with another NL Central team, the Chicago Cubs. Navarro would serve as the backup catcher to Welington Catillo, but struggled to open the season. Entering play on May 29th, Navarro was batting an even .200, that's when a very unexpected thing happened. On that day,against the Chicago White Sox, Dioner Navarro blasted 3 home runs and had 6 RBI's.

From that game on, Navarro slashed .330/.396/.524 with 10 HR and 27 RBI. He'd finish the season, having played in 89 games and slashed .300/.365/.492 with 13 HR and 34 RBI.

On December 2nd, 2013 Navarro signed a 2 year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, who were in need of a starting catcher as it had been a black hole for them in 2013.

In his first season for Toronto, Navarro slashed .274/.317/.395 with 12 HR and 69 RBI in 139 games. Navarro was Toronto's starting catcher, but that changed during the 2015-215 offseason when the Blue Jays signed the catcher that displaced Navarro during his first tenure in L.A., Russell Martin. It was reported that Navarro had requested a trade after the signing, but as of now, he is still a Blue Jay.

Career Stat Line: 7.5 WAR, slashed .255/.313/.375, 697 Hits, 66 HR, 312 RBI, and 13 SB in 854 games