Even on a Saturday night, Dan Duquette can strike. With the Orioles rumored for several days to be interested in minor league free agent Rey Navarro, it seemed inevitable they would work something out. Pending a physical, they've done just that, signing Navarro to a major league contract. This leaves the O's with two open spots on the 40-man roster.
In a rare occurrence, the news was reported solely by MASN's Roch Kubatko, rather than en masse by the Orioles beat crew following a press release or tweet from the Orioles PR account. Roch, who was also on the case over the last days as the O's pursued Navarro, described him as "a switch-hitter with speed and developing power who's also regarded as a plus defender with exceptional range at shortstop."
Navarro, soon to be 25, is a product of Puerto Rico, first selected by the Diamondbacks in the third round of the 2007 draft. He was later traded to the Royals and, after his first dip into minor league free agency, spent 2014 in the Reds organization. Though Navarro has only played 82 games above Double-A across eight seasons, he's apparently intriguing enough to Duquette to bring into the O's organization on a major league deal.
As a player who signed at 17, Navarro has been younger than the average competition at every level he has reached, even levels he's repeated. Between two levels of the Reds system this year, he batted .282/.343/.435, hitting 12 home runs. He also hit 12 home runs in 2013. Does that count as developing power? Well, he did go from 21 doubles to 34 doubles. As for speed, it doesn't manifest in stealing bases: he was caught eight times with only five successful steals.
Navarro has logged time at second and third base as well as at short. Roch writes that "the Orioles want viable options if (J.J. Hardy) goes down with an injury," which is a sensible plan. They don't seem to have had any this year, given that they went out of their way to make midseason trades for Jimmy Paredes and Kelly Johnson.
With Navarro never spending time on the 40-man before, he's probably destined for Norfolk, unless he really impresses and beats out Ryan Flaherty for the utility infielder spot in spring training. If Navarro shows them his best, that's not out of the question. More likely, since he is a player with options remaining, he'll be insurance, so that if Hardy is hurt, or for that matter if Manny Machado's various knee ailments continue, the O's have a more capable backup for their infield.