Brewers: Should the Brewers Consider Optioning Omar Narvaez?
Catcher Omar Narvaez was supposed to provide the Brewers with some offensive punch this year. That punch is still waiting to be seen.
Of the many position players that the Brewers brought in this offseason, catcher Omar Narvaez had some of the highest offensive potential of all of them. Considering the production put up by former Brewer Yasmani Grandal, Milwaukee was going to need that potential to be fulfilled.
There were reasons to be at least somewhat optimistic. Not only did Narvaez rake 22 homers and put up a decent .353 on base percentage, his wRC+ of 122 and 119 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, would put him right in Grandal territory (121 in 2019).
Unfortunately, things have not gone quite as planned for Narvaez, to put it nicely. The catcher is comes into Friday’s game hitting just .158 with just one extra base hit (a double), one run driven in, and three runs scored. His OBP, which was at least decent for a while, has dipped to .304.
Though a slow start to the season can happen, Narvaez’s has been particularly frustrating to watch considering the strong performance of his backup, Manny Pina. Yes, he has had limited plate appearances, but Pina has been one of the team’s best hitters in 2020.
Pina, who had the first multi-homer game of his career the other day, leads the team with a .478 OBP, .737 slugging percentage, and a 1.215 OPS while placing second on the team with a .368 batting average. It’s a small sample size, but his hot hand should be earning him more playing time.
Breaking from the straight platoon and giving Pina some of Narvaez’s playing time seems like a smart move at this point. But is there a chance that the Brewers could take things a step further and actually option Narvaez, who has over three years of service time, down to the alternate training site?
There is a precedent for the Brewers of sending players to the minors for a brief stint in order to get their head straight.
Optioning Narvaez probably isn’t a move many would consider under most circumstances, mostly because he is a relatively established major league player at this point. But that hasn’t stopped Milwaukee from making that kind of move in the past.
In 2018, reliever Corey Knebel, who was a dominant All-Star the previous year, was demoted briefly at the end of August to clear his head after struggling during parts of the year. He would come back to be one of the team’s best relievers down the stretch, throwing 16 scoreless outings in September.
Last year, players like Travis Shaw, Freddy Peralta, Corbin Burnes, and Ben Gamel all spent time in the minors trying to get their bat or arm going. Peralta in particular bounced back from his quick demotion to play an important part in the Brewer bullpen during the final month.
Things could actually work out well if the Brewers did indeed decide to option Narvaez. He still has all three of his minor league options remaining, and at this point in his career, it shouldn’t be likely that Milwaukee would ever have to burn all of them anyway.
Additionally, the Brewers would be in good hands in his absence. Getting Pina’s hot bat into the lineup while it lasts would be big for the team’s struggling offense, plus Jacob Nottingham or David Freitas should be able to step in and be at least somewhat serviceable as the new backup.
Getting to mash a bit at the alternate training site could be just what the doctor ordered for Narvaez’s ailing bat. Then, perhaps, Brewers fans could get a chance to see just why Milwaukee decided to take a chance on the young backstop.