General manager Mike Rizzo seemed to have addressed this issue early on in the offseason, signing veteran backstop Chris Snyder to a minor league deal with the expectation that he would compete with Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano for the job. Rizzo also signed Koyie Hill earlier this week to make the competition even tougher. Despite these signings, it looks like Mike Rizzo is not done yet.
MLB.com’s Bill Ladson is reporting that the Nationals are talking with the Tampa Bay Rays about a potential deal that could bring catcher Jose Lobaton to Washington.
According to Ladson, the sides have been discussing a deal for a month but they have been unable to agree on what players the Rays would receive in the deal.
Lobaton has drawn interest from several teams since he became available after the Rays signed free agent Jose Molina and traded for Ryan Hanigan. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the D-backs, Indians, Rockies, White Sox and Mets are also in the mix for Lobaton’s services.
Lobaton hit .249 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs in 100 games with the Rays in 2013. The 29-year-old catcher has a .228 batting average in parts of four major league seasons with the Rays and the Padres.
Rizzo has been looking for a backup catcher all offseason, and even though he is confident with the guys he already has, he has not closed the door on trading for a backup catcher.
“We’re looking for value wherever we can find it,” Rizzo told Federal Baseball reporters at NatsFest. “If a backup catcher that fits what we’re trying to do were to become available, we certainly would look into it. We like the pack of guys that are going to compete for it, [Jhonatan] Solano, [Sandy] Leon and Chris Snyder. We feel that they are very, very capable backups and with so many teams in the big leagues looking for a good catcher, we feel that we’ve got a great catcher in Wilson Ramos and capable backups to go behind him.”
If the Nationals land Lobaton, he would likely be the front-runner for the backup catcher job during Spring Training. Lobaton has more recent big league experience than the teams’ other options and he has the offensive ability to replace Ramos if he were to be out for an extended amount of time.
Mike Rizzo has had a very busy and successful offseason so far and pitchers and catchers report in just one week. But as we saw earlier this week, the offseason is still in full swing for the Nationals. With Rizzo at the helm, the offseason isn’t over till it’s over.