Washington Nationals: Alex Avila great catching target

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The Washington Nationals need a catcher. Free agent Alex Avila provides a solution while allowing the farm another year to develop.

The answer to the Washington Nationals catcher problem is available on the free agent market today. Alex Avila, who spent the second half of 2017 with Dave Martinez and the Chicago Cubs, can be Washington’s if the price is right.

Avila, who played eight years with the Detroit Tigers, is a durable defensive catcher. Although his days of catching every day are behind, he provides a 60-80 game option which would take the load off Matt Wieters. Fatigue played a huge factor in Wieters’ offensive plunge.

With Pedro Severino and Raudy Read not major-league ready, the Nats have a huge hole behind the plate. Jose Lobaton is a fist-time free agent and a poor option.

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Wieters returns after exercising his $11.5 million option for 2018. Despite a lack of offense, his ability to handle pitchers will earn him the bulk of starts. However, early on, he flew out of the gate hitting .301 in April. By September, his average dwindled to .135.

Avila is not Mike Piazza at the plate. But, between the Tigers and Cubs, he held a slash line of .264/.387/.447. His .834 OPS translates to an OPS+ of 119 or 19 percent above average. His career mark is 105. An average bat is never bad.

Although not a powerful bat, Avila flirts with double-digit home runs every year and will pop around 13-18 doubles. At the bottom of the lineup that is decent production.

His arm is solid, throwing out 29 percent of baserunners compared to the 27 percent average. Baseball Reference lists his d-WAR as a positive every year but his first in 2010. It helps, from his time with the Tigers, that he knows Max Scherzer and his pitches.

With a $2 million price tag last year, Avila is a lower cost option for a team needing a quality catcher. He bats left while Wieters is a switch-hitter, if platoon comes to mind. Even at $3 million, he remains a bargain.

Because Severino failed to impress this fall, and Read’s defense is questionable, the Nats must look outside the organization for help. Lobaton’s return is a non-starter. Severino must show next spring he can hit major-league pitching.

If Read is a year away from playing full time in the majors, Avila makes a wonderful bridge. He has played a handful of games at first the last two seasons, adding to his versatility.

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Plus, he survived his dad trading him in 2015. When you add it all up, Avila makes a solid potential addition to the Nats.

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