Washington Nationals: Predicting the 2018 bench

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22: Wilmer Difo
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22: Wilmer Difo /
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Alex Avila

Now that longtime Nats back-up catcher Jose Lobaton has departed in free agency, the Nats should at least attempt to acquire a new back-up catcher this off-season. Pedro Severino could be ready to become the back-up, but he appeared to be in need of a little more seasoning during his time with the Nats in 2017.

If the Nats elect to acquire a new back-up catcher via free agency, their options include Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Avila, and Nick Hundley. Of these three, Avila is the best fit.

Avila, a 30-year-old catcher, spent 2017 between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs, and had a fairly productive season. In 112 games, he owned a .264/.387/.447 slash line to go with 14 homers and 49 RBI’s.

Although Avila served as a back-up with the Cubs in 2017, he is also capable of starting. If he signs with the Nats, he would likely platoon with Matt Wieters.

Wieters is coming off of the worst season of his career, and Mike Rizzo has said that the Nats will try to decrease his playing time a bit in 2018, in an effort to increase his production. This likely means the Nats will go with a platoon, and Avila complements Wieters perfectly as a platoon partner.

Although Wieters is a switch-hitter, he typically fares better against left-handed pitchers. Meanwhile, Avila is a left-handed hitter who fares better against right-handed pitchers. This works out perfectly, as Wieters could start against lefties, and Avila could start against righties.

Avila will also likely come cheap, considering he made just $2 million in 2017. Since Wieters is set to make $10.5 million in 2018, a cheap catcher would be a welcome addition.

Finally, Avila said earlier this off-season that he does not mind being a back-up or platoon player. His main focus is to join a winning team, which would make the Nats an ideal destination.

The Nats have not been specifically linked to Avila yet this off-season, but don’t be surprised if he’s donning the Curly W in 2018.