Washington Nationals: Catching options dwindling
By Drew Douglas
Now that Alex Avila has reportedly signed with the Diamondbacks, the Washington Nationals are quickly running out of catching candidates.
The Washington Nationals‘ catching tandem of Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton ranked among the worst in the league in 2017, which has led to them being in the market for a catcher this off-season. Wieters remains with the team, and is owed $10.5 million in 2018, so he will be difficult to trade, but they are interested in at least acquiring a new back-up.
As things currently stand, Pedro Severino and Raudy Read are gearing up for a Spring Training competition to determine who will serve as Wieters’ back-up. However, considering neither Severino nor Read have impressed in the majors, this is a less than ideal scenario.
Unfortunately for the Nats, their catching options are now dwindling. One of their top targets, Alex Avila, reportedly signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
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Avila headlined the free agent catchers, but Jonathan Lucroy and Ryan Hanigan both remain on the market. Since the remaining unsigned catchers are lackluster at best, the Nats will probably end up exploring the trade market.
Of the Nats’ potential trade targets, J.T. Realmuto is undoubtedly the best fit. Their pursuit of the Marlins’ backstop has intensified in the past week or so, as the fish traded yet another high-profile player in Christian Yelich.
Realmuto is the final attractive asset remaining in Miami, and he has made it clear he no longer wants to be there. If the Marlins grant his request, the Nats should be all over him. Miami is reportedly seeking Victor Robles or Juan Soto in a potential trade, and the Nats are reluctant to part with either prospect, but a deal should be able to be negotiated.
If the Nats are unable to work out a deal for Realmuto, they could look to reunite with Wilson Ramos. “The Buffalo” is entering the final year of his contract with the Rays, and they are not expected to contend in 2018, so they could look to move him.
Ramos has undergone several knee surgeries throughout his career, so he would likely have to rest more than most catchers, but that could work well with the Nats’ current roster. They reportedly plan to decrease Wieters’ workload in an effort to increase his production in 2018. Because of this, Ramos and Wieters could combine to be excellent platoon partners.
A final trade candidate is the Braves’ catcher, Tyler Flowers. Like Ramos, Flowers is entering the final year of his contract on a non-contending team. He is not the flashy name that fans would prefer, but he would be a solid acquisition.
Although the Nats are looking for a catcher, they could stay put for now. Severino and Read are not quite MLB-ready yet, and would not be an ideal solution, but they would be fine for the first half.
The Nats are all but guaranteed to win the division, so they can get away with a few holes in the first half. However, if they elect to enter the season with Severino or Read as the backup, they should be prepared to trade for a more qualified catcher at the trade deadline.
Next: Previewing a Realmuto trade
Realmuto is the Nats’ best option to upgrade behind the dish, but it may take too much to pry him from Miami. Unfortunately for the Nats, they are quickly running out of other options.