With Spring Training just around the corner, who will the Nationals catcher be when the season begins?
As we get closer to Spring Training, there are still some questions regarding how the Nationals roster will round out by the time pitchers and catchers report to West Palm Beach. With the acquisitions of Kyle Schwarber, Josh Bell, and now Jon Lester, Mike Rizzo has been able to fill the most obvious needs, and now stands in a great position. There are still a lot of free agents on the board whose prices may be coming down due to the uncertainty of whether Spring Training, or regular season for that matter, starts on time.
With the rotation in tack, and the outfield settled, there are a couple of places where I see Mike Rizzo may be able to work his magic at, with one position being adding a second catcher. With Yan Gomes currently entrenched as the starting catcher heading into 2021, there are some questions regarding who will split time with Gomes. Current in-house options like Wellington Castillo and Tres Barrera are seen more as depth options, with the latter needing more minor-league seasoning.
First off, there are two names which stand out as potential fits to the current Nationals roster.
Willson Contreras of the Chicago Cubs is my first option, and has two years of control. With all the moves Chicago has made this offseason, maximizing Contreras’ value would be wise before he is simply just a one-year rental. A package of left-hander Tim Cate, righty Joan Adon, and outfielder Roismar Quintana seems like a fair package and would help Chicago rebuild their farm system. Contreras would slot in nicely in the middle of the Nationals’ lineup and fit in with the plethora of former Cubs sprinkled through the Nationals roster, from Jon Lester, Starlin Castro, and Kyle Schwarber to Davey Martinez and Jim Hickey. Contreras and Yan Gomes would make an excellent pair and the Nats catching corps would rival that of any club in the league.
The second option would profile more as a prototypical back-up catcher and is one Nationals fans saw a lot of in October 2019. Former Houston Astros backstop Robinson Chirinos is coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season which he split time with the Texas Rangers and New York Mets. He is known to be great in the clubhouse, which shouldn’t be taken for granted, and just two years ago hit 17 homers with an OBP of .347 fora Houston team who went to the World Series. A one year deal at around $1 to $3 million would likely be enough to bring Chirinos to DC, allowing the club to use more funds on signing another infielder or upgrading the bullpen.
We shall see what the front office has up their sleeve, though both Contreras and Chirinos stand to be among the best options remaining in the dwindling trade and free agent market, as we get closer to Spring Training.