On Monday, ESPN writer and MLB Network Radio host Jim Bowden wrote that he'd heard the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays were in discussions about a possible deal for 29-year-old Rays' backstop Jose Lobaton:
"The Nationals have been in discussions with the Rays for catcher Jose Lobaton, as they look for a backup for Wilson Ramos."
Lobaton, 29, a four-year major league veteran and a switch-hitting catcher, posted a .249/.320/.394 line with 15 doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 100 games and 311 plate appearances for the Rays in 2013, over which he was worth +1.4 fWAR. When Tampa Bay signed catcher Jose Molina to a two-year deal this winter then acquired Reds' catcher Ryan Hanigan and signed him to an extension, it opened up the possibility of trading Lobaton, who avoided arbitration with the Rays and signed a 1-year/$950K deal for 2014 last month.
"[The Rays] are still having talks about trading C Jose Lobaton," Tampa Bay Times' writer Marc Topkin wrote last week, "but bringing him to camp, though somewhat awkward, isn't the worst idea." Should anything happen to Molina or Hanigan, Mr. Topkin reasoned, Lobaton would provide insurance.
The Nationals are looking for insurance as well, with no.1 catcher Wilson Ramos suffering injuries (to his knee in 2012 and hamstrings in 2013) and missing significant time in each of the past two seasons. While Nats' GM Mike Rizzo has said he's comfortable with the Nationals' in-house options which currently include Chris Snyder, Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano, Koyie Hill and Brian Jeroloman, he said he remained open to the possibility of acquiring a catcher if the right deal was there.
This afternoon, Tampa Bay Times' Marc Topkin put the Nats on a list of teams that have interest in Lobaton or a need for a catcher:
In a follow-up report on what he wrote on Twitter, Mr. Topkin wrote that, "...trade interest in Rays C Jose Lobaton is picking up," and, "[t]alks apparently have been intensifying in recent days." He also reiterated that the Rays, "...could bring Lobaton to spring training as protection in case Hanigan or Molina get hurt, or another team has an injury and an increased need."
According to sources nationals.com writer Bill Ladson spoke to tonight, ".... the Nationals are interested in Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton, and the two clubs have been talking for a least a month.":
"However, the teams can't agree on the players the Rays would receive in the deal, although it's known the Rays would like to replenish their farm system."
Ladson too writes that Lobaton might not be dealt until Spring Training is under way, but the Nationals are reportedly interested if/when the Rays make a decision...
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