Before the Washington Nationals had agreed on a one-year, $5-million dollar deal with veteran catcher Paul Lo Duca, Washington had briefly expressed interest in the services of former Braves' and Brewers' backstop Johnny Estrada, so when Lo Duca underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus this week, the Nationals' attentions returned to the switch-hitting Estrada, 31, who was signed to a one-year, $1.25 million dollar deal to play in the nation's capital.
Estrada was considered one of the Nationals' top targets early this winter, as discussed in MLB.com's writer Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: Nats still in hunt for a catcher", from 12/5/07, where Mr. Ladson reported that the search to replace the departed Brian Schneider behind the plate in DC, had come down to Lo Duca and Estrada, about whom Mr. Ladson wrote:
"If Estrada became a member of the Nationals, he would
not be a stranger to some people in the organization. He
has worked for team president Stan Kasten and bench
coach Pat Corrales when all three were with the Braves."
Johnny Estrada was traded to Atlanta by Philadelphia straight-up for pitcher Kevin Millwood in 2003, six years after the Phillies drafted Estrada with the 506th overall pick in the 17th Round of the 1997 MLB Amateur Draft. Estrada played in just 99 games in the Majors for the Phillies, but he played in 255 games over three seasons with the Braves, hitting .314 with 36 doubles, 9 HR's and 76 RBI's over 134 games in 2004.
The Braves traded Estrada to Arizona in December of 2005 for pitchers Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal, and Estrada caught 115 games for the D-Backs that season, with a .302 AVG, 26 doubles, 11 HR's and 71 RBI's, but less than a year after the third trade of Estrada's career, the catcher found himself shipped again, this time to Milwaukee, where Estrada proceeded to hit .278 in 120 games with 25 doubles, 10 HR's and 54 RBI's for the Brewers.
With Lo Duca down until late March, you'd think that the Nationals added Estrada for insurance, but Bill Ladson quotes an unnamed source in his article at washington.nationals.mlb.com entitled, "Nationals to sign catcher Estrada", who states:
"...signing Estrada is not a reaction to Paul Lo Duca being
slated to miss up to six weeks after left knee
surgery. Instead, the source said, the move was made
because the Nationals are heavy on right-handed bats."
...But now they've got a seven-year veteran making $1.2 million dollars on the roster, who is used to playing 100+ games a season, so what does that mean the Nationals will do with Jesus Flores this season?
According to Mr. Ladson's washington.nationals.mlb.com article entitled, "Nationas to sign catcher Estrada":
"With Estrada on board, it will most likely mean that
backup catcher Jesus Flores will start the season in the
Minor Leagues. Both Bowden and manager Manny Acta
have said in the past that they do not want Flores to spend
another year on the bench."
Lo Duca and Estrada are definitely an offensive improvement over the Schneider and Flores team from last season, but I for one was looking forward to watching Jesus Flores develop in DC, and now it might be 2009 before Nationals' fans get to ask, when the team is in a tight spot, "What would Jesus do?" to help Washington win?
*Johnny Estrada Links*
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Notes: Nats still hunting for catcher", at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
mlb.com's Bill Ladson's article, "Nationals to sign catcher Estrada", at washington.nationals.mlb.com:
Johnny Estrada's career stats at baseball-reference.com: