Veteran Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell responded to a question about his own comfort level with the Washington Nationals' backup catching options behind Wilson Ramos in a 12/16/13 chat by railing against the Nats' stated opinion that they were happy with the in-house options they had like Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano.
"I am absolutely NOT comfortable with the Nats' catching situation," the WaPost reporter wrote.
"They never mention it as a need," Boswell continued, before citing the injury issues Ramos has dealt with already in his four major league seasons, and noting that a legitimate backup who could fill in if necessary, "...is a NEED. Not a luxury."
"If you are a contender, you don't go into a major-opportunity season with a really good but MUCH-INJURED catcher and a bunch of rookies behind him," he concluded.
Upon learning of the Nationals' acquisition of switch-hitting, 29-year-old backstop Jose Lobaton this afternoon in a 3-for-1 deal with Tampa Bay that brought 22-year-old prospects Felipe Rivero (LHP) and Drew Vettleson (OF) to D.C. as well in exchange for 26-year-old RHP Nathan Karns, Boswell wrote on Twitter that the move filled the last real need the Nationals had this winter:
Nats add last "Must Have" winter upgrade: backup C Jose Lobaton, switch-hitter w .714 OPS, 1.4 WAR in 100 Rays g in '13 for prospect Karns.— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) February 13, 2014
The Rays' GM's thoughts on the deal? Tampa Bay Times' writer Marc Topkin wrote on Twitter that Andrew Friedman has a high opinion of Karns:
#Rays Friedman says they thought very highly of Karns: "We feel like he's got a chance to be a really good major-league starting pitcher.''— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) February 13, 2014
ESPN writer Dan Szymborski shared his ZiPS projections for Lobaton in Washington in 2014:
Jose Lobaton ZiPS in Washington: 249/322/391, OPS+ 95, 1.3 WAR (just 288 projected PA)— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) February 14, 2014
Szymborski's colleague at ESPN, Keith Law, originally said he preferred the Rays' take in the deal when it was thought to be Lobaton for Karns, straight up, but added later in his chat with readers on Thursday that he liked it much more for the Nationals once the full deal was announced:
"Converted a good starter prospect they didn't need into a useful catcher and two decent lower-level prospects."
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters, including NatsInsider.com's Mark Zuckerman, that part of the appeal in Lobaton was his defensive game. "'He blocks balls well. He frames pitches well. He hits from both sides of the plate,'" Rizzo's quoted explaining, and the pitch framing in particular, is something the General Manager pointed to as being important:
"'It’s a measurable metric,' the GM said. 'Our statistical analysis people rank all the catchers in baseball, and he ranks very well in the framing.'"
Washington Times' writer Brian McNally too wrote about the role advanced metrics played in leading the Nationals to Lobaton:
Over at DRaysBay.com, the SB Nation's Tampa Rays site, they said goodbye to Lobaton:
Lobaton celebrated the trade by doing a little shopping:
So Good pic.twitter.com/bsyaxVSJU0— Jose Lobaton (@JLobaton21) February 14, 2014
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