Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton are under contract with the Washington Nationals for 2016, after the catchers and the Nats avoided arbitration this winter. Ramos signed a 1-year/$5.35M last week. Lobaton inked a 1-year/$1.3875 deal in early December.
Ramos is, however, set to hit free agency after this season, unless he and the Nationals agree on an extension before then, so it makes sense that the Nats would be thinking about the future behind the plate.
"The Rangers, Athletics and Nationals are among the teams that have engaged in trade discussions with the Brewers about catcher Jonathan Lucroy, only to back off when they perceived the price to be too high, according to major-league sources.
"Lucroy, who has a limited no-trade clause, remains a candidate to get moved. The Padres’ Derek Norris is another catcher who is available in trade."
Rosenthal isn't, of course, the first one to put the Nationals in the catcher market this winter. Jon Heyman tweeted earlier this month about the Nats' checking in on backstops:
Nats have looked at the trade market for catchers. They are involved on a number of fronts.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 6, 2016
Ramos played in a career high 128 games in his sixth major league season in 2015, and the 28-year-old catcher was nominated for a Gold Glove, though he didn't win and he struggled offensively, putting up a .229/.258/.358 line, 16 doubles and 15 home runs over 504 plate appearances in a 0.4 fWAR campaign.
Lobaton, 31, put up a .199/.279/.294 line with four doubles and three home runs in 44 games and 155 PAs as the Nationals' backup catcher last season.
The Nationals also have a number of backstop prospects in the system, with 22-year-old catcher Pedro Severino (who debuted in 2015) close to major-league ready defensively, though his bat is still reportedly a question mark.
Spencer Kieboom, 24, was added to the 40-Man roster this winter and other catchers like Jakson Reetz and Raudy Read are further down on the organizational depth chart.
Lucroy, 29, put up a .264/.326/.391 line with 20 doubles, three triples and seven home runs in 103 games and 415 PAs last season, missing time with a broken toe and a concussion.
He finished the year at 1.1 fWAR, down from 3.5, 3.4 and 6.1 fWAR, respectively, in the previous three seasons.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Tom Haudricourt wrote on Twitter that a trade this winter was unlikely with the Brewers' steep asking price:
#Brewers are asking for a lot for Lucroy as they should which has scared off suitors.— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 18, 2016
Using more likely/less likely scale that #Brewers would trade C Jonathan Lucroy before season, I would say less likely.— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 18, 2016
One of the big positives for teams interested in acquiring Lucroy? He's under team control for two seasons at a relatively cheap $9.25M ($4M in 2016 and $5.25M in 2017, or a $250K buyout).
Will the Nationals bolster their catching corps before the start of the 2016 campaign, or go with Ramos and Lobaton again this season?
UPDATE: Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt is reporting this afternoon that Lucroy told him he thinks a trade might be the best thing....