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Washington Nationals Rumors: Will Nationals upgrade catching corps before Spring Training?

Will the Washington Nationals make one more move before the start of Spring Training? Will they attempt to upgrade their catching corps this winter, or going into Spring Training with Wilson Ramos and Jose Lobaton sharing the duties behind the plate?

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Mike Rizzo was asked earlier this winter about potentially upgrading the Washington Nationals' catching corps after an uneven season from 28-year-old catcher Wilson Ramos which saw the oft-injured backstop struggle offensively while playing defense worthy of a Gold Glove nomination.

"He’s a good catcher," Rizzo told Washington Post writer James Wagner in November:

"He was No. 1 in throwing runners out. He was up for a Gold Glove. He was one of the top in [the] National League in home runs and RBI. He had a down year in getting on base, not like he should, and hitting for average. But as far as a guy, as catchers go, really had some impact in the lineup with power, RBI and catch-throw skills were fine. We like Ramos. He’s a guy that it would be difficult to find a better replacement for."

Ramos, who avoided arbitration by agreeing on a 1-year/$5.35M deal earlier this month, has one year of team control remaining with the Nationals. He played in a career-best 128 games and made a career-high 504 plate appearances in 2015, putting up a .229/.258/.358 line with 16 doubles and 15 HRs in a 0.4 fWAR campaign.

Jose Lobaton, 31, signed a 1-year/$1,387,500 deal in early December. He has two years of team control left, coming off a .199/.279/.294, -0.3 fWAR season as the Nats' backup catcher.

Rumors persist, however, that the Nationals are interested in an upgrade behind the plate, with's Ken Rosenthal, among others writing earlier this month that the Nats talked to the Milwaukee Brewers about the availability of Jonathan Lucroy:

"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 PadresDerek Norris is another catcher who is available in trade."

Jon Heyman too tweeted earlier about the Nationals checking in on backstops:

Lucroy told Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt earlier this month that he thought a trade might be the best thing for everyone involved as he's watched the Brewers go into full rebuilding mode:

"I want to win and I don't see us winning in the foreseeable future. I want to go to a World Series. That's what all players want. Rebuilding is not a lot of fun for any veteran guy."

"[Lucroy] remains a Brewer," Haudricourt wrote then, "because no team has wowed [Brewers' GM David] Stearns with a trade offer he couldn't refuse. You don't find catchers with Lucroy's skill set that easily, and unless the club acquires a young prospect via trade there is no obvious successor in Milwaukee's system."

Did last night's trade of shortstop Jean Segura make it even more likely that the Brewers will deal Lucroy this winter?

If they do, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo wrote this morning that the Nationals (and Houston Astros) have interest.

"A few baseball folks feel something’s brewing with Lucroy," Cafardo wrote this morning, "as teams such as Houston and Washington may be interested in adding a top catcher. Lucroy does have a limited no-trade clause, but as we’ve learned, no-trade provisions are negotiable."

Lucroy missed time with a fractured toe early in 2015 and suffered a concussion late in the season. Overall, he put up a .264/.326/.391 line with 20 doubles and seven home runs in 103 games and 415 plate appearances, over which he was worth 1.1 fWAR, down from 6.1 fWAR in a .301/.373/.465, 53 double, 13 home run season in 153 games and 655 PAs in 2014.

Will the Nationals upgrade their catching corps this winter with Ramos headed for free agency after the 2016 campaign if he doesn't sign an extension that will keep him in Washington?

Do the Nationals have a catcher of the future in the system who could step in in 2017 should Ramos leave via free agency next winter?

Pedro Severino, who debut in the majors last September? Spencer Kieboom, who was added to the 40-Man roster this winter? Jakson Reetz or Raudy Reed... both of whom are far away from the majors at this point?

Do Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals' front office have one big move left this winter?

Is Lucroy worth the prospect haul the Brewers are likely looking for in any deal for the veteran backstop?