Washington Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez discussed the strengths of the Nats’ two in-house candidates to back Matt Wieters up behind the plate this season over the weekend, while rumors about the Nationals’ attempts to land another catcher continued to swirl.
FanRag’s Jon Heyman, in his weekly “Inside Baseball Notes” column this weekend, reported that the Nats, “wouldn’t part with either of their top two outfield prospects, Victor Robles or Juan Soto,” in talks about Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Miami, “wanted significant other players paired with,” the players the Nationals were willing to include in a package, like 2016 first-round pick Carter Kieboom, or Michael A. Taylor.
Robles, 20, is ranked high on all the lists of the top prospects for 2018, and a scout he talked to, Heyman noted, said Soto, 19, is one of “the best hitting prospect I’ve seen in twenty years,” so the Nationals’ reluctance to part ways with either isn’t too surprising, considering the catching options they have.
They do, however, continue to consider potential additions according to multiple reports.
Heyman also mentions that Wieters, who exercised a $10.5M option for 2018 after a tough year offensively and defensively in 2017, “looks much better this spring,” after he suffered a laceration on his arm in a household accident that set back his preparation last winter.
New Nats’ hitting coach Kevin Long told Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell that Wieters is working hard at the plate, and said they were, “... well on our way to [getting] him where he needs to be.”
“Made a lot of improvement . . . some adjustments,” Long said. “He feels pretty sexy about what he’s doing.”
The plan, according to both GM Mike Rizzo and the Nationals’ new skipper, however, is to limit Wieters’ starts (to around 90 games according to what Rizzo said this winter), so the backup in D.C. this season is going to essentially be sharing the catching duties, that is, if the Nationals don’t acquire or sign a new No. 1 catcher.
Do the Nationals believe Pedro Severino, (who started the Spring as the frontrunner for the Nats’ backup role), or Miguel Montero, (who signed a Minor League deal and is currently in camp competing for a spot on the Nationals’ roster), will be enough, or will they continue to search for another catcher?
“Sevy’s right there,” Martinez told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman over the weekend.
“And who knows, he probably could catch every day. But we still have Matt Wieters, who has to play. I haven’t made a decision on who’s going to be on our team right now, but [Severino] is definitely in the mix.”
Montero, who has history with Rizzo (from Arizona) and Martinez (in Chicago), has been, “... working his tail off,” this Spring, the manager said.
“When you see this guy call a game and catch, he’s really, really good. We’re happy we got him. He’s getting in great shape, and he really wants to make this team and help us win.”
Meanwhile, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported on Sunday night that with only Wieters and Severino on the 40-Man Roster, “one source said Saturday that [that the Nationals] still would like to add another Major Leaguer at the position.”
“While their efforts to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins have been unsuccessful -- so far -- free agent Jonathan Lucroy surprisingly remains an option,” Morosi added, and the Nats are reportedly showing interest in the 31-year-old free agent who hit 21 doubles and six home runs while posting a .265/.345/.371 line in 123 games and 481 plate appearances with the Texas Rangers and Colorado Rockies last season.
With just weeks to go before Opening Day, will the Nationals stick with either Severino or Montero sharing duties with Wieters, will they work something out with the Fish, and get someone who can take the bulk of the starts, or will they add a catcher like Lucroy to the mix?