Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo signed Kurt Suzuki to a 2-year/$10M deal on the 20th of November last winter, then acquired catcher Yan Gomes ten days later, giving the Nats a backstop duo they could count on after getting subpar production behind the plate in 2018.
“We had a lot of different options,” Rizzo explained. “We could have went for the big free agent everyday catcher, or get a trade for a younger, more [of an] everyday-type of player, and we felt that the best bang for our buck was to go after both of these guys, and we identified them early in the offseason and really focused in on these two guys specifically and went after them.”
Gomes, 32, was coming off a .266/.313/.449, 26 double, 16 home run, 2.4 fWAR campaign in Cleveland, in which he played 112 games and made 435 plate appearances.
“Gomes is a terrific player, he’s always been an elite defender, our analytics love the framing and the defense and that type of thing,” Rizzo said.
“Our scouts really liked the performance last year,” the GM added. “He’s handled some elite staffs, he’s handled Cy Young award winners, he’s played on the biggest stage that you can play on and played well.
“He’s a frontline, durable catcher at an age that we liked, with control that we always like.”
Gomes was in the final year of a 6-year/$23M deal that included club options for 2020 and 2021, at $9M and $11M, respectively, or a $1M buyout in each year.
Following a .223/.316/.389 season in which he hit 16 doubles and 12 home runs in 97 games and 358 PAs, finished at 5 Defensive Runs Saved (vs 4 DRS in 2018) with a .995 fld% (vs .991 fld%), made four errors (vs 9), and a 31% caught stealing percentage (vs 29%), the Nationals declined the catcher’s option for 2020, making the veteran a free agent.
So what do the Nationals do now? Do they bring back Gomes on a reworked deal? Do they find another catcher to partner with Suzuki?
Alex Avila, Welington Castillo, Jason Castro, Robinson Chirinos, Yasmani Grandal, Martin Maldonado, Russell Martin, Steven Vogt, and more are available in free agency, and they have options like Tres Barrera and Raudy Read on the 40-Man roster, though trusting an option like one of them with Suzuki’s age (sorry!) and elbow issues from late this season wouldn’t really jibe with what the Nationals tried to do last winter.
The top-ranked catcher in their system is 19-year-old backstop Israel Pineda, who is the only receiver in MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 30 prospects in the Nationals’ system.
Do Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office find another catcher capable of playing every day to team with Suzuki in the second year of his two-year deal?