Nationals catchers Matt Wieters and Jose Lobaton combined for some highly visible lapses in the team’s cringe-inducing Game 5 NLDS loss. That helped to illuminate a problem that was largely masked as the team coasted to the NL East title after addressing the easier-to-spot problem of late-inning bullpen woes. Make no mistake about it, though: the Nats suffered throughout the season from the poor work of Wieters and Lobaton. By measure of wins above replacement, the pair cost their team something in the range of one to one-and-a-half victories over the course of the season. It doesn’t take much argument to establish that the Nats’ tandem — along with little-used youngsters Pedro Severino and Raudy Read — made up the worst catching unit in all of baseball in 2017. It’s plenty arguable that the catching position represents the organization’s biggest need this winter. Adam Eaton will be back in the outfield mix, covering for the loss of Jayson Werth in left while Michael Taylor, Brian Goodwin, and perhaps eventually Victor Robles handle things up the middle. The four infielders are established beyond any doubt. While some pitching additions will surely be considered, it’s also plausible to imagine the club mostly holding pat; remember, mid-season additions Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson are still under contract. On the face of things, a general path to a solution behind the plate isn’t too hard to decipher. There’s even a clear opening since Lobaton is going to reach the open market and will surely be allowed to depart after a dreadful year at the plate. But it may not be quite so simple as getting a new and better catcher. Let’s take a closer look at the remaining options, assuming Lobaton rides off into the sunset. Wieters was signed to be a heavily-used regular after late-in-the-offseason negotiations culminated between the team and agent Scott Boras — the influential agent who seems especially to have the ear of Nats’ ownership. Wieters ultimately bumped Derek Norris out of the picture after receiving a $21MM guarantee over two years. He gained the right to an opt-out opportunity after the first season, suggesting that the sides contemplated the possibility of a quality campaign that might set the stage for greater earnings.
How Can The Nationals Improve Behind The Plate?
MLB Trade Rumors | Oct 19