Washington Nationals: a fetching catching situation for returning champs

The Washington Nationals return the core from the 2019 World Series catching corps, though a couple roster decisions need to be made at the position.

With less than two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals face a roster crunch at the catching position. With four catchers on the 40-man roster and a veteran signed to a minor league deal with an invite to camp, the Nationals must decide who to use big league roster spots on.

The Veterans: Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes. The duo was supposed to have a true split during the regular season, though Gomes only hit .223 with limited power, ceding way to Suzuki receiving more starts. Towards the end of the year, Suzuki was bitten by the injury bug and he gave way to Gomes until reclaiming his spot entering the postseason.

The Nationals must have been impressed with the two as they brought Gomes back on a two-year deal (after declining his team option) on a team-friendly contract. Suzuki is 35 and injury-prone, not to mention only catches 10% of attempted base stealers. Gomes is light hitting and struck out once every four at-bats last year.

The Youth: Raudy Read and Trea Barrera. The two have only a combined twenty-four major league plate appearances but are 25 and 24 years old respectively. Read was the top catching prospect of the past though it is now out of minor league options, meaning he’ll have to make the team out of spring training or will have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors. Barrera is the top catching prospect of the future, listed as the seventeenth best prospect in the Nationals system.

The Non-Roster Invitee: Wellington Castillo. A veteran of ten major league seasons and coming a season where he posted career lows (min. 200 PA) in average and OPS, Castillo is an interesting addition. He wouldn’t seem to fit the mold of being organizational depth at this point in his career.

The Outcome: With rosters expanding to 26 players this year the Washington Nationals will carry three catchers, allowing manager Davey Martinez more flexibility in pinch-hitting and pinch-running late in games. Suzuki and Gomes will again split time as part-time catchers.

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Castillo will have his contract purchased and be the late-inning defensive replacement as he boasts better defensive numbers than the aforementioned. Not wanting to risk losing Read through waivers, he’ll be traded the final week of spring training, ensuring the Nationals get something in return. Barrera will be sent to AAA for one more year of seasoning before surfacing in 2021 as the back-up catcher to Yan Gomes after Suzuki leaves via free agency.

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