The Nats need a back-up catcher. Last year Jhonatan Solano put up a .214 / .245 / 279 line. Sandy Leon went for .177 / .291 / .252. Did I mention those were AAA and AA lines respectively? Things were worse in the major leagues. Given the state of back-up catchers though, neither of those two lines are immediate job killers if you can play great defense. But the Nats have an extenuating circumstance. Wilson Ramos gets injured alot. He caught 126 games in 2008 and hasn't gone over 113 since. If your starter isn't reliable, you can't have a back-up that can't hit at all.
But wait a second! Aren't Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan terrible at the plate? I thought you might ask that. Yes they were. Molina hit .233 / .290 / .304 last year and will be 39 this season. Hanigan hit .198 / .306 / .261 and will be 33 although to be fair to him it was an oddly bad season for someone who is usually just below average. What gives here? Why would the Rays not want Lobaton? The answer is the stat that is the current soccer ball being chased around the field by the 4 year olds of sabermetric research; pitch framing.
We've all known that catchers must have an impact on pitchers getting calls. That just makes sense. Someone finally took all that data sitting around and went ahead and figured out who is good at it. Of course it is still in its formative stages but both Molina and Hanigan rank high. Lobaton is pretty average and like I said not thought of to be a good fielding catcher in general. Does it matter? Well yes who doesn't want more strikes and fewer balls, but it's hard to say how much it matters. When it comes down to it and you have enough sample the best catchers are getting 3 calls and the worst are losing 3 a game. How meaningful are these calls is up in the air? An early strike lost against a pitcher - that's likely just an extra pitch. A called strike on 3-2 with 2-outs lost against the guy in front of Miguel Cabrera - that could be two runs. Anyway, while the stat world tries to figure this out, the Rays have deemed this important and thus that frees up Lobaton.
If you are wondering Leon might be very good, Snyder is good, Ramos is ok, Solano is average, Suzuki was bad, and Koyie Hill can't do this either why the hell are we wasting our time here with this guy. Was he a Diamondback? Yes, yes he was.
What will it take to get Lobaton? Something decent, if I were to guess. What are the Nats willing to give up? Nothing decent, if I were to guess. It's the standard trade stand-off.
It's a gamble for the Nats. I bet they could get him for say... Purke right now, coming off surgery and a mediocre year in upper A-ball. He has enough talent that you still like him to get to the majors in some fashion, but he's not even in the Nats Top 10 guys anymore. If not him than a Souza or Michael Taylor, guys Nats fans have convinced themselves might be stars, but objectively are fringy prospects with stuff left to prove. But have Ramos go down and the Nats come knocking because Chris Snyder is hitting .140 and the price goes up. If I were the Rays, you know you aren't getting a Giolito, but I'd hold out for
Of course that may not happen but you see my point. The Nats don't have to deal for Lobaton now, but if something happens to Ramos they almost certainly will have to deal for Lobaton or someone like him later. In that situation the price will have gone up. As I've said before I have no faith in Rizzo's in season dealings (we just haven't seen it happen yet) so I'd be all for a deal for Lobaton for any of those names I said were possible. It's time to bet on today.