Ladson says Murphy will take his physical today, maybe have a presser tomorrow. I generally wait for the Post to confirm to really believe it but seems plausible enough. At the same time Heyman is back to tell us the Nats are looking to trade for a catcher. Does that still fit with the Harper Conspiracy That's Not Really A Conspiracy Theory More Like Just Boring Account Balancing Theory? That depends on the target.
For the most part catchers do not make a lot of money in baseball. Even Jon LuCroy is looking at a mere 4 million dollar payday in 2016 (before cashing in in FA presumably). So say the Nats bring in a Derek Norris type (should make around 3 mill this year) and pawn off Storen along with the requisite prospects. That would fit the bill of dumping salary to bring in Murphy. Even if they go a little higher (say Devin Mesoraco territory of 5+ million) if you presume Ramos is part of the deal that's a few million leaving as well.
Really the only way this doesn't work is if somehow the Nats are bringing in Russel Martin or the trade for whoever didn't include Storen and/or Ramos. THAT would be something that should signal that the 2015 payroll was fine and is likely to be roughly repeated.
Why would the Nats go after a catcher? We talked earlier about how Ramos was a good enough defender, and just young enough and cheap enough, that you probably ride him out for 2016. But it is very unlike Rizzo / Lerners to not have a sense of the potential budget for an upcoming year. If the Nats do ride it out with Ramos, they are essentially saying they will delve into the FA market next year for a catcher. They will simply have to because there will be no starter available to them. Jose Lobaton has drifted away from being a potential one-year stop gap and the catchers in the minors are a few years off if that. That presents an unknown and the Nats don't like unknowns.
What is the last FA signing that you felt "Oh the Nats need to get an X"? Probably the first LaRoche signing right? They like to have a reasonable plan in place (say Espinosa at 2nd, Turner at SS; or before 2015 Roark as the 5th starter) and then build on that if necessary. Right now they have no reasonable plan for catcher in 2017 and no reason to think they will have one by the end of the year. They have a plan in place to replace Strasburg (Giolito) and I'm sure they think they can find someone to replace Papelbon/Storen (if either are still here - Kelley or Rivero are probably the two in their minds right now), but Ramos? Nothing. So the way the Nats are run they need to bring in someone they feel could start in 2017 for no reason other than a sense of cost certainty.
We're going to have a fun time soon seeing some signing break the dam that's holding back this glut of FA. Let's see how the Nats position themselves before then.