Rizzo: Nats will 'target a frontline catcher' this offseason

Josh Luckenbaugh
September 29, 2018 - 2:25 pm

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

With just two games left and no hopes of postseason play, the Nationals' focus will now largely shift from 2018 onto 2019 and beyond. One offseason priority for Mike Rizzo is upgrading at catcher.

"A frontline catcher is a guy we should target and go after," Rizzo said during his weekly appearance on The Sports Junkies – sponsored by Burke & Herbert Bank. "It's a huge position defensively, first of all. It's a guy who controls the game, and I think you saw when (Matt) Wieters went down, the way the pitchers threw to the catchers was as important as any type of offense you're getting from the catcher position."

"To me, the best catchers in the game handle the pitching staff. They're pseudo-pitching coaches on the field, they're guys that call a game, prepare for the game, and then offense is the cherry on top of the sundae. It's a position of need, it's a position that we're gonna have to target and go after next year."

The Nats have gotten very little production out of the cathcer's spot this season, Washington catchers batting just .215 with a lackluster .627 OPS.

With soon-to-be free agent Matt Wieters unlikely to return, and Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino unable to make the starting spot their own when Wieters went down with a hamstring injury, the Nats will likely have a new face behind the plate next season. The question is, who?

The answer most Nats fans will want is J.T. Realmuto of the Miami Marlins. Washington reportedly offered a package which included top outfield prospect Victor Robles for Realmuto earlier this season, a deal the Marlins rejected

But if the Nats resigned Bryce Harper and suddenly had a surplus of outfielders, would the Nats pitch a similar offer including Robles to Miami again in the hopes they'd reconsider? It's all speculation at this point, but it's certainly possible. 

Other options include former National and current Phillie Wilson Ramos and Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, both set to become free agents after the season. Ramos and Grandal can each swing the bat, both maintaining an OPS over .800 this season. 

Additionally, the Nats have a talented catching prospect in Raudy Read, who missed 80 games this season due to a PED suspension. But Rizzo says fans shouldn't expect to see him on the roster anytime soon.

"He's a guy for us in the future, but we don't think the future as an everyday guy is next year," Rizzo said of Read. "So we think we're gonna have to target a frontline catcher, and see if we can go get one."

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