The Washington Nationals have a good problem on their hands going into 2013. It is what catchers do they want to keep?
The Nationals have to decide who they want to keep among Wilson Ramos, Kurt Suzuki and Jesus Flores. All of them are young and have plenty of upside. Each has helped Washington win games. Flores came up with the Nationals in 2007. Ramos came in a 2010 trade with the Minnesota Twins. Suzuki was acquired in an August trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Washington had all intentions of going with Ramos and Flores in 2012. They became the Nationals regular catchers in 2011. Both learned under veteran Ivan Rodriguez before cracking the lineup. Ramos began 2012 as the starter. A knee injury in May ended his season. Flores took over and did well, but began to wear down in mid season. This prompted the trade for Suzuki.
Suzuki caught 43 regular season games for the Nationals. He was solid behind the plate and at bat. Suzuki was a master at blocking balls in the dirt. The Washington pitching staff trusted that he would stop any breaking ball that they threw. At the plate, Suzuki batted .267 with five home runs and 25 runs batted in.
In the post season, Suzuki started every game. If the Nationals had held on to a 7-5 lead in game five of the NL Divisional Series, he would have been a hero. His run scoring single in the eighth seemed to have given Washington the breathing room they needed.
With three major league level catchers the Nationals have to make a decision. Most teams do not carry more than two on their 25 man roster. Washington has to decide whether they want to keep Suzuki and trade Ramos. The other option is to let Suzuki go and bring back Ramos. In either of these situations Flores would be the backup. The team could also decide to let Flores go and keep Suzuki and Ramos.
The problem with keeping Suzuki is that Washington has groomed Ramos to be their catcher. He was tutored by Rodriguez and has the potential to be an all-star. If his knee is sound, Ramos is likely to move back into his starting role.
Another factor that may work in Ramos’ favor is his relationship with general manager Mike Rizzo. It grew even stronger when Ramos was kidnapped last winter in his native Venezuela and held for ransom. Rizzo flew down and stayed with the family until Ramos was rescued.
Suzuki has the benefit of being trusted by manager Davey Johnson and Rizzo. They have wanted to sign him for quite some time and jumped at the trade with Oakland. Suzuki validated the move by performing just as they thought he would. He played so well that Washington now has options that it did not have before.
Rizzo and Johnson will have a lot to think about this winter. They have two very good starting catchers to choose from. One, Ramos, has a ton of potential. The other, Suzuki, has already proven his worth. Add Flores to the mix and the Nationals have a logjam that many MLB teams would envy. One would think no matter whom they choose Washington will be strong behind the plate for a while.
The Nationals catching decision will be an interesting one to watch during the winter of 2013.