Other than figuring out contract extensions with Ian Desmond (yes!) and Jordan Zimmermann (maybe not…), the Washington Nationals still have an area or two that need examining. The position behind home plate is one of those areas.
Currently, the Nationals have Wilson Ramos as the team’s starting catcher with Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano as his backups. Recently, the Nationals signed veteran Chris Snyder to a minor league deal, but he has a $1 million incentive attached to it if he makes the big-league roster following spring training.
While Wilson Ramos is far and away the No. 1 man, there comes a bit of caution with him. Just once in his four years of experience has he played more than 100 games in a season. In 2012 and 2013, he combined to play in 103 games and was on and off the DL in 2013 with a hamstring injury.
Statistically, he’s been a great addition to the lineup. In 2013, he batted .272 with a .470 slugging percentage and knocked in 59 RBI and clobbered 16 home runs in just 78 games. For a guy that usually lives at the back end of your lineup, that’s some serious power to have hidden away. With him active and playing, it makes your lineup capable of scoring the whole way through, rather than just the top of the order.
His injury history remains, however, and that is concerning. Once you get past Ramos, there is a serious drop off in the talent at the No. 2 position on the diamond. Sandy Leon has the best slash line at .258/.378/.232, but he has the least amount of experience with just 14 total games. Chris Snyder has the most experience, but has played in just 119 games at the major league level since 2011. Jhonatan Solano, well, he’s stuck in between, but lacks experience similar to Leon.
Washington could look to the free agent market and there sits John Buck. He’s got 10 years of experience and has done well in all 10 years. It isn’t all that bad of an idea for Mike Rizzo to extend a team-friendly offer to Buck. With the exception of Brian McCann’s deal with the New York Yankees, teams have been able to sign catchers to one-year deals worth around $1-3 million. If the price is right, Washington may want to pull the trigger.
If it weren’t for Wilson Ramos having the injury history that he does, this wouldn’t be an issue. Ramos is a solid player behind the plate and can do some damage when he’s at the plate, as well. However, since there isn’t much depth for the Nationals at the minor league level behind Ramos, they should take a hard look at the position and make an upgrade this winter.