On Thursday morning, reports surfaced out of Tampa and Washington that the Washington Nationals and Tampa Bay Rays have come to an agreement on a trade that will send pitcher Nate Karns to Tampa in exchange for catcher Jose Lobaton and a pair of minor leaguers.
This trade works out evenly for both sides. Both principal players have bright futures with their new respective organizations. Karns could find his way into the major league rotation for the Rays in just a couple seasons, a much shorter wait than in Washington. For Lobaton, he will be battling for the backup catching spot in Washington and stands a good chance of winning the job.
According to the Washington Post, Mike Rizzo and the Nationals had been eyeing Lobaton since the Winter Meetings. Just this past week, rumors really heated up that talks between the two sides were getting serious. The Nationals will now have an even more intense Spring Training battle for the backup catcher job.
Wilson Ramos will be the starting catcher, but Lobaton will be battling with Sandy Leon, Jhonatan Solano, Chris Snyder and Koyie Hill for the backup job. I’ve said before that Leon and Solano are the front-runners, but Lobaton certainly seems to be a better option, at least on paper.
Lobaton has played three seasons at catcher for the Rays and appeared in a career-high 100 games in 2013. He bat a slash line of .249/.320/.394 with seven home runs and 32 RBIs. Defensively, he finished with a .996 fielding percentage and allowed just two passed balls.
With his experience, Lobaton immediately goes to the no. 2 spot on the Nationals’ depth chart. Combined for their careers, Leon and Solano haven’t played in as many games as Lobaton did just last season. It also helps that the newly-acquired Venezuelan received a nice recommendation from Ramos.
Financially and contractually, the Nationals get a good deal. Lobaton will only be owed $900K this year, and Washington will have three years of arbitration control of him. He’s a youthful talent that is financially team-friendly, and that is exactly what Rizzo smartly looks for.
Once again, Rizzo has struck gold for the Nationals. While he gave up another promising arm in Karns, he received a surefire backup catcher in Lobaton. Lobaton can fill in well for Ramos in a backup role and also brings a solid contact bat to the bench. He’s cheap, young and fill several roles for the Nationals.