WASHINGTON -- Only 12 catchers in all of baseball with at least 300 plate appearances last season hit well enough to be league-average hitters (a wRC+ of 100 or better). The Nationals now have two of those players on their roster.
Washington acquired catcher Yan Gomes from the Indians on Friday night, completing their second move of the offseason to improve behind the plate. In exchange for Gomes, the Nats sent outfielder Daniel Johnson -- the club's No.7 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline -- right-hander Jefry Rodriguez and a player to be named later to Cleveland.
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The trade comes about two weeks after the Nationals signed free-agent catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year deal worth about $10 million, giving them a formidable duo at a position that has been a weakness since Wilson Ramos departed for free agency in 2016. Nationals catchers ranked 27th in MLB with a 64 wRC+ last season and their combined 0.5 Wins Above Replacement ranked 24th, according to Fangraphs. Instead of counting on one player for an upgrade, the Nats are going to lean on a combination of Gomes and Suzuki.
Gomes, 31, is coming off a resurgent 2018 season in which he made the American League All-Star team for the first time. He posted a .762 OPS with a career-best 26 doubles, 16 home runs and 2.2 WAR, seventh best in MLB. Even though he has had some ups and downs at the plate throughout his career, Gomes does bring some much needed defensive value to Washington. He ranked 15th in framing runs last season and has thrown out 32.8 percent of would-be basestealers in the past two seasons, seventh best in MLB.
Gomes will be under team control this season with a $9 million team option for 2020 and an $11 million team option for '21, the kind of contract flexibility the Nationals value greatly in a deal.
To acquire Gomes, the Nationals had to part with a pair of promising players in their organization.
Johnson, a left-handed outfielder with a combination of speed and power, won the team's Minor League player of the year award in 2017. Last season at Double-A Harrisburg, he batted .269/.321/.410 with six homers and 21 stolen bases. However, most evaluations have Johnson pegged as a future fourth outfielder in the Majors, and outfield is one of the deepest positions in the organization.
Rodriguez made 14 appearances (eight starts) in his Major League debut last season and although his overall numbers are rough (5.71 ERA) he did show signs of improvement toward the end of the season. He would have competed for a spot in the team's rotation next season, although some around the team have hinted that perhaps he may best be a reliever in the future.
But catching was perhaps the Nationals' most glaring need entering this offseason and now they have addressed it with two players who should provide a massive upgrade next season.