Nationals finalize deal with catcher Avila

February 4th, 2021

The Nationals on Wednesday officially announced their one-year contract with veteran catcher , a deal first reported last Thursday.

The left-handed-hitting Avila, who will back up in Washington, turned 34 on Friday and will enter his 13th Major League season. Last year, he played 23 games for the Twins and hit .184 in 49 at-bats. Avila, who will wear No. 6 with the Nationals, also has played for the Tigers (2009-15, ’17), White Sox (’16), Cubs (’17) and D-backs (’18-19).

During the free-agent process, Avila thought about having a reunion with the Tigers and work for his father, general manager Al Avila. But the chance to win his first World Series ring was top priority.

“I always thought [going back to the Tigers] would be kind of cool, especially in the process that they are in with a lot of young pitchers,” Avila said. “At the same time, I’m kind of looking for that ring. From the beginning, I thought Washington might be that good fit where they might have some interest. … They are in a position to make a run at the playoffs. All along, that was the forefront on my mind.”

Avila comes to Washington as no stranger to its pitching staff. He was teammates with starters in Detroit, in Chicago and in Arizona. Avila also joins Lester, second baseman , corner outfielder and fellow catcher as members of the Nationals who previously were coached by Nats manager Dave Martinez while they were with the Cubs.

“They are a team built to win now; their goal is to win a World Series,” Avila said. “I had a great conversation with Mike Rizzo yesterday. That was the forefront in my mind. I was happy that Washington had the same kind of interest.”

Avila was starting catcher with the Tigers in 2013 when Scherzer won his first Cy Young Award. Scherzer had a 2.49 ERA in 18 games with Avila starting behind the plate that year. After the news broke that Avila agreed to terms with the Nationals last week, Scherzer was the first to text him.

“It will be a lot of fun catching Max again,” Avila said. “He was always one of my favorite guys to catch. He was so well prepared going into games. I got to watch him develop into what he is now, so it will be a thrill for me to catch him again.”

The Nats had been looking for someone to platoon at backstop with Gomes after Kurt Suzuki signed with the Angels. Gomes, 33, has been tasked with starting in the range of 100 games in his 10th season.

, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Washington’s No. 17 prospect, is on the 40-man roster but has appeared in just two Major League games and is still developing experience. Avila has caught 7,361 1/3 innings.

The addition of Avila brings the Nationals’ 40-man roster to 39.