WASHINGTON -- It is not surprising for the Nationals to be among the teams who have reportedly checked in on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported. Getting more production from their catchers is perhaps the most obvious area where the Nationals can improve upon in 2018. Washington
WASHINGTON -- It is not surprising for the Nationals to be among the teams who have reportedly checked in on Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported. Getting more production from their catchers is perhaps the most obvious area where the Nationals can improve upon in 2018. Washington got the least production in the Majors last season from its backstops, who combined for -1.1 WAR and a .596 OPS.
The Nats checked in on Realmuto at the Winter Meetings in December and were told he was not available. Since then, however, Miami has opened up to at least the possibility of moving Realmuto and outfielder Christian Yelich.
• Source: Nationals interested in Realmuto, Yelich
Realmuto, 26, would be a near perfect fit for the Nationals' already potent lineup. He is regarded as one of the best hitting catchers in the Majors who has posted an average slash line at .290/.337/.440 over the past two seasons with 28 total home runs. Realmuto is entering his first of three arbitration-eligible seasons, so even with the raise from the $562,500 he earned last year, his contract will be relatively affordable. He is under club control until after the 2020 season.
Considering all those factors, the Marlins are reportedly seeking an "overpay" in terms of prospects for either player, which could include three top prospects and a big league-ready player. It's the kind of trade the Nationals made a year ago to acquire Adam Eaton, who is under club control until after the 2021 season. But that trade was a deviation from the norm for the Nats, and there has been no indication they are willing to regularly trade away their most coveted prospects.
To pull off such a trade, the Nationals would almost certainly have to include outfielders Victor Robles and/or Juan Soto -- MLB Pipeline's No. 3 and No. 37 ranked prospects in baseball, respectively. Washington has been reluctant to move either player during trade talks during the past few winters, so it would be difficult to see the Nats suddenly change tune.
Robles, 20, forced his way to the Majors and onto the postseason roster in 2017 and seems primed to take over soon as an everyday outfielder in Washington. Last offseason, the White Sox and Pirates both tried to acquire Robles in trades for Chris Sale and Andrew McCutchen, respectively. While Nats general manager Mike Rizzo hesitated to label Robles as untouchable, he is certainly not going to part with him easily.
"I would think there's no player that's totally untouchable," Rizzo said. "But he's a very difficult player to move in any kind of scenario."
A perfect scenario for the Nats to improve at catcher would likely come from within the organization. They have $10.5 million committed to Matt Wieters for next season and have plans to split his time with a backup catcher, which for now would be the club's No. 15 prospect Pedro Severino. But Washington has also explored more veteran catching options on the free-agent market.
If the Marlins decide to lower their asking price on Realmuto, perhaps the Nats would pursue him more aggressively. Miami has no urgency to deal Realmuto or Yelich, but trade talks surrounding both players are expected to intensify soon.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.