Yan Gomes catches 94 games annually, on average, across his career. Let’s start there.
So, it’s not odd to hear Davey Martinez or Mike Rizzo say they foresee Gomes catching 90-100 games in 2020. He peaked at 135 as a 26-year-old in 2014. That’s the only time in his career he exceeded 500 plate appearances.
The Nationals don’t want him to have more than 400. Preferably fewer. Which is why they are in search of a partner of sorts in an interesting catcher market.
“I talked to Yan at the end of the season, not knowing what was going to happen with [Kurt] Suzuki,” Davey Martinez said. “But I told him, you need to prepare to catch 100, 110 games. That’s what I see for him. He’s been working diligently on getting stronger and getting better.
“Obviously, we’re going to go out there and find another backup catcher. We’re going to have a couple young guys come to camp. You can never have enough catchers.”
So, who will be the “other” catcher?
Wellington Castillo signed a minor-league deal -- again -- with the Nationals, a source confirmed. He’s the backup to the pending backup. Castillo will be at spring training.
In house, Tres Barrera is the closest to major-league ready among the catchers at lower levels. Raudy Read seems destined for first base or DH, should he be able to stick in the major leagues. Barerra is a defensive-oriented catcher who will receive a long look at spring training unless the Nationals sign a second veteran catcher, which likely will be the case.
“We think we’re fairly deep at catcher, especially at the lower level prospectwise, and we’ve got some major-league ability guys that could be backups in the big leagues,” Mike Rizzo said. “Neither one of those are going to curtail us from looking to get a partner with Yan to make that position as good as it has been the last couple seasons.”
The Nationals will check on J.T. Realmuto’s cost, then probably move on. Which puts them filing through the next tier of free agents.
Jason Castro, 33, would fit. He’s a left-handed bat with some power. Dispatching him as a left-right platoon with Gomes would behoove both. His career .749 OPS against right-handed pitching is more than serviceable for a backup catcher.
Yadier Molina is on the way to the Hall of Fame and one of the offseason’s great curiosities. He turns 39 years old next July 13. He’s never been out of St. Louis. His offense is slowing, but he’s also never taken a step back from catching full-time. Molina’s defensive numbers remain strong, which would be a welcome sight at Nationals Park, where Gomes and Suzuki -- not helped by the pitching staff -- were among the league’s worst defensive pairings.
Wilson Ramos can still hit. He also remains rough behind the plate.
Alex Avila (34) and Robinson Chirinos (36) are other choices.
Which means an inexpensive backup is the most likely play here by the Nationals. Someone on a one-year deal, maybe with an option, to join Gomes behind the plate, enabling more significant money to be spent elsewhere.