Ivan Rodriguez will be the Nationals’ starting catcher at age 39

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Washington’s former catcher of the future Jesus Flores is finally healthy after missing nearly two years with shoulder problems and current catcher of the future Wilson Ramos is just about MLB-ready after spending last season at Triple-A, yet manager Jim Riggleman announced today that Ivan Rodriguez will be the starter behind the plate:

We’re going to go out there and Pudge is going to continue to lead our ball club as a leader behind the plate, a good hitter, just a good baseball player. He’s got a lot of baseball left. So he’s our catcher.

Rodriguez was once a great player and he remains very good at throwing out runners, but to call him “a good hitter” at this point is just silly. He batted .266 with a ghastly .294 on-base percentage and punchless .347 slugging percentage in 421 plate appearances last season, homering just four times, posting a terrible 66/16 K/BB ratio, and grounding into 25 double plays. Among the 205 players who batted at least 400 times his .640 OPS ranked 193rd. He’s also 39 years old and wasn’t any better in 2009, hitting .249 with a .663 OPS.

For their sanity this season and the team’s long-term success Nationals fans should hope that Flores or Ramos eventually steals the starting job from Rodriguez, who at this stage of his career (and on a team in rebuilding mode) seems like a much better fit as a prospect-mentoring backup. Here’s how Riggleman envisions the backup’s role:

Whoever wins that second spot is going to get incorporated into the lineup more and more as we go along,. Whether it’s Ramos or Flores, they’re very talented guys that we’re not going let them die on the vine. They got to get playing time. Whichever guy is there, they’re going to get playing time and stay sharp, and as the year goes on, probably get a little more playing time.

Well, that’s better at least.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post speculates that the loser of the backup battle will head to Triple-A, which seemingly makes Flores the early favorite given that he’s two years older and has significant big-league experience. Another option is that the Nationals could look to trade Flores if he proves healthy this spring, as plenty of teams could use a 26-year-old catcher with some offensive upside.

Report: Athletics to acquire Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Athletics and Cardinals have agreed on a trade involving outfielder Stephen Piscotty. The Cardinals will receive two as yet unknown minor leaguers in return.

Piscotty, 26, hit .235/.342/.367 with nine home runs and 39 RBI in 401 plate appearances for the Cardinals this past season. He dealt with injuries and with his mother’s ALS diagnosis, so it was a rough year, but very excusably so. The Cardinals had signed him to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension in March. He’s under contract through 2022 at a total of $29.5 million and has a club option for 2023 worth $15 million with a $1 million buyout.

The Cardinals had an outfield spot open up after agreeing to acquire Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins on Wednesday so the Piscotty trade doesn’t come as a surprise.