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.

Rays trade Jake Odorizzi to Twins

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The Rays have traded right-hander Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, per team announcements on Saturday evening. The Twins will receive minor league shortstop Jermaine Palacios in the deal. Despite previous speculation, recently-DFA’d outfielder Corey Dickerson was not included in the trade.

With Odorizzi, the Twins finally have the front-end starter they’ve been seeking all winter. It’s a bargain deal as well, as the 27-year-old righty is under contract through 2019 and didn’t require the club to part with any of their top-shelf prospects in the trade. Odorizzi will be looking to stage a comeback in 2018 after a dismal performance with the Rays last year, during which he eked out a career-worst 4.14 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 through 143 1/3 innings.

Palacios, 21, ranked no. 27 in the Twins’ system last season. He split his year between Single-A Cedar Rapids and High-A Fort Myers, raking a combined .296/.333/.454 with 13 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 539 plate appearances. He’s expected to continue developing at shortstop, though he’s also seen limited time at second and third base during his four-year career in the minors.