If healthy, Jesus Flores could be trade bait for the Nationals

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Bill Ladson of MLB.com and Ben Goessling of MASNSports.com have both written about the Nationals’ catching situation recently while coming to more or less the same conclusion: Jesus Flores will be shopped heavily if he looks healthy during spring training.

Flores was once the Nationals’ long-term answer behind the plate and was hitting .301 with an .877 OPS through 29 games as a 24-year-old in 2009, but he hasn’t played since because of significant shoulder problems and in the meantime the Nationals signed Ivan Rodriguez to replace him as the starter and traded for Wilson Ramos to be their new catcher of the future.

First, here’s Goessling’s take on where Flores stands in Washington:

They’ll definitely be trying to show Flores is healthy in spring training, in the event they could flip him for a prospect, or use him as their second catcher if Ramos draws interest. It’s more likely they’d move Flores than Ramos, but you never know.

And now here’s Ladson’s take:

He will battle for one of the spots behind the plate, but it would not come as a surprise if the Nationals use Flores as a trade chip during spring training.

Down the stretch last season the Nationals had Rodriguez and Ramos split time behind the plate and that seems likely to be the arrangement this season as well, so if they can get a good return for Flores expect general manager Mike Rizzo to pull the trigger. And even with his uncertain health status, as a 26-year-old catcher with a decent bat Flores should have some suitors.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.