Rays could trade Jose Lobaton

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With Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan behind the dish, Jose Lobaton is now expendable and the Rays could explore trading him, writes Mark Topkin for the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin adds that, given the vagaries of the game of baseball, they’ll likely bring Lobaton to spring training in case either of their catchers suffers an injury, but could trade him to a team in need of a back-up towards the end of March.

Lobaton, 29, was quite productive for the Rays last season, posting a .714 OPS in 311 plate appearances. He isn’t nearly as capable defensively as Molina, but his bat made up for what he lacked in curtailing base-stealers and framing pitches. Lobaton was one of 19 catchers last season to take at least 300 trips to the plate and finish with an OPS of .700 or better.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.