The Nationals lost one of the catchers at the high levels of their minor league system earlier this offseason when they released Jhonatan Solano, who was out of options entering the 2015 season.
Over the last 24 hours, they’ve added two catchers who could help improve their organizational depth behind the plate.
Yesterday morning, the Nats signed 30-year-old backstop Steven Lerud, a former third-round pick who has only 15 career plate appearances at the big league level but has 807 games of minor league experience and posted a .766 OPS at Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves system last year.
Then late last night, the Nats and Red Sox agreed to a trade, which according to The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, will send left-hander Danny Rosenbaum to Boston in exchange for 28-year-old catcher Dan Butler.
Butler was initially signed as an amateur free agent by the Red Sox in 2009, and he got his first taste of the big leagues last year, appearing in seven games for Boston and going 4-for-19 with three doubles and two RBIs.
In 2013, Butler posted a strong offensive season at Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting .262/.350/.479 with 14 homers and 45 RBIs in just 84 games. He took a step back offensively last season, however, seeing his OPS drop from .829 in 2013 to .667 in 2014.
If you’re wondering about how Butler and Lerud compare defensively, Butler has thrown out 31 percent of runners attempting to steal in his minor league career, while Lerud has a 34 percent caught-stealing rate.
With Solano gone (he signed a minor league deal with the Marlins, where he’ll join his younger brother, second baseman Donovan Solano) and Sandy Leon also out of options this upcoming season, the Nationals likely came into this offseason knowing they needed to add a couple of experienced minor league catchers to improve their depth.
Leon will enter the spring as the Nats’ third catcher, ready should Wilson Ramos or Jose Lobaton suffer an injury of some kind. But the Nats might be hard-pressed to keep Leon around should he fail to make the 25-man roster out of spring. Because he’s out of options, the Nats would have to pass him through waivers if they wanted to send him to the minors, allowing a team in need of catching to scoop up the Venezuelan backstop who is considered very strong defensively.
Should Leon get designated for assignment, and should another team pick him up, the Nats now have Butler and Lerud to potentially slide in and handle the workload behind the plate at Triple-A Syracuse.
Rosenbaum, meanwhile, was the Nats’ 22nd-round pick out of Xavier back in 2009. He quickly moved his way through the lower levels of the Nats’ minor league system, going from the Gulf Coast League in 2009 to Double-A Harrisburg by the end of the 2011 season, and put up strong numbers along the way.
He posted a 3.94 ERA at Harrisburg in 2012, then a 3.87 ERA at Syracuse in 2013, and earned a spot in big league spring training last year, where he went 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in three outings. But after just four appearances with Syracuse last season, Rosenbaum needed Tommy John surgery. The 27-year-old was cleared to start throwing again in December.