Stuck in a 1-7 stretch, sitting at 21-28 and playing without Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche, the Nationals are careening out of any hopes at contention. The trade deadline is still more than two months away, but the needs of playoff hopefuls could pull the Nationals into early trade discussions. For example: the defending World Series champions need a catcher and the Nationals have Ivan Rodriguez.
Wednesday night, the Giants lost catcher Buster Posey for an extended period of time, perhaps the entire season, after he suffered a broken leg in a gruesome collision at home plate. The Giants have few options at catcher, and the Nationals have something of a surplus, with Wilson Ramos and Rodriguez splitting the major league duties and Jesus Flores, an everyday big league catcher before shoulder injuries struck, playing at Class AAA Syracuse.
Rodriguez, 21 seasons into a Hall of Fame-caliber career, remains an elite defensive catcher while hitting .205/.256/.342 and serving as a vital clubhouse influence. But Rodriguez, who is in the second year of a two-year, $6 million contract, has seen his role diminish as Ramos becomes the Nationals’ everyday catcher. Rodriguez has played in four of the Nationals’ past 12 games, and Manager Jim Riggleman has said Rodriguez will likely play two games a week at some point this season.
While Rodriguez has accepted his standing and has said he wants to finish his career here, the Nationals could be tempted to listen to offers, especially from a team as desperate for catching help as the Giants. The Giants will start light-hitting backup Eli Whiteside tonight, and they had to call up veteran minor leaguer Chris Stewart, a 29-year-old who has 54 plate appearances across four major league cups of coffee.
If General Manager Mike Rizzo wants to keep Rodriguez, he could also try to trade Flores, whose career took a sad turn after a foul tip drilled his right shoulder in early 2009. Flores, though, is having a rough offensive season, hitting .248/.260/.386 in 27 games. Over the 2008 and 2009 major league seasons, before injury struck and he was 23 and 24, Flores hit .266/.315/.426 with 12 home runs.