Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that several teams are interested in Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton. Several teams including the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, and Washington Nationals are in need of a backstop.
Earlier this offseason, the Rays re-signed Jose Molina, and traded for Ryan Hanigan, making Lobaton expendable. The 29 year-old catcher saw the most playing time of his career in 2013, and he produced a .249/.320/.394 batting line with seven home runs for a 103 wRC+ in 311 plate appearances. Over 564 career plate appearances, he owns a .228/.311/.343 line for an 87 wRC+.
As a Super Two player, Lobaton was arbitration-eligible this offseason, and he agreed on a $950K salary for 2014. A team acquiring him would control his rights for at least three more seasons.
While Lobaton is a switch-hitting catcher with a decent bat, defense is not his strong suit. For his career, he’s thrown out only 16 percent of would-be basestealers, and he’s been below-average at blocking pitches in the dirt. His pitch-framing skills are serviceable.
He’s probably not well-suited to starting, but the teams mentioned above as possible trade partners could use a dependable backup. With the Indians moving Carlos Santana to third base and giving the starting role to Yan Gomes, they lack major league experience in the backup role.
The same holds true for the other teams mentioned, who feature the likes of Michael McKenry, Anthony Recker, Tuffy Gosewich, and Koyie Hill among their backup options. Furthermore, the White Sox projected starter is Josh Phegley, who hit .206/.223/.299 in 213 plate appearances in his debut season.
A Lobaton trade is very likely, as he represents an average bat at a thin position. He’s surplus to the Rays, but necessary depth to other teams, and trading him would allow the small market Rays to cut some costs.