WASHINGTON -- The Nationals and catcher José Lobatón agreed on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration, the team announced Thursday. Lobatón and the Nationals reportedly settled for $1.575 million, according to the Washington Post, an increase of $187,500 from last season.
Washington's catching situation still carries some uncertainty, with Wilson Ramos almost certain to walk as a free agent. Even if Ramos were to return, he tore the ACL in his right knee in late September and will not be ready until at least a month after the season starts.
Lobaton, 32, provides a veteran presence on the roster and could compete for the starting job. Although he hit just .223/.292/.316 over the past three years in Washington, the team raves about the job he does handling the pitching staff and his pitch-framing ability. Injuries limited him to just 39 games in 2016 as Ramos' backup, but Lobatón is one of the more popular members in the clubhouse. He also delivered a mammoth three-run home run to help the Nationals win Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.
When Ramos was lost for the season last September, Washington used Lobatón and catcher Pedro Severino -- the club's No. 14 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline.com -- as a platoon to fill the void. The Nationals could enter the season using a combination of the two again to replace Ramos.
Washington also has explored the free-agent catching market, reportedly showing some interest in former Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.