I'm quite sure the Nationals have talked about Geovany Soto, at least internally, as an option to replace the recently injured Wilson Ramos. It's also very possible that they've engaged the Cubs as well.
Soto has had a couple of productive years as a catcher mingled in with a couple of decidedly mediocre seasons. In 2012, Soto is off to a bad start and it looks like he is well on his way to another so-so season. So naturally the inclination is to think that perhaps the Cubs should dump him and move on.
The problem to me is that the Nats are going to want to buy low here and trading Soto probably won't bring enough in return to make it worth the Cubs while. If Welington Castillo were tearing it up or showing he's ready to be an everyday MLB catcher, that's one thing, but that hasn't been the case so far.
Similarly, if Steve Clevenger was healthy and offered a respectable fallback option, the Cubs could also make a deal without worrying about the short term consequences to their team.
You may be frustrated with Soto, and rightfully so, but even in an off-year last season, he was worth 2.2 wins over replacement level. That speaks to the premium value of the position when even a mediocre everyday catcher has that kind of value. What should the Cubs expect in return? A relief pitcher? Even Sean Marshall, who was perhaps the best reliever in baseball last season, was worth just a 1/2 win more than Soto was last season. And the Cubs aren't going to get a RP anywhere near the value of Marshall from the Nats, not when they're a team trying to win now and unlikely willing to sacrifice current value to replace Ramos.
I'm not sure the Cubs can get anything worthwhile here. There's always LHP John Lannan, who the Nats have been desperately trying to trade but without success. There's also Chien-Ming Wang who is rehabbing down in AAA and has made one solid start at that level, although he has made some starts at the lower levels as well. He's nearly ready. Do the Cubs make a deal for more starting pitching depth? Or perhaps convert Lannan to relief? Lannan is currently struggling in AAA after 7 starts with a 5.31 ERA and a less than sterling strikeout to walk ratio of 4.85/3.46. There's also 29 year old LHP Zach Duke, who's 4-1 with a 3.43 ERA. Do the Cubs need another finesse, bottom of the rotation lefty when their system is loaded with them? The Cubs have younger versions of Duke already in their system.
Then there's prospects, though the Nationals traded their most interesting guys in order to obtain SP Gio Gonzalez. Who's left?
As far as prospects the Nationals might be willing to part with...not much. I'll start with prospects outside the BA top 10...though Destin Hood is actually in the top 10 after the trade with the A's, so not optimistic they'll part with him even though he's struggling a bit.
- Destin Hood, AA, OF (#11 prospect): A raw, aggressive hitter with some tools, can run a little and has a nice line drive swing. He's destined for LF in the majors. He's hitting .243/.315/.333 with 14 walks and 27 strikeouts in 132 ABs. He hit .276/.364/.455 with 13 HRs and 21 SBs last season in A ball.
- Rick Hague, high A, SS (#15): Probably fits better at 2B or 3B but a solid hitter who may have enough bat to carry one of those positions with 2B being more likely. Hague is just coming off a dislocated shoulder, he's hitting .255/.321/.277 in high A ball in 46 ABs. For his minor league career up until this year, he has hit .319/.388/.493 in 213 ABs, all at low A ball or below.
- Robbie Ray, high A LHP, (#17): Ray might have been interesting if he didn't get hurt after 2 appearances and a 16.50 ERA. When healthy, Ray is a 3 pitch pitcher (two-seamer, slider, change) who projects to have average velocity. But again, how different is that than what the Cubs already have in multitudes?
- Kylin Turnbull, low A LHP (#18): Turnbull is a bit more projectable at 6'5, 200 lbs, and has gotten his fastball as high as 94 mph. He has a developing slider, which can be a plus pitch at times and is working on a change up. He's currently 0-2 with a 5.24 ERA. He has 6 walks and 13 Ks in 22.1 innings so far.
- Matt Skole, low A, 3B (#21): Skole is a power hitting but not very athletic 3B. He also has a good approach at the plate. At 3B he has good hands and a good arm, but not much range. He'd have to stick at 3B to be of any value to the Cubs, so he'll have to improve his quickness there. He's off to a solid start at .284/.434/.505, with 6 HRs. But he'll be 23 in July and will need to move up to high Class A ball soon.
Whatever the case, the Cubs would have to get some good value back because despite Soto's slow start, they'll like suffer a setback as far as handling pitchers are concerned. The Cubs main strength this year has been their starting pitching and while it's difficult to say how much Soto has to do with that, we do know the Cubs walked 14 batters the last time Castillo was behind the plate. It may have been an aberration, but I'm not convinced the Cubs are ready to go with Castillo as their everyday catcher with minor league filler backing him up right now.