With the current crop of young talent, the Nats may have a few future Hall of Famers depending on how they develop. However, for the moment, they have just one: veteran catching Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. His season was shortened by injury, but Pudge has played a big role for this team, even if it isn’t on the field.
But let’s start with on the field, shall we? The vet held down a .218 average through 44 games this year with two home runs. Not too shabby for a guy pushing 40 with 20 years of MLB experience. Statistically, it was the worst season of his illustrious career. Various injuries kept him out for a big chunk of the season, and the emergence of Wilson Ramos kept him off the plate as a starter.
More than anything, Pudge’s influence has always been more important off the field. He has played a key role in helping to develop the younger pitchers on the staff, including Stephen Strasburg. He was even able to catch Strasburg when he was working his way back in the minors.
His experience has been crucial on a team with a lot of young players. He is always seen talking and smiling in the dugout during games, just happy to be at the park and helping in any way he can.
Pudge’s status for the future is uncertain. He has said that he wants to continue playing baseball, but the Nationals now have two younger catchers they can use (especially since Pudge won’t be starting since Ramos has come aboard). Other teams may show interest, but with his age and now injury history, he may have difficulty finding work. He may be forced into retirement.
Pudge likely has no more player use for the Nats. However, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to keep him on as a consultant, or possibly even coach. With his future up in the air, Rodriguez has always been a class act all the way.