WASHINGTON -- The Nationals have filled their void at catcher, completing a trade with the Padres on Friday afternoon, acquiring Derek Norris in exchange for Minor League right-hander Pedro Avila.Norris was picked by Washington in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft, but didn't break into the Majors until after he was traded to Oakland as a part of the deal for Gio Gonzalez in the winter of 2011. He was an All-Star in 2014, and the Padres acquired him the following offseason. The Nationals are counting on Norris, 27, to bounce back after the worst offensive season in his career.
Norris hit .186/.255/.328 with a .583 OPS last season, all career lows, for 0.3 wins above replacement, according to Baseball-Reference.com. There are encouraging signs, including a 21.9 percent line-drive rate in 2016, which is even better than his career percentage, and a .238 batting average on balls in play, which suggests he ran into some tough luck last season. However, Norris posted a career-high 30.3 percent strikeout rate and has always been strikeout prone.Since becoming a full-time player, Norris has been durable behind the plate and a solid pitch-framer. Norris ranked 10th in the Majors in framing runs above average (9.2), according to Baseball Prospectus, and also has some experience at first base.Norris is arbitration-eligible this offseason, and MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn about $4 million. He is under team control until 2019.The trade makes the departure of catcher Wilson Ramos a near certainty. Ramos spent seven years with the Nationals with a .743 OPS, and is coming off his best season in 2016. He made his first All-Star Game and won the National League Silver Slugger Award after leading all catchers with 124 weighted runs created plus and career highs in most offensive categories. However, Ramos' season ended prematurely when he tore the ACL in his right knee in September.Now the Nationals have Norris and veteran Jose Lobaton -- who wassigned to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration Thursday -- on the roster as catchers, as well as Pedro Severino, the team's No.14 prospect as rated by MLBPipeline.com, who could start the season at Triple-A.Avila, 19, went 14-10 with a 2.93 ERA in 34 games (33 starts) in two seasons in Washington's farm system and pitched for Class A Hagerstown in 2016.Jamal Collier/ MLB.com