Nats sign backstop Lo Duca
Club signs veteran catcher on one-year deal worth $5 million
WASHINGTON -- Paul Lo Duca's winning attitude and blue-collar approach are the reasons the Nationals signed him to a one-year, $5 million contract with incentives on Tuesday. Lo Duca could make an additional $100,000 each if he plays 120, 130, 140 and 150 games in 2008.
The right-handed-hitting Lo Duca, 35, will be the everyday catcher for Washington, tutor a young pitching staff and become a mentor to backup catcher Jesus Flores. Lo Duca also will be a significant upgrade offensively than Brian Schneider. Lo Duca is considered a player who works the count and can hit anywhere from the two hole to eighth in the lineup.
"I've seen him beat every team I've been with for years, because with the game on the line, he gives that at-bat," general manager Jim Bowden said. "He wants to be there with the game on the line. He puts the ball in play and he is a winner, and that's why he is here. We are ready to start winning. We are opening up a new ballpark and its time to win."
Lo Duca played with the Mets the last two years. In 2007, Lo Duca hit .272 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs. Lo Duca also showed during his private meeting with local beat writers that he can speak his mind. Lo Duca, a Brooklyn native, said he gets emotional when things go wrong during a game and acknowledged that he was not happy that the Mets no longer wanted his services. He's looking forward to playing the Mets 18 times.
"It's water under the bridge," Lo Duca said. "The older I get, the less upset I get. I'm excited to be with the team that wants me going into a new ballpark -- that's going in the right direction. That's the way I look at it. It was disappointing [to leave the Mets]. It's over with -- this game is full of disappointments. I spent nine years in the Minor Leagues. Nothing surprises me any more.
"I have no bones about it. Am I going to go to New York and say hello to a lot of people? I don't know yet. I'll let you know then. I still have a lot of friends over there, but I hope they lose every game, because I want to win every game. If they lose every game, that means we are going up the ladder. That's the way I look at it. It's tough love, so be it."
The Nationals have been looking for a starting catcher since they traded Brian Schneider to the Mets on Nov. 30. During the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., Lo Duca, Johnny Estrada and Damian Miller were among the free-agent catchers who were considered to join the Nationals. In fact, towards the end of the Meetings, there were multiple reports that Lo Duca was going to sign with the Blue Jays, but Lo Duca said the Nationals were the first choice all along.
"The Nationals are a good fit and there was never an issue where I was going to sign with Toronto," Lo Duca said. "We did talk with the Blue Jays. When it came down to it, my agent and Jim came to an agreement. To me, the Nationals wanted me more. That's the way I looked at it. A big part of it was staying in the National League, knowing the National League East, and [the fact that we will] play the Mets 18 times. That has a lot to do with."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.