According to Ken Rosenthal, Matt Wieters has signed a two year deal with the Washington Nationals that includes a player opt-out option for after the 2017 season. The contract is for $10 million this season and $11 million if he decides to come back for the 2018 season. For what it’s worth, Chelsea Jones is reporting that $5 million of this year’s salary will be differed through the 2021 season.
Wieters has been the biggest free agent left on the market for quite some time, which has lead to some speculation about why he hadn’t already been picked up. While he’s definitely had a successful career, his late pickup likely has something to do with the poor showing he had last season.
The switch hitting catcher has a career .256/.318/.421 but only played in a combined 101 games in 2014 and 2015 and eventually had to have Tommy John’s surgery. He then struggled last year after coming back. Over the course of 464 plate appearances, he had just a .243/.302/.409 batting line with 17 home runs and 66 RBI.
As if the offensive struggles weren’t enough, there have been some questions about Wieters’s defensive abilities. There’s been a lot of discussion, for instance, about his ability to frame pitches — though his agent Scott Boras has really been pushing back on those analysis. That being said, most analysts agree that he’s a good receiver and is a strong pitch blocker. Plus, he was able to ease some concerns about his elbow by throwing out 35% of the runners who attempted to steal against him last season.
With all that being said, there’s little doubt that Wieters is being brought in to be the starting catcher even though the Nats had just brought in Derek Norris from San Diego this off season. So the obvious question becomes: what will happen to Norris.
It looks like the early signs are that the 28 year old Norris will be traded — or at least shopped around. “There’s always somebody out there that needs a frontline catcher,” manager Dusty Baker told reporters according to Mark Zuckerman. And for his part, Norris spoke about how he would want to be in there on an everyday basis but is simply trying to help out his team — whatever team it is he happens to be playing for.
Above all else, a lot of fans are still giving shout outs to fan favorite Wilson Ramos — the catcher who the Nats let go during the offseason as he’s trying to come back from his second torn ACL. It will therefore be interesting to see how Wieters is accepted into the DC community.