Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Matt Wieters

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Going into this season, Wilson Ramos was one of those players that fans were expecting a little bit more out of if he could stay healthy. The Washington Nationals’ catcher did play in 100+ games for the first time in his career (128). However, the 28-year-old hit a mere .229 with 15 home runs and 68 RBI’s. After the All-Star Break, Ramos hit .197 with seven home runs and 30 RBI’s (.180 in September).

With Ramos entering the final year of his deal, could the Nats look to upgrade at catcher for both 2016 and beyond? One name that could provide help at that position is Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters. Wieters was given a qualifying offer of one-year, $15.8 million and he has until Friday, like Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond, to decide whether he wants to accept that deal.

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Wieters’ season was abbreviated since he underwent Tommy John surgery at the middle of last season. In 2015, Wieters played in 75 games, had a slash line of .267/.319/.422 with eight home runs and 25 RBI’s. Out of those 75 games, he caught in 55 of them while spending time as a designated hitter and first baseman.

Since being drafted by the Orioles in the fifth round of the 2007 MLB Draft, the 29-year old catcher has been known for his power. From 2011-2013, Wieters had 20+ home runs and drove in 65+ runs. He was an All-Star and won the Gold Glove at the position in 2011 and 2012 (also was an All-Star in 2014).

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Wieters and Ramos both have power, but Wieters is also known for his defense as evident by the Gold Gloves. From 2011-2013, he threw out 35% or more of runners trying to steal against him. Ramos threw out 44% of runners stealing last season and his percentage has gone up from 2013-2015. However, Ramos has been known for having issues fielding throws coming to home plate.

While Wieters has strong power, do the Nationals want to leave a slot open for some of their young catchers once Ramos’ contract is up? Pedro Severino spent some time in the Majors at the end of the season and is hitting .293 in the Dominican League this winter with two home runs and four RBI’s. Spencer Kieboom is another young catcher to watch who is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League (.265, 1 HR, 4 RBI’s).

If you look at MLB Trade Rumors’ Top 50 Free Agent predictions, they project Wieters to sign with the Nats on a four-year, $64 million deal. However, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network wrote in his Inside Baseball column that Mike Rizzo isn’t so quick to give up on Ramos:

"“Rizzo said they were happy with Wilson Ramos’ defense behind the plate, so even though he had a poor year at bat, they aren’t set on trying to replace him.”"

Next: Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Darren O'Day

While Wieters would be a good fit with the Washington Nationals as they could use another power bat in that lineup, I don’t see Rizzo and company taking the chance on a long-term deal with Wieters. Even though Scott Boras is his agent and you can’t rule out the Nats with any Boras clients, Wieters’ injury history would cause me to second guess giving him a long-term deal.

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