The Washington Nationals will try and sign catcher Matt Wieters, following Wilson Ramos’ injury. Is he the right player to replace “The Buffalo?”
When Wilson Ramos tore his right ACL shortly before the end of the regular season, a piece of the Nats offensive puzzle disappeared for the playoffs. A free agent in waiting, Ramos turned down a reported three-year, $30 million deal a week before his injury. Now out until mid-2017, he will likely sign with an American League team so he can DH and, maybe, catch upon his return.
Washington used Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino in their National League Divisional Series loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although Severino is the catcher of the future, Lobaton is not considered a player with the offensive skills needed to catch 90-110 games.
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FanRag’s Jon Heyman says the Nationals will pursue Wieters hard. At 30, the eight-year veteran has earned four All-Star bids, including 2016, and two Gold Gloves during his time in Baltimore.
After a pair of injury-plagued seasons, Wieters played 124 games this season, catching 117. Powering 17 homers while driving in 66, he returned to the form that made him a high prospect in the past. Do not let his slash line of .243/.302/.409 bother you. Joe Mauer he is not.
Instead, you get a veteran catcher with a positive defensive WAR and the ability to throw out 35 percent of potential base stealers in 2016. In 980.1 innings behind the plate last year, he had one passed ball. With the Nats pitching, he will be fine in calling games and contributing at the plate.
Although his Adjusted OPS+ of 87 in 2016 is below average, his career number of 98 is in line with an average Major League hitter and production. From a catcher that is all you can ask for.
Wieters made $8.3 million last year. If the Orioles offer a qualifying offer for him, the projection will be $17.2 million for 2017. Then if the Washington Nationals go after him, they will owe Baltimore some compensation depending on the new collective bargaining agreement.
If Wieters will take a two- or three-year deal as Severino adjusts into the everyday catcher, then this will be a coup for the Nats. Replacing Ramos is not an easy task. Even if Ramos returns in perfect health next July, relying on Lobaton and Severino the first half of 2017 is risky.
Catcher is one of Washington’s highest priorities. Wieters filling the role would be a key puzzle piece as the Nationals look to repeat as NL East champions.