Even after the Washington Nationals acquired catcher Derek Norris, should they still look to add free agent Matt Wieters?
While the Washington Nationals major need still this offseason is to find a closer, could they still be looking to add a catcher? It was thought that the position was addressed when the Nats traded for Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres right before the Winter Meetings.
Norris is a good acquisition, but is there a chance the Washington Nationals could still upgrade behind the plate before spring training? On Sunday, Buster Olney of ESPN wrote in his Insider column that people in the industry believe the Washington Nationals will still go after former Oriole Matt Wieters to be their new catcher.
During this offseason, the rumor mill has been relatively quiet surrounding Wieters, who is a Scott Boras client. As everyone knows, the Washington Nationals have a lot of Boras clients on their roster. If Wieters is still a free agent a month from now, maybe the Nats could get him on a more team friendly deal.
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Last season, Wieters had a slash line of .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI’s in 129 games. The 30-year old, right-handed hitting catcher had three straight 20+ home run seasons from 2011-2013. But, he played in 101 games combined between 2014 and 2015 and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014.
It’s safe to say the Washington Nationals are in that win now mode as they try to take advantage of the competitive window that they have. Adding Wieters would be another example of that because he does bring more depth to the offense and would replace the hole in the offense left by the departure of Wilson Ramos.
For me, the one question that would remain is what would be the trickle down effect to a Wieters signing? If Wieters were to sign in D.C, that would give the Nats six catchers on the 40-man roster, including prospects Pedro Severino, Spencer Kieboom, and Raudy Read.
Jose Lobaton has one more year left on his contract and with the way Gio Gonzalez and other pitchers feels comfortable pitching to him, it wouldn’t make sense to get rid of him. As for Norris, he is coming off a season in where he hit .186, but he is a career .276 hitter against left-handed pitching (according to Baseball Reference).
So, if Norris stays, that would mean Pedro Severino could be used in a deal to acquire a closer. If Severino were to be traded, that would add to the Washington Nationals theme of the winter in giving up their top prospects for the pursuit of a title. Severino isn’t in the upper tier of prospects, but he showed some good signs down the stretch for the Nats in 2016.
In October, fellow co-editor Ron Juckett wrote that Wieters would be a good fit for the Nats. If the team can sign him at their price, it would be a good deal. It will be interesting to see if they were to deal Norris or either deal/demote Severino. The Nats are in a win now mode and the win now move to make would be to sign Wieters now that the big name closers are off the board.