Washington Nationals: Decision Time on Matt Wieters
The complicated question resurfaces for the Washington Nationals about Matt Wieters. Should they sign him? Not until they address other needs.
Either the Washington Nationals want catcher Matt Wieters or they do not. Whatever they feel, they need to decide and move on.
The former all-star Baltimore Orioles catcher has captured the Nats interest since the end of 2016, with more than a passing glance over the Scott Boras client. During the Winter Meetings, Washington surprised baseball by trading for Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres.
Rumors continue over a Wieters-Nationals signing. Now seven weeks after those meetings, we are still waiting.
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This week, stories surfaced over general manager Mike Rizzo needing permission from the Lerner family to increase the payroll. Chelsea Janes of The Washington Post tampers down those theories, but sheds light on where the Nats are internally on Wieters.
In short, they are not high on him. Whether it goes back to his injuries, his lack of ability to frame pitches—the reason given the last round of stories between the two sides—or that they have three active catchers already on the roster. Is Wieters a need with Norris, Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino fighting for two spots?
One team possibly competing with Washington over Wieters is now out. The Atlanta Braves Saturday signed former Nats catcher Kurt Suzuki for an undisclosed amount. If Washington wants Wieters, they have no serious competition.
But, if there is a hold on spending, is catcher the biggest need to focus on? No, not even close.
Although the trio of catchers heading for West Palm Beach are not rock stars, they are more established in their positions than whoever is going to close. Whether it is Shawn Kelley, Greg Holland or Willard Scott, your guess at who finishes games is as good as anyone else.
Washington, if they are interested, gambled correctly the market on Wieters would drop. Across the game, the value of power hitters is in free-fall. Could you imagine last November Mark Trumbo would take a three-year/$37 million deal to stay with the Orioles or Jose Bautista go back to the Toronto Blue Jays on an incentive-laden possible three-year contract?
Neither can anyone else. The asking price for Wieters was thought to be around five-years/$75-80 million. A contract equal to Brian McCann. Those wishes are long gone.
Any serious offer to Wieters would nab him but the Nats have other holes to fill. As far as his role, there is one thing Washington cannot offer that American League teams can, the chance to be a regular designated hitter.
Although Wieters and Boras would love to drum up competition for his services, the Nationals must fill their biggest hole in the bullpen before addressing upgrades elsewhere. On this player, pass.