With Spring Training underway, the Washington Nationals have reached an agreement with free agent catcher Matt Wieters on a two-year deal according to multiple outlets.
After months of rumors surrounding the two sides, the Washington Nationals and Matt Wieters are close to terms on a two-year contract with an opt-out after 2017. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman of the New York Post were among the first to report the deal in the works.
This year, Wieters will earn $10 million. If he does not opt-out, 2018 will see him make $11 million.
Wieters, 30, had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career last season, hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs in 124 games. He played just 101 games over the previous two seasons due to multiple injuries and a Tommy John surgery.
While his career has taken a turn for the worst over the past few years, Wieters was a very productive backstop early on as a major leaguer. The eight-year veteran is a four-time All-star, having taken over as the Baltimore Orioles’ full-time catcher in 2009. From 2011 to 2013, Wieters averaged a .249/.315/.434 slash line with just over 22 home runs and 76 RBIs per season.
The Nationals were linked to Wieters all offseason, but the team appeared content heading into Spring Training with the catchers already on its roster. Washington acquired Derek Norris in December in a trade with the San Diego Padres, but he was the victim of a down year as well. Norris slashed just .186/.255/.328 last year and has seen his OPS drop each of the past two seasons.
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Beyond Norris, the Nationals also have in-house options Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino. Lobaton is a good pitch framer and is a well-liked clubhouse personality, but he’s never held a starting role in his career. Severino is seen by many as the Nats’ catcher of the future but between the Norris and Wieters moves the organization has indicated it believes he needs more time in the minors.
After signing Adam Lind last week, the Nats’ 40-man roster filled up. If the team is to sign Wieters, a corresponding move is likely. According to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, the Chicago White Sox have been waiting for the Nats to finalize a deal with Wieters in order to make a trade involving closer David Robertson. Chicago has a clear need at catcher, and adding Wieters means Washington will have four players at the position on its 40-man.
While the deal has yet to be finalized, Wieters presents much more upside at catcher than Norris. In addition to being a switch-hitter, Wieters has proven to be much more valuable throughout his career and provides the team with much more insurance at a position it was clearly thin at.