While he didn’t have a good two year stay in the nation’s capital, Matt Wieters had one play which led us to believe the Nationals were headed to the NLCS in 2017.
We have given a lot of thought here at District on Deck to the vacant catching position this offseason. Names like J.T. Realmuto, James McCann, and Gary Sanchez have all been discussed as possible fits for the Washington Nationals in 2021. One guy who is a free agent who hasn’t been mentioned, is Matt Wieters.
No, I am not using this piece to advocate for the Nationals to bring back Wieters. As a reminder, Wieters was signed late in the offseason (as a good will gesture to his agent Scott Boras?), back in 2017.
Wieters was coming off an All-Star campaign with the Baltimore Orioles, the team who selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft. At 2 YRS/$21M, many say he was one of the worst free agent signings in team history. And they may have an argument there. In his two years in DC, Wieters hit just .230 with an OPS of .658, well below the power numbers he had while playing in Baltimore.
As the Nationals coasted to a National League East Divisional Title (by 20 games), they ended up in a winner take all Game 5 against the Chicago Cubs in the Divisional Series. Up to the point of his first at-bat in said fifth game, Wieters was 0-10 thus far in the playoffs.
With the score tied 1-1, and Anthony Rendon on first base, Wieters laid down a perfect bunt against the shift (can be seen here at 42:20) to put two runners on, with no outs.
The form he exhibited, on a text-book, infield bunt-hit, which broke his playoff 0-fer and pushed a guy in scoring position with no outs, breathtaking. If the next hitter grounds into a double-play, the Wieters bunt is forgotten about. The next hitter, Michael A. Taylor, hit a massive three-run home run to give the Nationals a 4-1 lead.
Nationals pitchers still had to get 21 outs at that point, but with a three run cushion, how many of us felt as if the game was over. I sure did. I was mistaken. We know how that game ends for the Nats. With defeat.
Matt Wieters may have had bigger hits during his tenure with the Nationals. Not in my opinion. To me, his biggest contribution came on a little dribbler that didn’t make the dirt on the infield. Had the Nationals won that game, won the the next series, played in a World Series, Wieters’ time in DC may have been looked upon differently.
We’ll always be caught in the “what ifs” though.
I do not think Matt Wieters is a fit to split time with Yan Gomes this year, as the Nationals try to find a catcher in the free agent market. I do hope he finds a job somewhere, however.