NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: While there were rumors of interest in switch-hitting free agent catcher Matt Wieters, the Washington Nationals pulled the trigger on a trade with the San Diego Padres this past Friday night, bringing one-time Nats’ prospect Derek Norris back to the organization.
With veteran catcher Wilson Ramos rehabbing from a second significant knee surgery as a free agent, there was a need behind the plate in the nation’s capital.
GM Mike Rizzo went for Norris, an ‘07 Nationals’ 4th Round pick, who was coming off a down year with the Padres.
Rizzo said this afternoon, in a wide-ranging talk with reporters at the Winter Meetings in the Gaylord Resort and Convention in National Harbor/Oxon Hill, MD, that he thinks the 27-year-old Norris is a candidate for a bounce-back campaign after he posted a .186/.255/.328 line with 17 doubles and 14 home runs in a -0.4 fWAR season in San Diego in 2016.
“The skill set, when evaluated, the skill set is still there,” Rizzo said.
“We like his approach at the plate. He’s got a simple hitting approach that we feel that we’ve dealt with before, we’ve got a history with him. We know what makes him tick.
“We know what motivated him and helped him in the past. Rick Schu has helped dealt with him before, Bobby Henley, had him grow up in the minor league system for us.
“We know the kid well and he’s a guy that is going to leave it all on the field and is a positive for us.”
Norris, in an MLB Network Radio interview this past weekend, said he thought he might be moved this winter, and was happy with where he ended up.
“I knew that -- with the down year that I had — I knew that there was an opportunity with the tender/non-tender deadline and things,” he explained.
“I knew that it was going to get a little tricky here but things ended up working out and I think that this was probably the best case scenario for me.”
Rizzo said he liked the way Norris handles a pitching staff, in spite of some past struggled with passed balls and baserunners, and he thinks the catcher will be a good fit in D.C.
“Good pitch caller,” Rizzo said. “He’s become a really good pitch framer and a guy that we believe, again, is going to have a good bounce-back season.”
So what does the acquisition mean for 23-year-old backstop Pedro Severino?
“Severino is a bright young prospect that’s the catcher of the future here,” Rizzo told reporters.
“He’s got a great skill set. I loved, in a short stint here, the energy, defensive prowess and the hitting approach that he showed. He’s got a great deal of ability that is going to play well in Washington. Norris is a former All-Star that we think has bounce-back potential. We know the make-up, we’ve loved the kid for a long time and we’re a lot deeper now at catcher than we were a couple of days ago.”