In spite of the fact that they had already acquired catcher Derek Norris last winter, the Washington Nationals still signed Matt Wieters to a 1-year/$10.5M deal that included a player option for 2018 at another $10.5M (with some of the money deferred).
“He fills a lot of things for us,” Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo told reporters last Spring, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo.
“He makes our lineup longer, deeper, more dangerous, and he’s a guy that’s got a great resume and a great track record.”
Norris was eventually released and Wieters took over as the No. 1 catch in the nation’s capital.
Wieters was coming off a down year in 2016, in his eighth season in Baltimore with the Orioles who drafted and developed him, putting up a .243/.302/.409 line, 17 doubles, 17 home runs, and 89 wRC+ in 125 games and 464 plate appearances, over which he was worth 1.8 fWAR. He suffered a laceration on his left forearm last winter as well, which delayed his signing further.
In the first year of his deal with the Nationals, Wieters got off to a hot start with a .301/.400/.534 line, five doubles, and four home runs in April.
Between May and October, however, he posted a combined .206/.261/.301 line with 15 doubles and six home runs, leaving him with a .225/.288/.344 line overall, and 62 wRC+ in 123 games and 465 PAs.
Defensively, Wieters posted a .993 fielding percentage, allowed five passed balls (two more than he’d allowed in the previous three seasons), threw out 19 of 76 base stealers (for a 25% caught stealing %), and committed eight errors, one fielding and seven throwing.
This afternoon, the Nats announced that the now-31-year-old catcher, who’ll turn 32 in May, exercised his option and will return to D.C. rather than test free agency again. Will the Nationals stick with the backstop as their No. 1 catcher?
Jose Lobaton, who served as Wieters’ backup in 2017, is a free agent this winter.
Pedro Severino and Raudy Read, both 24 years old, are the top catching prospects in the Nats’ system.
Will one of the two step up and claim the backup role in the majors, or will Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office supplement their catching corps with an addition?