In writing about why veteran catcher Matt Wieters remains unsigned and which teams might benefit from adding him to their roster, FOXSports.com’s bow-tied reporter Ken Rosenthal mentioned the Washington Nationals as one team that could use an upgrade behind the plate.
“Trade acquisition Derek Norris had a .583 OPS for the Padres last season,” Rosenthal noted. “Jose Lobaton is strictly a backup. Pedro Severino is 23.”
When Washington acquired Norris this winter, coming off a .186/.255/.328, 17 double, 14 home run, -0.4 fWAR season in San Diego in 2016, Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about the now-28-year-old catchers as a potential bounce-back candidate after the catcher’s down year at the plate.
“The skill set, when evaluated, the skill set is still there,” Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings.
“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.”
Norris, of course, is an ‘07 Nationals’ 4th Round pick, who was dealt to the Oakland A’s in the Gio Gonzalez deal in 2011, traded to the Padres in 2014 and reacquired by Rizzo and the Nats this winter. Rizzo likes his defensive work as well.
“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.”
While Rosenthal suggests the Nationals could improve their catching corps by adding Wieters, he wrote last month that, “the front office apparently views other needs as more pressing.”
He also noted that the Nats have been willing to make big offers this winter, like the reported 5-year/$80M contract they offered Kenley Jansen before he returned to LA, though he suggested that, “... that appeared to be a special circumstance.”
“Free-agent catcher Matt Wieters could fit into the same category,” Rosenthal added, “... given the strong relationship between his agent, Scott Boras, and Nats ownership,” but, as he mentioned, other needs (like relief and bench help) were considered more pressing.
While the Nationals are still reportedly interested in relief help, they bolstered the bench with the addition of Adam Lind, whose one-year deal was made official last night.
Are Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office still (if they ever were) considering adding Wieters to the mix?
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark talked to a source that said they might consider Wieters, but only if the 30-year-old catcher will take a one-year deal:
A source who spoke with the Nationals was told they've maintained interested in Matt Wieters, but doubtful they'd go beyond a one-year deal— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 15, 2017
Stark was asked if he thought Wieters really represented an upgrade over Norris:
Hit better last year. Threw better. I'd make that bet. https://t.co/8M2Saq8XE0— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 15, 2017
Boras’s pitch for teams that might still be considering signing Wieters? You need a catcher like him the backstop’s agent explained:
“Catching criteria in the playoffs is outcome-determinative,” Boras said. “This is the one position where you can say, ‘If you don’t have this, most likely you will not be in the playoffs.’ A young catcher, near-no chance. A catcher who can’t throw, near-no chance. If you’ve got young pitchers, you’d better have a very veteran catcher.
“If owners really want to win and they’ve got a young pitching staff, you better make sure you’ve got something like this. And when you go down and look at the teams right now, there are eight or nine teams who don’t have this component clearly.”
Are the Nationals one of those teams? Is Rizzo (or are the Lerners) buying what Boras is selling this winter?