Way back in early December, after the Washington Nationals acquired catcher Derek Norris from the San Diego Padres, MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko reported that Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nats’ front office might still be looking to add a catcher.
Norris, in spite of his struggles in 2016, seemingly gave the Nationals the everyday backstop they were after with Wilson Ramos departing via free agency.
But, “Not so fast,” Kubatko wrote at the time:
“There’s a sense in the industry that the Nationals will pursue [Matt] Wieters and flip Norris if they get him. Norris is a nice fallback option. It’s the proactive approach.”
Washington Post Nationals beat reporter Chelsea Janes wrote on Twitter, however, that from what she was hearing at the time, the Nationals were not considering signing the former Baltimore Orioles’ backstop, who was coming off a .243/.302/.409, 17 double, 17 home run, 1.7 FWAR campaign in his eighth season with the O’s:
On another note, Nationals not after Wieters, and do not plan to flip Norris. They don't expect him to be Ramos, but see value there.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) December 5, 2016
The prevailing sentiment in the nation’s capital was that the Nationals might be open to a deal “at the right price” while nationally, one reporter after another heard that it would eventually end up with Wieters signing in Washington.
ESPN.com’s Buster Olney wrote on December 21st that, “[s]peculation is rampant in the industry that eventually Matt Wieters will land with the Nationals.”
Just last week, Olney’s colleague at ESPN, Jayson Stark, wrote that he was once again hearing chatters about the Nats and Wieters working something out.
Stark talked to a source that said the Nationals might consider Wieters, but only if the 30-year-old catcher would 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
According to reports this morning, the Nats and Wieters have agreed on a 2-year/$21M deal that gives the Nationals depth behind the plate with (assuming the deal is made official at some point in the near future) Wieters, Norris, Jose Lobaton, Spencer Kieboom, Raudy Read and “Catcher of the Future” Pedro Severino all on the 40-Man roster, which was full after the Nationals signed first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind last week, so one way or another, roster moves will follow an official announcement.
So what’s next? There’s a prevailing sentiment out there would suggest that Kubatko’s original report might end up being right in the end:
A team that has been talking with the White Sox says they've been waiting for Nats to sign Wieters to rekindle David Robertson trade talks— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 21, 2017
@jaysonst White Sox have been looking for a catcher. Derek Norris or Pedro Severino could be potential fits.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) February 21, 2017
And this from Ken Rosenthal:
#Nationals will have obvious surplus of catchers once Wieters deal is official - Norris, Lobaton, Severino.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 21, 2017
Severino would likely be the top target for any team looking for a catcher, with his reputation as a strong defensive backstop and recent uptick on offense, which had been a question mark throughout his rise through the ranks of the Nationals’ organization.
There are also a few writers out there who see this as an “ownership move” rather than one made primarily by Rizzo and Co. in the front office, since the relationship between Wieters’ agent Scott Boras and the Lerners has been written about ad nauseam over the years following the Rafael Soriano and Max Scherzer deals (which were reportedly negotiations between the agent and Nats’ owners, though Rizzo, of course, had history with Scherzer):
Smells like a Lerner-Boras deal. One of reasons #Nationals dealt for Derek Norris in early December was to avoid Boras' push for Wieters https://t.co/Pf2A9DLTga— thom loverro (@thomloverro) February 21, 2017
#Nationals were landing spot most in industry expected for Wieters. Front office was lukewarm, but Boras relationship with owners is strong.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 21, 2017
Will what has been viewed as a weak winter of building by the Nationals, who have tried to sign a number of closers, but failed to land a big name closer, be thought of as a strong showing by Rizzo and Co. if the Nats can now deal from their catching depth to get a late inning arm like the White Sox’ David Robertson as speculated above?
Are you surprised the Nationals gave the 30-year-old Wieters two years and $21M?
Will they still be willing to take on the $25M left on the four-year/$46M contract Roberston signed with the Sox in 2014 if a deal can be worked out now?
Or would the White Sox have to eat some of that money in any potential deal?
The conversation from Washington to West Palm Beach, FL has certainly changed in the last few hours...