According to a report by FanRag’s Jon Heyman tonight, the Washington Nationals have placed veteran catcher Derek Norris on waivers. Norris, 28, was acquired from the San Diego Padres in December, returning to the organization that drafted him in the fourth Round in 2007, but the Nats subsequently signed free agent backstop Matt Wieters to a 1-year/$10.5M deal.
“There is no likelihood anyone would claim [Norris] and take his $4.2-million salary at this stage,” Heyman noted, adding that the, “... Nats are believed only responsible for 30 days termination pay (around $700K) if, as expected, they wind up releasing him.”
Norris put up a .186/.255/.328 line with 17 doubles and 14 HRs over 125 games and 458 plate appearances in a -0.4 fWAR campaign with the Padres in 2016, but the Nationals viewed the catcher as a potential bounce-back candidate, as GM Mike Rizzo explained after the deal was announced.
Norris and the Nationals avoided arbitration by agreeing on a 1-year/$4.2M deal back in mid-January, but as Heyman mentioned, “arbitration year salaries are generally not fully guaranteed. Teams can release those players and pay only one-sixth the contract if the player is released by March 15.”
With that date approaching, and Wieters signed, the Nationals have reportedly, “been trying to trade Norris but have not been successful doing so,” Heyman reported.
Through eight games in Grapefruit League action, Norris is 6 for 15 (.400/.400/.800) with two home runs. He talked to reporters after Wieters signed about keeping the same approach to his preparation this Spring in spite of the addition of the veteran backstop.
“I’m still going to fight for a starting job,” Norris said, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman:
“I don’t care if it’s Pudge Rodriguez in the prime of his career, or Yadier (Molina) or Matt Wieters. As of now, I’m still competing for a starting job. I’m trying to help a team win, and whatever transpires, transpires.”
Wieters, 30, had his preparation for the 2017 campaign set back by a cut on his arm this winter, but he’s expected to make his debut tomorrow afternoon when the Nationals take on the Houston Astros in West Palm Beach’s Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
In addition to Wieters, the Nationals have veteran backup Jose Lobaton and prospect Pedro Severino for depth behind the plate if they do part ways with Norris.