If the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins are actually, as rumored, talking about a potential deal for catcher J.T. Realmuto, Nats’ General Manager Mike Rizzo, as per usual, gave nothing away when he was asked about a potential upgrade to the catching corps in D.C. this morning in an MLB Network Radio interview.
Rizzo had his poker face fixed when he spoke with Sirius/XM’s Power Alley hosts, Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette.
“We’ve got Matt Wieters,” Rizzo said when asked about the rumors. “We think that he’s going to have a bounce-back season this year. A guy that the pitchers love throwing to. Commands the pitching staff, really handles the game. Had a down offensive season for himself last year. I think he’s a rebound candidate. He’s in great shape right now.”
[ed. note - “Yes, we know this is all similar to the stuff Rizzo was saying about Derek Norris last winter before the Nats eventually ended up adding Wieters on what reports say ended up being an ownership-and-Scott-Boras-driven signing.”]
Another rumored target, Alex Avila, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, so if the Nats are interested in adding to their catching corps, they might have to act quickly.
Rizzo reiterated today, that the Nationals, as of now, plan on going with Pedro Severino as Wieters’ backup.
Both Rizzo and Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez have talked this winter about trying to cut back on Wieters’ starts to try to keep him healthy throughout the entire season after he put up a .225/.288/.344 line with 20 doubles and 10 home runs in a -0.2 fWAR campaign in his first season with the Nationals after signing a 1-year/$10.5M deal that included a player option for 2018 at another $10.5M.
“And don’t forget, [Wieters] signed very, very late in the offseason, we were into Spring Training at the time,” Rizzo continued, noting that an accident at home that resulted in a significant cut to Wieters’ forearm set his preparation back even further.
“[He] never really had an opportunity to prepare for Spring Training because of the laceration he had on his forearm, so he was really coming in really behind the eight-ball last year and didn’t prepare like he needed to prepare for the season and I think it showed at the end.
“He started off really fast and then kind of faded at the end. We’re looking for him with a full offseason to prepare, I saw him at our NatsFest here in the winter, he looks terrific, in great shape, and I think he’s got a little chip on his shoulder and [is] ready to show people that he’s the Matt Wieters of multiple All-Stars and multiple Gold Gloves.”
Asked if there was any part of the roster he is still looking to upgrade this winter, Rizzo said that as always, you can never have enough pitching.
“I think the easy comment there is nobody has got enough pitching,” he said.
“We’re always looking for pitching. Starting pitching, relief pitching, right-handed, left-handed. We could always use that and any type of upgrades we’re always on the hunt for that. But starting pitching is key, that’s the collateral of champions and that’s something that we’re always looking for.”