Just days before their first spring training game, the Washington Nationals made a move to improve their depth at catcher.
On Tuesday, the Nationals agreed to a two-year, $21 million deal with free agent catcher Matt Wieters. The four-time All-Star will now assume the role of the team’s starting catcher, a position occupied by Wilson Ramos last season. Ramos was also a free agent this offseason, and signed with the Tampa Bay Rays back in December.
Wieters has spent his entire eight-year Major League career with the Baltimore Orioles. The 30-year-old switch-hitter is thought of to be one of the better hitting catchers in baseball. In 124 games last season, he batted .243 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs. The best offensive season in his career thus far came in 2012, when he hit .249 and had 23 homers while collecting 83 RBIs.
Not only is Wieters a good hitter, but he is also a solid defensive player. He has a good arm and does not usually make many errors. Wieters is a two-time Gold Glove Award winner. The Nationals are getting a guy who is a good all-around player. Most catchers do not fit this description.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo knew that he was going to have to sign another catcher once Ramos left. Ramos had been a big part of the Nationals for the past few years. He was one of their best offensive players. Replacing him was not going to be easy, but Rizzo did a nice job of brining in other talented players at the position.. In December, the Nationals traded Pedro Avila to the San Diego Padres in exchange for catcher Derek Norris. Even though he has been a solid hitter throughout his career, Norris had a rough season in 2016. He batted just .186 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs. Before the Wieters signing, it was looking like Norris was going to be the Nationals Opening Day catcher. Now however, he is most likely going to be a backup. Between Wieters and Norris, the Nationals have two decent power-hitting catchers
It is a little surprising that Wieters remained a free agent for as long as he did. Good hitting catchers are hard to find, and there are usually plenty of teams looking for one. As the offseason went on and nobody signed him, Wieters’ price dropped. This allowed Rizzo to come in late in the game and get a good deal on him. After adding this final piece, the Nationals appear to be ready to go for the 2017 season.