Prior to the 2016 season, Matt Wieters took a $15.8 million dollar qualifying offer to stay in Baltimore. There were rumors last offseason that swirled around saying that he could end up signing with the Washington Nationals who are about 30 miles down I-95 south. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag Sports reports that not only are the Nationals interested again, but their NL East division rival Atlanta Braves are as well.
Wieters did not receive the qualifying offer this offseason from the Orioles and he is undoubtedly the best available catcher remaining in free agency. He spent the first eight years of his career with the Orioles, so signing with the Nats wouldn't be a long-distance move. Also, Wieters attended Georgia Tech, so he's familiar with the Atlanta area too.
The Nationals lost all-star starting catcher Wilson Ramos to free agency earlier this offseason, after they decided not to offer him a qualifying offer. Shortly thereafter they acquired Derek Norris from the Padres to take over behind the dish. Norris, Jose Lobaton, and Pedro Severino are their top three options at catcher. None present a big challenge for Wieters, however if he chooses to go to D.C..
Although Wieters may sound like a sexy option to being behind the plate, Washington could prefer to stick with their in-house options, particularly after giving up a prospect to acquire Norris from San Diego. The Braves, however, are very much open to adding another catcher. They were in strong talks to acquire and bring back Brian McCann from the Yankees before he was traded to the Houston Astros.
Atlanta is a better fit in my mind. Right now, the Braves catching platoon includes Tyler Flowers starting, with journeymen Anthony Recker and Tuffy Gosewisch as backup options. Wieters would be an instant upgrade over Recker and Gosewisch. He'd be a solid veteran backstop to help lead the club's young pitchers through the rebuild for the Braves going forward.
Wieters' throwing from behind the plate has rebounded quite well following the elbow reconstruction. He's thrown out an impressive 34 percent of baserunners the last two years, but his .243/.302/.409 batting line in 2016 represents the worst offensive statistics of his career. This combo of recent TJ surgery and subpar hitting numbers this past season could hesitate teams from giving him an offer.
With the Minnesota Twins signing Jason Castro to a $24.5 million dollar contract through three years, Wieters is patiently hoping to get a similar deal. However, the Nationals and Braves among other teams are not too desperate to bring aboard another catcher, so I would not be surprised to see this drag on right before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.null