Although the Braves have three experienced major league catchers in the fold, free agent backstop Matt Wieters is on their target list, a club source told Jim Bowden of ESPN. Atlanta’s first reported interest in Wieters came back in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney noted then that the team was unlikely to meet agent Scott Boras’ asking price. It doesn’t seem Wieters’ market has since developed in an ideal fashion for him or Boras, though, which means the longtime Oriole might end up with a lesser deal than expected. That could enable the Braves to add him at a discounted cost and lead to a homecoming of sorts for Wieters, who played college baseball at Georgia Tech.
Baltimore is the only major league organization the 30-year-old Wieters has known, but the club may have closed the door on re-signing the four-time All-Star when it picked up Welington Castillo last week. Castillo had been on the radar of the Braves, who have Tyler Flowers, Anthony Recker and Tuffy Gosewisch on hand. General manager John Coppolella acknowledged Wieters’ ability Friday, but he indicated he’s content with his current trio of backstops.
“Matt (Wieters) is a talented player,” he told MLB Network Radio. “It would come down to price and years. We’re happy with what we have now.”
The Braves’ incumbent starter is the 30-year-old Flowers, while Recker and Gosewisch each have minor league options remaining. Flowers doesn’t carry Wieters’ track record or name recognition, but he was the superior option last season. In 325 plate appearances, the right-handed Flowers batted .270/.357/.420 (well above his lifetime mark of .232/.302/.384 in 1,720 PAs). Defensively, Flowers graded quite well in the pitch–framing department, as he’s done throughout his career, though a whopping 60 of 63 runners successfully stole on him. Those struggles were new for Flowers, who typically hovered around the league-average caught-stealing mark as a member of the White Sox from 2009-15.
Wieters has fared better than Flowers at gunning down would-be base stealers (23 of 66 last season and 33 percent to Flowers’ 23 percent during their careers), but he hasn’t been a well-regarded framer over the past few seasons. In a sport that’s putting more emphasis on catchers’ receiving skills, that’s potentially a reason Wieters is still on the market. It’s also not helping the switch-hitting Wieters’ cause that he slashed an underwhelming .243/.302/.409 in 464 trips to the plate last season after posting a more palatable .258/.320/.423 line in 3,004 PAs from 2009-15.