5:08pm: Nothing has fundamentally changed about Washington’s stance with regard to Wieters, according to a report from Chelsea Janes and Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post. If the veteran backstop lowers his asking price, both in terms of years and dollars, then the Nationals could conceivably bite, per the report. At present, though, the Nats still aren’t “heavily” pursuing Wieters.
9:18am: Catcher Matt Wieters has been connected to the Nationals on and off this winter (and was linked to Washington in the week he spent weighing a 2015 qualifying offer that he ultimately accepted, as well), and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports writes today that the Nats are still interested in the longtime Orioles backstop. Washington joins the division-rival Braves in what looks to be a limited market for Wieters at this juncture, according to Heyman. He adds that while the Braves have been in touch with agent Scott Boras regarding Wieters, it’s not clear whether they’ll ultimately make a push to sign the former Georgia Tech standout.
The Nationals already have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton set to shoulder the load behind the plate this year, though there were rumors shortly after the Norris deal that the Nats could still sign Wieters and possibly flip Norris elsewhere. The Washington Post reported shortly thereafter that the team had no intentions of pursuing Wieters or flipping Norris, though that was three weeks ago and a team’s plans obviously have some degree of ebb and flow over the course of a long offseason. ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote not long after that there was still “rampant” speculation throughout the industry that Wieters would end up in D.C. And just two days ago, MASNsports.com’s Pete Kerzel suggested that Wieters wasn’t a logical fit for the Nats, who are prioritizing pitch framing in their catchers.
Certainly, there’s been an excessive amount of back-and-forth when it comes to the Nats and Wieters, and I’d imagine that it’ll continue until he signs, be it with the Nationals or another team. I’ll add that it also seems at least plausible that the Nats could look to flip Lobaton rather than Norris following a theoretical Wieters deal. A switch-hitting catcher with one year of cheap club control remaining could hold appeal to clubs looking for some experience behind the plate but not wishing to allocate significant finances toward the need. That’s sheer speculation, though.
Heyman notes that on paper, the Rockies, D-backs and Mets all look like possible fits for Wieters, but there’s been little to no indication that any of the three will pursue him to this point. The Rockies have suggested that they’re comfortable with younger options Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy, while the D-backs are looking more at part-time options and the Mets are focused on improving the bullpen and finding a taker for Jay Bruce in a flooded market for corner bats.
In a recent poll, nearly 30 percent of MLBTR readers expected the Braves to ultimately sign Wieters, with the Rockies (18 percent) and Nationals (14 percent) standing out as the other most popular landing spots. Given the relatively limited number of teams looking to spend on catchers, it’s fair to wonder just how far Wieters’ market will drop. Boras has presumably been looking for a lucrative multi-year offer for Wieters in a season that saw him reestablish his durability behind the plate and also belt 17 home runs, but Wieters’ questionable OBP and pitch-framing marks have dampened interest in his services.
If Wieters is willing to take a one- or two-year deal, it’s easy to imagine a number of teams jumping into the mix. A one-year pact would allow him to enter next year’s free-agent market, where Jonathan Lucroy is the clear top asset. Wieters, though, could easily be the No. 2 catcher on the market, with only Welington Castillo looking like a possible threat to that status.