There’s “rampant” speculation across the industry that free agent catcher Matt Wieters will sign with the Nationals, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider required and recommended). The Nationals traded for ex-Padres starting catcher Derek Norris earlier this month, but Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com then noted that they could sign Wieters and flip Norris elsewhere. Of course, it’s worth pointing out that Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, is close with Nats owner Ted Lerner and president/general manager Mike Rizzo. The 30-year-old Wieters has spent his entire career in nearby Baltimore, but it may have replaced him Friday with the signing of Welington Castillo.
More offseason rumblings:
- The Mets checked in with the Rays on closer Alex Colome, though talks didn’t go far because Tampa Bay asked for either outfielder Michael Conforto or elite shortstop prospect Amed Rosario as a starting point, per Peter Gammons (via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). While the effective and cheap Colome would have helped shore up a Mets bullpen that will likely be without soon-to-be suspended closer Jeurys Familia for at least 30 games next season, it’s no surprise that they balked at the Rays’ asking price. Although Conforto took steps backward in 2016 after a great rookie campaign, the Mets regard the 23-year-old as nearly untouchable. The club feels similarly about Rosario, whom MLB.com ranks as the sport’s 11th-best prospect.
- After the Brewers nearly dealt outfielder Ryan Braun to the Dodgers in August, there was a report that the two teams would revisit talks during the winter. There hasn’t been much offseason chatter regarding Braun, though, and one team executive told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that clubs are wary of his past performance-enhancing drug use. “When a guy with that contract has been busted once, it’s hard to commit those dollars and those player resources because if he gets busted again, you lose all of your guys and you lose Braun,” the exec said. “Nobody is saying he’d do it again, but while he’s a very good impact player, it’s just a tough one.” Braun served a 65-game suspension for PEDs in 2013 and later admitted to using them during his NL MVP-winning season in 2011. He returned from the suspension in 2014 to post so-so numbers (by his standards), but the 33-year-old has gone back to being a high-end offensive performer since. Braun is owed $76MM over the next half-decade, including a $4MM buyout in 2021.
- Free agent designated hitter/first baseman Edwin Encarnacion’s agent, Paul Kinzer, is discussing a long-term deal with “several teams,” relays Paul Hoynes of cleveland.com. That probably doesn’t bode well for the Indians, observes Hoynes, who writes that the Tribe would rather ink the soon-to-be 34-year-old to a short-term contract. Encarnacion rejected the Blue Jays’ qualifying offer, which means signing him would cost a first-round draft choice. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal suggested earlier this week that the Indians would be hesitant to sacrifice a top pick for a stopgap. Between that and Hoynes’ report, it seems Cleveland is a long shot to land Encarnacion.