Matt Wieters is still looking for a new team, and the catcher is short one more potential landing spot now that Braves have agreed to sign Kurt Suzuki. Atlanta had long been cited as a candidate to sign Georgia Tech alum Wieters; just under 30% of MLBTR readers predicted the Braves as Wieters’ next team in a poll last month.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick explored the Wieters market in a series of tweets (1, 2, 3, 4), including the news that there is some sentiment within the Orioles organization to re-sign Wieters to a one-year deal. Under this arrangement, Wieters would split time with Welington Castillo behind the plate while also getting some at-bats as a DH. While Wieters is popular with Baltimore’s on-field staff, however, Crasnick describes the O’s as “a long shot” for Wieters since the team’s analytics staff has reservations.
Wieters would certainly be an upgrade over current backup catcher Caleb Joseph, and a one-year deal would give the Orioles future flexibility at catcher — Castillo has a player option for 2018 and top prospect Chance Sisco is close to being ready for the big leagues. Wieters would still carry a not-insignificant price tag even on a one-year contract, and the Orioles might not be keen to spend that much on the catcher position when Joseph is still in the fold at a low price and could rebound from his dismal 2016 season.
A timeshare-esque situation in Baltimore also wouldn’t necessarily help Wieters’ chances at scoring his sought-after multi-year contract next winter, so he could prefer a clearer path to playing time. An MLB source with knowledge of the catching market tells Crasnick that the Angels, Rockies and perhaps the Reds seem to be the best fits for Wieters on a one-year deal. The Angels have reportedly had some internal talks about Wieters already, while the Rockies could use a more established catcher in lieu of their planned Tony Wolters/Tom Murphy platoon.
The Reds are a new name in the mix, and their interest in Wieters or any other established catcher hinges on Devin Mesoraco’s health. Mesoraco underwent hip surgery last summer and was scheduled to begin catching drills around this point in January, so more should be known about his injury situation in the next few weeks. Since signing a four-year, $28MM extension after the 2014 season, Mesoraco has barely been able to get onto the field, playing just 39 games total in 2015-16 due to shoulder surgery and procedures on both his left and right hips. Tucker Barnhart handled most of the work last year in Mesoraco’s absence, hitting .257/.323/.379 in 420 PA and posting strong blocking numbers according to Baseball Prospectus, though both BP and StatCorner rank Barnhart as a below-average pitch framer. Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner is the only other catcher on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster.
The Diamondbacks and Nationals have both been linked to Wieters at various times this winter, though Crasnick echoes other recent reports in saying that the Nats don’t seem to have much interest in Wieters. After Washington acquired Derek Norris, there were rumors that the Nationals could sign Wieters and then flip Norris, though one would think that the Nats could’ve just signed Wieters rather than trade for Norris in the first place. It doesn’t seem like D.C. is a fit at the moment, though “you can never rule out the Nationals with Scott Boras clients,” Crasnick writes.