While the deal is still awaiting a physical to be finalized, we learned yesterday that the Nationals had agreed to a two-year, $21MM pact with Matt Wieters that also allows him to opt out of the second season (and second $10.5MM payday). As the Nationals wrap up that move, and begin looking ahead to perhaps one more roster tweak to come, it seemed like an opportune time to take two quick polls.
By most accounts, the Nats paid less than Wieters was expected to earn entering the winter. Despite lower-than-expected demand, there were other suitors still in play, so perhaps also the deal reflects a still-active market. And in the final analysis, it’s an objectively reasonable price tag that reflects Wieters’s abilities but also his limitations.
Still, market-value deals often make more sense for some teams than others. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs isn’t sold that the Nats were the right team to make a play for Wieters, given the presence of Derek Norris, Jose Lobaton, and Pedro Severino. On the other hand, there may well be other considerations — the front office’s assessment of Wieters’s pitcher-handling and pitch-calling abilities, a scouting assessment of his hitting, etc. — that could impact the analysis. (There’s plenty more discussion of Wieters’s overall value in the above-linked post on his signing, as well as in Cameron’s piece.)
Then, there’s the question of what the team does next. This signing would look somewhat different if, as various reports have hinted, the team goes on to move Norris (along with his $4.2MM arbitration salary and remaining season of control) as opposed to Lobaton (a lower-upside veteran who is also cheaper at $1.575MM and set for free agency next winter). And it would be another matter entirely if the move was designed in part to free up Severino, who currently features as a part of the organization’s long-term planning at the position, to a acquire a late-inning reliever.
Regardless of what happens with Severino, it’s likely that the team will still need to decide between Norris and Lobaton as a second backstop. Though both Wieters and Lobaton are switch-hitters, the former has thrived traditionally against lefties, while the latter has been better against right-handed pitching. Norris, meanwhile, has wide platoon splits that suggest he’s most effective against southpaws.
Since the Nats’ next step impacts the assessment of the deal with Wieters (assuming it’s finalized), we won’t ask a simple yes/no on whether it’s a good signing. Indeed, there are alternative viewpoints on which ensuing transaction truly matters most in assessing this deal, since it’s reasonable to argue that any trade involving Severino really isn’t dependent upon the addition of another short-term, non-optionable veteran. Instead, then, we’ll ask: how would you characterize the move at this point?
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