The Nationals have placed catcher Derek Norris on waivers, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman. If no one claims Norris, the likelihood is the Nationals will release him, per Heyman. While Norris is slated to make $4.2MM this year, the Nationals will only be responsible for 30 days’ termination pay (~$700K) if they cut him.
Norris has had two stints with the Nationals, who selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, but hasn’t been able to crack their big league roster. The Nationals traded Norris, then a prospect, to the Athletics in 2011 in a deal for left-hander Gio Gonzalez. Washington subsequently re-acquired Norris this past December from the Padres in a move that saw the Nationals send right-hander Pedro Avila to San Diego.
After the Nats reunited with Norris, the assumption was he’d end up as their starting backstop this year. But rumors that they’d sign free agent Matt Wieters persisted throughout the offseason, and that possibility came to fruition when the Nationals inked the longtime Oriole to a two-year, $21MM guarantee (with an opt-out after 2017) in late February. As a result, Washington has tried to trade Norris, who took its acquisition of Wieters in stride.
“It doesn’t change much for me other than the fact that it may or may not be the teammates I’ll be playing with,” said Norris. “So on my end it’s control what I can control. Go out there and play my games and get ready for a season.”
Considering no one has swung a deal for Norris, it’s clear his salary has been prohibitive on the heels of a disastrous 2016 season. In his second and final year in San Diego, Norris posted an ugly .186/.255/.328 line with a career-worst 30.3 percent strikeout rate in 458 plate appearances. Historically, though, Norris has fared respectably. Between his 2012 debut and 2015, he slashed an above-average .246/.336/.392 in 982 PAs with the A’s and Padres. The 28-year-old is also coming off his second straight season in which both Baseball Prospectus and StatCorner assigned him plus pitch-framing marks. It stands to reason, then, that teams looking to make improvements behind the plate before Opening Day will court Norris if he reaches free agency.
With Norris in the Nats’ rearview mirror, they’ll enter the season with Wieters and Jose Lobaton as their backstops. They also have Triple-A prospect Pedro Severino, whose name has come up in trade rumors.