The Rays “continue to have conversations” about the possibility of adding catcher Derek Norris, whom the Nationals placed on waivers over the weekend, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times first connected the two sides recently. Washington was known to be shopping Norris aggressively after signing Matt Wieters but, unable to find any takers for his $4.2MM salary, placed him on waivers. They’ll be on the hook for 30 days of his salary, or about $688K. (The remainder of his salary, as is the case with the majority of arbitration agreements, was not fully guaranteed.) Once he clears waivers, Norris would be a free agent that is free to sign anywhere for any amount.
However, the Rays are also wary of interrupting their camp and inserting a new catcher into the mix after all of the work that incumbent options like Luke Maile and Curt Casali have put in with the staff, per Olney. Tampa Bay also has veteran Wilson Ramos on the roster, though he’ll miss a significant portion of the season as he continues to rehab from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, which he suffered late last September.
Norris brings more offensive upside to the table than either Maile or Casali, though he’s coming off the worst season of his career. In 458 plate appearances with the Padres last season, Norris batted .186/.255/.328. Norris did tie his career best with 14 homers, but his strikeout rate continued to escalate, ballooning to a career-worst 30.3 percent. The 28-year-old did post strong framing numbers — a trait that the Rays value highly — and has a career 26 percent caught-stealing rate (though he checked in at a below-average 21 percent in that regard last year).
It’s not yet known where else Norris will draw interest if and when he clears waivers and becomes a free agent, though one speculative fit could be the Rockies, following today’s news that projected backup Tom Murphy suffered a fractured forearm.