WASHINGTON — The Nationals have reportedly agreed to a deal with free-agent catcher Matt Wieters, per several sources. Jon Heyman was the first with news of the deal, and Ken Rosenthal and Chelsea Janes were the first to report the signing was official.
Wieters, who has played his entire eight-year career with the Baltimore Orioles, is a four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner. Over the course of his career, he has a .256/.318/.421 line with 117 home runs, 437 RBIs, 355 runs, 157 doubles, 285 walks and 651 strikeouts. He’s also a plus defensive catcher, with a 7.0 dWAR for his career
He has struggled to stay healthy in recent seasons. He played in 124 games in 2016 and earned an All-Star nod with a line of .243/.302/.409 to go with 17 home runs, 66 RBIs, 48 runs, 17 doubles, 32 walks and 85 strikeouts. Before that, he played in just 101 games over the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Wieters, 30, signifies a significant upgrade at catcher for the Nationals. Washington lost Wilson Ramos to the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason, a substantial loss after Ramos put together the best season of his career.
Not including Wieters, the Nationals have a crop of catchers that features Jose Lobaton, Derek Norris and Pedro Severino. Lobaton is a quality defensive catcher, but he offers little on offense. Norris has power but not much else. Severino has a lot of potential, but he’s just 23 years old and has 32 total major-league at-bats. Wieters would provide the team a high-end everyday catcher that would take the place of the current platoon system in place.
As many quickly noted, the signing would give Washington options with its other catchers. Severino likely has the highest trade value, and he could be shipped out in a deal to help bolster the bullpen, and he could be part of a trade to bring in a closer.
Even if that’s not the case, the Nationals are likely to part with one of the three non-Wieters catchers. It might simply be a move to help restock the farm system after dealing away several top prospects in the past year.
Either way, the signing should improve Washington’s roster immediately, and it could be a domino that helps improve other aspects of the organization.