Matt Wieters to Nationals: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2017

Oct 2, 2016; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) runs the bases after hitting a two-run homer in the top of the fourth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

After eight years with the Baltimore Orioles, catcher Matt Wieters will don a new uniform after agreeing to a deal with the Washington Nationals, the team announced Friday. 

Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and the Washington Post's Chelsea Janes reported details of Wieters' deal on Feb. 21:

This is the second straight year Wieters was a free agent. Last year, hoping to rebuild his value after playing just 101 games in 2014-2015, he accepted the Orioles' $15.8 million qualifying offer for 2016.

It wasn't a great return to form for Wieters in 2016, though he was named to the American League All-Star team for the fourth time since 2011. However, catching in the league was a mess for so many teams that he became an attractive option this offseason.

Per FanGraphs, Wieters was one of just six catchers in the American League to reach 450 plate appearances. (Evan Gattis of the Houston Astros was on the list despite playing more games at designated hitter than catcher.)

There are signs of concern for Wieters going forward, especially now that he is 30. Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun broke down some of the defensive numbers.

"Defensively, he threw out 35 percent of would-be base stealers, just above his career average, though he rated among the worst catchers in the league at framing pitches—that is, getting strike calls on pitches outside the strike zone and presenting balls inside the zone as strikes so they aren't called as balls," Meoli wrote.

Given the increased value of pitch framing, Wieters' inability to help get strikes called is going to hurt him as he continues to age and the arm strength that allows him to throw out 35 percent of base stealers starts to decline.

A return to the Orioles seemed unlikely. Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball (via MLB Trade Rumors) reported after the regular season ended that Wieters and the team didn't talk about an extension during a meeting, and both sides were "believed to be tens of millions of dollars apart" on any kind of deal.

As the offseason moved along, Wieters and the Nationals became one of those matches too perfect not to happen.

The Nationals lost their starting catcher from 2016 when Wilson Ramos, who is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered in September, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Derek Norris, who was awful with a .186/.255/.328 slash line for the San Diego Padres last season, isn't someone a team with World Series aspirations can start every day behind the plate.

Wieters never developed into the superstar he was pegged to be as a prospect coming up through the minors, but he's still a better option than anyone else Washington has at catcher in 2017. He gets to play on a team that figures to be in a pennant race while also rebuilding his value for the future.

Wieters is still capable of adding value in multiple areas. In the last four seasons in which he's played more than 100 games, he has hit at least 17 home runs, and he has thrown out at least 31 percent of attempted base stealers six times in the last seven seasons.

The bar is so low for catchers right now that Wieters is the best available option in a bad market and a worthy investment for Washington heading into 2017.


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