Matt Wieters entered the 2016 offseason as the top regarded catcher on the market, yet still remains a free agent as the end of January approaches.
The four-time All-Star has an unusual amount of power for the position, and is regarded as an excellent defender as a two-time Gold Glove winner. Injuries have become a problem for Wieters in recent years, as he has failed to reach 500 at bats since 2013.
Wieters did not receive a qualifying offer from the Orioles after hitting an underwhelming .243 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI’s in 124 games last season. Having spent his whole career with the club, the Orioles have already moved on from Wieters with the signing of Wellington Castillo early on in the offseason.
It’s unlikely that Wieters will get a multi-year deal, as he will likely earn a one-year “prove it” deal to show that he can stay healthy and possibly return to his old 20+ HR-self. Even with the offseason winding down, there are three teams that could really benefit from taking a flyer on the 30-year-old veteran.
Having finished 2016 with the most runs scored in the National League, the Rockies will enter 2017 an even stronger lineup after the addition of Ian Desmond. Their only glaring need on offense is at catcher, with the 24-year-old Tony Wolters expected to get most of the at-bats.
Wolters hit .259 with 3 HR in just over 200 at-bats last season, while struggling mightily outside of Coors Field.
The only way the Rockies will stay in the mix is if they compliment their poor pitching with stellar offensive production, and adding Wieters to that All-Star-filled lineup could be deadly. Having a gold glove veteran catcher calling games for their young and inexperienced pitching staff could also be very benefical.
Even if the Rockies are out of the mix mid-season, they could flip Wieters at the deadline if his production increases.
Wieters has 30 HR potential at Coors Field, which could give him the offensive boost that he will need to possibly earn a multi-year deal next offseason.
Colorado is certainly the best fit for Wieters given the potential mutual benefits that would come out of a deal, yet there are other teams around baseball that could be more aggressive in their pursuit of a starting catcher.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels got very little production out of the catcher’s position in 2016 between Jett Bandy, Geovany Soto, and Carlos Perez.
Martin Maldonado, who was acquired for Jett Bandy in December, is by no stretch the answer at catcher for the Angels, a career .217 hitter who has spent his career as a backup catcher.
For a team not quite in contention but not yet in rebuilding mode, the addition Matt Wieters would be a nice short-term, low-risk move for the Angels, who cannot afford to get stuck in any more long-term contracts. If Wieters returns to All-Star form, he could be a nice addition to a lineup that has already added Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin this offseason.
Weiter’s presence behind the plate could also help integrate their younger pitchers into the rotation, including Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, and Alex Meyer.
The Washington Nationals will enter the 2017 with a new catcher, losing longtime catcher Wilson Ramos to free agency after failing to reach an extension.
Ramos, who signed with the Rays in December, had a stellar 2016 for the Nationals before tearing his ACL in late September, hitting .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI’s and being named to the 2016 All-Star team.
The Nationals aren’t totally dry at the catching position, acquiring Derek Norris from San Diego early in the offseason. An All-Star in 2014, Norris is coming off maybe the worst season of his professional career, finishing 2016 with a dismal .186 batting average despite tying his career high with 14 home runs.
Pedro Severino has also shown promise in limited major league action, yet the 23-year-old could maybe use more time in the minors having only spent half a season in Triple-A.
The Nationals can most-closely match the production of Wilson Ramos by signing Matt Wieters, who will not hit for a high average but will match Ramos’ power production if he stays healthy.
In order to compete with other contending teams in the National League such as the Mets and Cubs and their elite rotations, the Nationals will need to field a very strong lineup. Having already added Adam Eaton, the downgrade of going from Wilson Ramos to Derek Norris could prove costly to their offensive production.
Wieters is still a downgrade from Ramos given their 2016 performances, yet not to the extent that Norris would be. This alone should make Wieters worthy of a one-year deal in Washington.*
*Statistics from MLB.com
-Featured image from CBS Sports