The Nationals officially announced the signing of four-time All Star Matt Wieters on Friday, on a two-year deal worth $21 million. The deal also includes a player option after the first season.
The 30-year-old will be the team’s everyday catcher, coming off a season where he hit .243 with 17 HR and 66 RBIs in 124 games.
Wieters established himself as one of the top power-hitting catchers in baseball over the course of his 8-year career in Baltimore, in addition to being a stellar defender behind the plate as a two-time Golden Glove winner.
Wieters has struggled with injures over the past three seasons, with the most significant injury being the Tommy-John surgery he underwent in 2014. He has failed to reach 500 at-bats or 20 home runs since 2013.
These durability concerns made it hard for Wieters to find a multi-year deal despite being the top catcher in free agency, after failing to earn a qualifying offer from Baltimore.
This move came as somewhat of a surprise to Nationals fans, as they seemed prepared to head into the season with a trio of catchers in Derek Norris, Jose Lobaton, and Pedro Severino. After getting great production out of the catching position last season with Wilson Ramos, who signed with the Rays earlier this offseason, it appears that the Nationals weren’t comfortable with their in-house options to fill this void.
Norris was the favorite to win the job, despite coming off a season where he hit just .186 with 14 HR for the Padres. Having just been acquired in early December, the Nationals will now look to move Norris before the start of the regular season.
Jose Lobaton should begin 2017 as the backup catcher, as the 23-year-old top prospect Pedro Severino will likely begin the season in Triple-A. Severino showed promise in limited major league action last season, but could use more seasoning having only spent half of a season in Triple-A.
24-year old first baseman Jose Marmolejos was placed on the 60-day DL to make room for Wieters on the 40-man roster.*
*Statistics from MLB.com
-Featured Image from the Washington Post