Posted on January 21, 2017 by Bryan Zarpentine
With time slowly running out until the start of spring training, free agent catcher Matt Wieters remains unsigned despite many considering him to be the top catcher available on the market this winter. Many have speculated that the Washington Nationals would ultimatley emerge as the favorites to sign Wieters, especially with his free agency dragging on for so long. However, recent reports out of Washington indicate that the Nationals unlikely to make a serious effort to sign Wieters after all.
Despite the fact that the Nationals traded for Derek Norris earlier this offseason with the expectation that he would become their regular catcher, the possibility of adding Wieters has lingered. The Nationals received significant production from starting catcher Wilson Ramos last year, and so it was reasonable to think Washington would seek a more offensive-minded catcher to help replace the production they won’t be getting from Ramos, who has signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Being a Scott Boras client, the Nationals have been in contact with Wieters’ representatives throughout the offseason, as much of Washington’s key players are represented by Boras. This has fueled the speculation Wieters could end up signing with the Nationals. However, there has been little to connect Wieters with the Nationals other than speculation that the two would make a good pair.
More recently, some insiders have reported that the Nationals may not have the money necessary to sign Wieters, even if his price is far lower than expected at the start of the offseason. Washington has been active on the trade market, adding both Norris and Adam Eaton, but they haven’t signed any free agent outside of Chris Halsey and they haven’t added much money to their payroll, as Eaton will make a modest $4 million in 2017. This adds to the speculation that the Nationals may not have the money to sign Wieters.
With the Nationals already having large sums of money committed to pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the years to come, there’s reason for them to be hesitant to commit money to Wieters on a long-term deal. Washington also has to be cognizant of the money it could take to keep Bryce Harper long term, as he’s two years from free agency. Even if Wieters is only commanding a two- or three-year contract, it could be too much of a commitment for the Nationals to make.
Additional reports indicate that the Nationals simply don’t like Wieters that much. There are indications that the Nationals are not overly impressed by his defense and fear that Wieters’ health could become an issue in the years to come. Such a stance would indicate that the Nationals never had much interest in signing Wieters, and that even a decline in his price hasn’t changed that.
In theory, Wieters remains a fit for the Nationals. But if Washington had the money and an interest in bolstering its lineup, it stands to reason that they would have already make a serious move to sign Wieters. Of course, until Wieters actually signs with a team, the Nationals figure to be a possible destination. But it’s almost as if someone forgot to tell the Nationals, leaving us with little clarity as to where Wieters will end up.