The 2016 plan for Matt Wieters was to enjoy one more year in Camden Yards and hopefully have a healthy year, put up big power numbers, prove he was good enough behind the plate and get a new long-term deal this winter. Surprisingly, the defense came back quicker than the bat as Wieters looked like his old self behind the plate, but struggled to hit. He nearly posted career lows in each of the triple slash categories and his counting category totals were the lowest they have been in a full season since 2010. The power numbers come mostly from the left side while his better batting average has typically come from the right side. He is one of the best catchers in a thin free agent market, so he will get his money, but Wieters needs to land in a hitter-friendly environment to stabilize his power production.
Wieters and the Nationals agreed to terms on a two-year, $21 million deal Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports. The 30-year-old was an All-Star for the Orioles last season, but the organization did not express much interest in bringing him back, and Wieters will now join the Nationals on a two-year contract, which includes an opt-out after Year 1. While Wieters has slipped a bit on the defensive end, he remains a strong hitter in what should be a dangerous lineup, and he's coming off of a season in which he hit .243 to go with 66 RBI across 423 at-bats. Wieters figures to immediately jump Derek Norris as the Nationals' starting catcher, and it's possible Norris could now be moved as he attempts to bounce back from a disastrous 2016 season, during which he hit just. 186 in 415 at-bats for the Padres.
The Rays have offered Wieters a contract, though it's likely for only one year and much less money than the catcher desires, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Wieters remains unsigned for many reasons. Questions probably still exist about his health, though he and agent Scott Boras said he's fine. His recent poor pitch-framing has probably made him less desirable, but that metric isn't perfect and ideally should lay some blame on an erratic 2016 Orioles pitching staff. Tampa Bay could use Wieters' offensive upside, which remains realistic, though maybe not at the lofty levels he enjoyed as a prospect and young player. Still, the Rays are a logical suitor: Wieters would slot in at catcher and designated hitter. He could remain in the lineup even after Wilson Ramos (knee) returns, and that timetable remains up in the air. Assuming Wieters' health checks out and he lands a deal before the season starts, fantasy players could find a bargain if his price keeps sinking.
Wieters' agent Scott Boras said the catcher didn't suffer nerve damage and has participated in baseball activities following his November accident at home that resulted in a lacerated left forearm, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That can likely be ruled out as a reason why Wieters hasn't found a team yet, and it's a positive to hear he's physically up to par. Still, fantasy players can't peg him with a proper value until he lands with a new club.
The Orioles haven't participated in any recent discussions with Wieters' agent Scott Boras, according to MASNSports' Roch Kubatko. Baltimore appears to be happy with their catcher picture. Welington Castillo enters as the starter, with Caleb Joseph or Francisco Pena backing him up, while top prospect Chance Sisco likely sits at Triple-A Norfolk waiting to arrive sometime this year. Wieters likely will find a home in the coming weeks -- perhaps the Angels -- but valuing him for fantasy drafts is a head-scratching chore while he's still a free agent.
The Rays are still in pursuit of one more hitter before camp opens, and Wieters (forearm) is among those they might be looking at, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The report doesn't quote anyone from the Rays, but presumably Marc Tompkins, the author of the article, has been in touch with the team on background. The Rays signed Wilson Ramos as a free agent this offseason, but he won't be ready to return from his knee injury until midseason, so an opening for Wieters remains on a one-year deal.