Tepid interest from other clubs at the trade deadline kept Derek Norris in San Diego during the second half of 2016, as his .186/.255/.328 line was easily the worst he's produced since becoming a big league player in 2012 with the A's. Defensively, he's become a steady option behind the dish, but his struggles last season included a career-high 30.3 percent strikeout rate and the second consecutive season with a walk rate (7.9 percent BB%) below his career norm (9.2 percent). Two injuries may have contributed to his struggles -- the first was a hand contusion suffered after he was hit by a pitch in May, and the second was a left elbow injury sustained after he was struck by a bat while catching in early July -- and the only semblance of typical production came in between those ailments when he hit .273/.318/.506 with five of his 14 home runs in June. The Padres dealt Norris to Washington in the offseason, although he'll have to settle for a backup catching gig as long as Matt Wieters is healthy.
Norris officially signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Rays on Saturday, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. One week after being released by the Nationals, Norris found a landing spot in Tampa Bay. In signing Norris, the Rays have made a notable improvement to their catching depth. According to Topkin, Norris is expected to be the Rays' regular catcher. Norris struggled at the dish last season, slashing .186/.255/.328, but he's just one year removed from a season in which he had 49 extra-base hits.
Norris is expected to sign a one-year contract with the Rays, Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports reports. The free agent backstop reportedly chose Tampa Bay over four other suitors, with his main reason being playing time. With starting catcher Wilson Ramos out until at least July, Norris will have a clear opportunity to win a spot as the Rays' starting catcher to start the season. He'll compete with Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and non-roster invitee Jesus Sucre to earn the starting spot, though the winner will eventually be relegated to backup duty once Ramos returns. The deal is pending a physical, so the Rays don't have to make a corresponding 40-man move until Norris passes.
Norris was released by the Nationals on Wednesday, Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports. After signing a one-year contract in November, the 28-year-old leaves Washington without even making it to Opening Day. With Jose Lobaton set to be the backup to Matt Wieters, there simply was no space in the lineup for Norris, who is coming off a miserable 2016 campaign in which he hit .186 over 125 games for the Padres. He'll look to latch on elsewhere before the season begins.
Norris has been placed on waivers by Washington, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports Network reports. Norris had been in line to start as Washington's catcher until the team signed Matt Wieters, who is expected to start. With Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino around, the Nationals didn't feel a need to keep Norris around. If he goes unclaimed, which is likely due to Norris' $4.2 million price tag, the Nationals are expected to release him.
Norris might be released soon by the Nationals because it's unlikely another team will take on his $4 million salary in a trade, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Washington signed Matt Wieters recently, and Jose Lobaton looks like the backup. The Nats also have a decent prospect in Pedro Severino and Spencer Kieboom, if he clears waivers after being designated for assignment Thursday. Washington would have to eat around $700,000 if it cuts him, but it makes sense to do so after the Nats brought Wieters aboard. Finding a new club, of course, could regenerate some semblance of fantasy value for Norris, who toiled with a .186 batting average last year after displaying decent pop throughout his five-year career.