With SunTrust Park set to open in 2017, the Atlanta Braves have spent the offseason acquiring veteran players on short-term contracts so they can be as competitive as possible for their new ballpark's inaugural season. The signings don't block any prospects and they add respectability.
On Saturday, the Braves addressed their need at catcher by reportedly agreeing to a deal with free agent Kurt Suzuki. Contract terms are unknown -- I think it's safe to assume it's a one-year contract -- and the team has not yet confirmed the signing.
Braves sign catcher Kurt Suzuki, source tells SB Nation.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 21, 2017
Suzuki, 33, hit .258/.301/.403 (90 OPS+) with eight home runs in 106 games for the Twins last season. Minnesota went in a different direction this offseason and signed Jason Castro to a three-year deal to take over behind the plate.
With the Braves, Suzuki will pair with pitch-framing extraordinaire Tyler Flowers at catcher. Journeymen Tuffy Gosewisch and Anthony Recker were the team's other backup options. Instead, they'll be at Triple-A while Suzuki and Flowers get big-league time.
Aside from Gosewisch and Recker, the player most affected by Suzuki signing with the Braves is Matt Wieters, who remains unsigned as a free agent. Wieters had been connected to Braves all offseason because they needed a catcher and he has a connection to Atlanta after attending Georgia Tech.
Instead, the Braves opted for Suzuki, meaning they are no longer an option for Wieters. He'll have to look for employment elsewhere. And at this point of the offseason, with spring training a little more than three weeks away, his potential landing spots are dwindling.
While you can never rule out a #mysteryteam getting involved, these seem to be the best (only?) possible fits for Wieters at this point of the winter:
Chicago White Sox: The ChiSox currently have Omar Narvaez and Kevan Smith on the 40-man roster, plus Geovany Soto will be in camp as a non-roster player. Needless to say, there's an opening behind the plate. Whether the team is willing to go against their rebuild and sign Wieters is another matter. Having a veteran catcher isn't a bad thing for a rebuilding team, especially when you'll be trying to break in young arms like Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez.
Colorado Rockies: I am not convinced there are 30 catchers in baseball better than Tom Murphy. Murphy, who hit 24 home runs in 101 games between Triple-A and MLB in 2016, is penciled in as Colorado's starter this coming season -- pitch-framing specialist Tony Wolters will be his backup -- but the Rockies have a tendency to make unexpected moves (see: Desmond, Ian). Signing Wieters would certainly qualify as unexpected.
Los Angeles Angels: Angels GM Billy Eppler is a big believer in pitch-framing, which is why he traded for Martin Maldonado earlier this offseason and continues to stick with Carlos Perez despite his lack of offense. The pitch-framing numbers don't like Wieters at all, so he doesn't fit in that sense. Then again, the offensive upgrade over Perez could more than make up for that.
Milwaukee Brewers: To me, the smart move would be playing Andrew Susac at catcher. He's a former top prospect who was stuck behind Buster Posey with the Giants before coming over in the Will Smith trade last year. Susac is already 26, so it's pretty much now or never. If the rebuilding Brewers aren't going to give him a chance to play every day this year, when will they? Wieters could be a fit here in the sense Milwaukee doesn't have an established starting catcher. It seems unlikely to happen though.
New York Mets: The best fit for Wieters, in my opinion. Travis d'Arnaud, as talented as he is, has had big time injury problems throughout his career. Backup Rene Rivera is a defensive specialist and Triple-A depth Kevin Plawecki hasn't done anything notable in his admittedly limited big-league action. Wieters would pair well with d'Arnaud, and allow the Mets to rest both regularly to keep them fresh and productive.
Washington Nationals: The next best fit for Wieters. The Nationals did acquire Derek Norris earlier this offseason, though he shouldn't be any obstacle for Wieters. Ditto backup Jose Lobaton or third stringer Pedro Severino. Keep in mind GM Mike Rizzo has a history of signing Scott Boas clients late in the offseason. Max Scherzer is the most notable example. Rafael Soriano and Edwin Jackson are other recent examples too.
Eventually some team is going to sign Wieters. Even though he didn't have a great season offensively in 2016, he's still a solid starting catcher, and those guys are hard to find.
My money is on him winding up in Washington, though we shouldn't rule out the Mets or even the Rockies. And who knows, maybe a mystery team will come out of nowhere to get involved. It's happened before.