The Washington Nationals are pushing all their chips to the center of the table. The team went all-in Tuesday, agreeing to a two-year, $21 million deal with free-agent catcher Matt Wieters, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The deal contains an opt-out after one year.
The move is a surprise considering the Nationals traded for Derek Norris in December, and it was assumed he would open the season as the team’s starting catcher. Behind him, the team had Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino, who hit an impressive .321 over 16 games last year. Catcher wasn’t a major need for Washington.
But as Wieters remained on the market, it became clear he wasn’t going to receive a huge free-agent deal. Instead, the 30-year-old settled on another pillow contract. Wieters will make $10 million in 2017, but can opt out of his deal at the end of the season. If he decides to remain with the club, Wieters will make $11 million in 2018.
While Wieters’ numbers weren’t impressive last season, he’s an upgrade over Norris offensively. Wieters hit .243/.302/.409, with 17 home runs, over 464 plate appearances with the Baltimore Orioles last year. Norris hit .186/.255/.328, with 14 home runs over 458 plate appearances with the San Diego Padres.
This move indicates how serious the Nationals are about winning a World Series before their current contention window closes. Wieters is a luxury. The team didn’t need him, but signed him anyway.
The difference between him and Norris might be an extra win or two over the course of the season. While that might not seem like much to most clubs, for the Nationals, that modest upgrade might be the difference between playing golf in October and hoisting a World Series trophy.
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