Catcher Matt Wieters moved down I-95 and it feels weird
The press release came fast and late in the offseason but on February 21st, the Washington Nationals agreed to terms with catcher Matt Wieters on a two-year $21 million deal.
The former 5th overall pick and “franchise-altering” catching prospect of the Baltimore Orioles made a move down the interstate into the capital beltway and it does not feel quite right yet. We are three games into the 2017 season and I still cannot believe Wieters is a National. I remember in 2007 going to Frederick Keys games (High Class A affiliate of the Orioles) and watching a young Matt Wieters catch and start his journey to potential superstardom. Wieters was the first big time prospect I remember seeing at a minor league game.
Wieters made his MLB debut in 2009 at the age of 23 and looked like a natural in the orange and black. After five years of improving and solid production, Wieters got hit by the injury bug and played in 101 games in 2014 and 2015, yet, the Orioles offered him a tender which he signed quickly. A solid 2016 campaign later, Wieters was set to hit free-agency again and this time without a tender from Baltimore. The Orioles kept Wieters in a holding pattern all winter long without a deal.
There was little interest in the four-time All Star and two-time Gold Glover. With the Nationals not resigning their own starting catcher, Wilson “The Buffalo” Ramos after his ACL injury, Washington had a huge hole to fill. The Nats made a deal for former San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris after a struggling 2016 season in exchange for a minor league pitcher. It felt as though Norris was ready to join a winning franchise and bounce back. But with Matt Wieters still dangling on the market into late February, the Nationals jumped on the veteran and gave him a two-year deal with a player option for the second year.
Wieters had a solid 8-year stint with Baltimore:
.256 BA, 117 HRs, 439 RBIs, .740 OPS
Compare that to Wilson Ramos’ 7-year tenure in Washington:
.268 BA, 83 HRs, 321 RBIs, .743 OPS
Very similar output for two catchers who at times have had injuries slow them down. With Ramos’ most recent ACL injury, Wieters is a natural fit as a straight production swap. Matt brings a switch hitter to D.C.’s lineup but Ramos’ seemingly clutch power the last few seasons will be missed.
How long will it take for O’s fans to grasp that they lost Wieters down the interstate and that they lost a productive catcher? Pretty soon without an equal replacement.
How long will it take for Nationals fans to be accustomed to having Matt Wieters in the lineup? If he continues what he did in the orange and black with the red, white and blue, not long at all.
This post originally was posted on Medium.com/Section240 by John Amoroso on April 7th, 2017