Trying to figure out the market for catcher Matt Wieters is becoming one of the most popular endeavors of the offseason. And one of the most perplexing.
I was prepared to tab the Braves as the favorites, and I wouldn’t be alone in this prognostication, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reported yesterday on rampant industry speculation that Wieters will sign with the Nationals.
Wieters and the Braves always were deemed a logical fit. He played at Georgia Tech. He bought a house in the Atlanta area. I wasn’t going out on a limb here. And the market seemed to be drying up with so many teams looking elsewhere.
The Nationals have been rumored for years as a likely suitor, but they’ve indicated that they’re not interested. I wrote before the Winter Meetings that they still could sign Wieters and flip catcher Derek Norris, recently acquired from the Padres, but general manager Mike Rizzo shot down the idea when asked by a reporter.
The matter may not be resolved before New Year’s Day, according to agent Scott Boras. The Orioles felt they couldn’t wait and signed Welington Castillo to a one-year deal with an option for 2018. They’re much more comfortable committing $6 million to their starting catcher next season than whatever Boras is seeking for Wieters, and they didn’t want to go beyond two years with Chance Sisco waiting in the wings.
Boras is believed to have contacted Orioles principal owner and managing partner Peter Angelos shortly before the Orioles reached agreement with Castillo. One last attempt to get them back in the bidding.
Former Orioles executive Jim Duquette, now an MLB Network Radio analyst, stated on “Wall to Wall Baseball” on MASN that the Braves made a three-year offer to Castillo. If they were willing to go three years, which is what Castillo originally sought, would they do the same with Wieters?
Have they already tried?
While lauding Wieters in a recent blog entry for having one of the strongest arms in the game, I also should have praised him for being one of its best taggers. No one is better at playing the short hop and making the sweeping tag. Manager Buck Showalter has marveled at the skill and challenged reporters to try it at home.
I can confirm that none of us have donned the gear in our living rooms.
Meanwhile, could the Orioles’ search for a right fielder lead them back to Colby Rasmus?
They made an offer to Rasmus during the winter of 2014 and thought they had an agreement before his agent tried to entice them into sweetening the deal. Rasmus, who had received a visit from Showalter, signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Astros, accepted their qualifying offer last winter and batted .223/.301/.419 in 244 games before again hitting the free agent market.
Rasmus’ representative has contacted the Orioles, according to a source, but the outfielder isn’t likely to come into play unless he’s still unsigned as spring training approaches and the club still needs another bat. He’s too pricey at his current status, from what I’ve heard.
There are a bunch of players who potentially could fall to the Orioles before they break camp. Their interest could be piqued, as it was for Nelson Cruz in 2014, if the price and commitment in years plummets. Rasmus and Chris Carter are only two examples.
The Orioles don’t seem to believe that Edwin Encarnacion will have to settle, figuring that a team will step up with a sizable offer.