Posted on December 25, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters has been wide open for much of the offseason, especially now that the Baltimore Orioles are no longer a viable option following the signing of Welington Castillo. All along, the Atlanta Braves have been a possible landing spot for Wieters, and now the club appears to be acknowledging that they do indeed have interest in Wieters.
ESPN’s Jim Bowden tweeted out late Saturday night, citing a source inside the organization, that Wieters is on Atlanta’s list of targets. Earlier this week, Braves GM John Coppolella commented on Wieters when asked about him during a radio interview. “Matt (Wieters) is a talented player. It would come down to price and years. We’re happy with what we have now,” Coppolella said.
That’s not necessarily a ringing endorsement, but combined with Bowden’s report, it does signal genuine interest, and with the price for Wieters potentially dropping now that the Orioles are out of the running, the Braves could be seen as a legitimate contender.
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The Braves currently have a trio of catchers on their major league roster in Tyler Flowers, Anthony Recker, and Tuffy Gosewisch. However, none of those three are long-established big league regulars like Wieters, although Flowers is coming off a career year and has played in the majors in at least a part time role for several years. Moreover, none of those three are the type of impact offensive player that Wieters is, even if his numbers were a little down last year.
Adding Wieters to the middle of Atlanta’s lineup would make them look far more formidable offensively, providing some protection for Freddie Freeman outside of the aging Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis, who is not exactly an accomplished power hitter. Even after Flowers had a strong season in 2016, if the Braves were to add Wieters as their primary catcher, Atlanta would be more likely to remain competitive deep into the 2017 season.
Wieters is also much better at controlling the running game of opposing teams than what Flowers showed last year. This would be less of an issue with the Braves adding several veterans to their starting rotation earlier this offseason, but it’s another factor to consider in favor of Atlanta making a serious effort to sign Wieters.
One caveat to consider is Atlanta’s addition of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. The Braves will need someone who can handle Dickey’s knuckleball, and it appears unlikely Atlanta will have room to add Josh Thole, who has been Dickey’s personal catcher for much of the past several seasons since he returned to the majors as a knuckleballer. The Braves may have to consider keeping three catchers on their roster to help accommodate Dickey, especially if they add Wieters.
Of course, it doesn’t appear that Wieters is expected to sign any time soon, and so it’s far from certain that he will end up back in Atlanta after playing his college baseball at Georgia Tech. The Washington Nationals have also emerged as a viable landing spot for Wieters, while the Colorado Rockies also make sense. However, the Braves remain a sensible landing spot, and with the latest report, Atlanta is at least acknowledging interest in making Wieters their catcher in 2017.