Earlier this offseason, the Rays signed the player who served as last year’s starting catcher for the Washington Nationals, Wilson Ramos. Ramos & Co. produced 4.4 WAR from the catcher spot last season for the Nats, the position’s second-most production.
Over the weekend, the Rays reportedly agreed to terms with Derek Norris, a player with whom the Nationals recently cut ties for an arguably inferior catcher: Matt Wieters. (Wieters projects to produce 0.7 bWARP — a metric that includes framing value — in 2017, Norris 1.1 bWARP.) As to why Washington might make such a curious decision, there are a number of theories. One possible explanation, however, is the relative chumminess of Wieters’ agent with Nationals ownership.
So, in summary, the Rays now have the Nationals’ starting catcher from a year ago, and one of Nats’ top replacement options for Ramos as recently as a month ago.
The Rays’ interest in Norris was one of the more seemingly inevitable news items in recent weeks, as the devoutly analytical club otherwise appeared ready to enter the season with only inexperienced catchers — a combination of Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre — from which to choose as they patiently wait for Ramos to return from the torn ACL he suffered last September.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the one-year deal is worth “less than $2 million.”
Signing Norris gives the Rays a more experienced option behind the plate …. Norris has made 446 big-league starts for Oakland and San Diego, Casali has made 116, Sucre 77 and Maile 43.
He chose the Rays over several other teams based on the opportunity for more playing time.
Perhaps the signing also speaks to the team becoming more conservative — or pessimistic, perhaps — regarding Ramos’s timetable to return behind the plate. MLB.com reported last month that Ramos might not be able to catch until August.