2017 Reds

Report: Reds are in the mix for free agent catcher Matt Wieters

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick mentions the Cincinnati Reds as a possible destination for Matt Wieters, the 30 year-old catcher who  has spent the last eight seasons (his entire career) with the Baltimore Orioles. It’s not clear whether the Reds are actually engaged in active discussions with Wieters, or if this is just some “MLB insider” who sees the Reds as a good fit.

Wieters, of course, has had a fairly successful run with the Orioles, making four American League All-Star teams, and winning two Gold Gloves. He was about a two-WAR player last year, hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 HR (.307 wOBA). The numbers show that his defense has slipped somewhat from his peak, but that he’s still an effective defender at catcher.

Wieters is probably better than Tucker Barnhart, though he’s not the player he once was. The Orioles have acknowledged as much by not making a serious attempt to re-sign him:

Will the Reds be willing to spend cash to get a one-year upgrade at catcher? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Wieters is reportedly willing to sign a one-year deal, and at any rate, I can’t imagine the Reds ponying up money for a multi-year deal for a 30 year-old catcher anyway.

The elephant in the room, of course, is Devin Mesoraco. MLBTR has a pretty good summary (tip of the cap to Ohio Jim, who pointed us to this link):

The Reds are a new name in the mix, and their interest in Wieters or any other established catcher hinges on Devin Mesoraco’s health.  Mesoraco underwent hip surgery last summer and was scheduled to begin catching drills around this point in January, so more should be known about his injury situation in the next few weeks.  Since signing a four-year, $28MM extension after the 2014 season, Mesoraco has barely been able to get onto the field, playing just 39 games total in 2015-16 due to shoulder surgery and procedures on both his left and right hips.  Tucker Barnhart handled most of the work last year in Mesoraco’s absence, hitting .257/.323/.379 in 420 PA and posting strong blocking numbers according to Baseball Prospectus, though both BP and StatCorner rank Barnhart as a below-average pitch framer.  Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner is the only other catcher on Cincinnati’s 40-man roster.

I guess the only way this makes any sense at all is if the Reds think Mesoraco isn’t going to be ready for the first month or two of the 2017 season. The Reds could sign Wieters to a one-year contract, with the idea that they could always flip him at the trade deadline.

I dunno. If I squint hard enough, I can kinda see how this makes sense for the Reds. What am I missing?

40 thoughts on “Report: Reds are in the mix for free agent catcher Matt Wieters

  1. I would have to think it would take $12M or so to get him. Doesn’t make sense to me. If Winker isn’t ready I would have rather seen them spend that kind of money on a corner outfielder. Has to be pure speculation.

  2. First of all, let’s stay clear as Chad points out, this is “fit makes sense” reporting, not that there has been any contact between Reds and Wieters.

    I disagree that the fit makes sense. Wieters is looking for a full-time gig so he can prove his worth and sign a bigger free agent contract next year. He’s not going somewhere to split time with Tucker Barnhart or get benched when Devin Mesoraco is healthy.

    A multi-year deal with Wieters is a non-starter for the Reds, even assuming Wieters was interested. The Reds have Mesoraco signed through 2018. Why sign a veteran catcher to a multi-year deal with all the decent minor league catching prospects just a couple years away? Besides, reports are that Wieters is looking for a one-year deal.

    A one-year deal in a rebuilding year only makes sense from the Reds side if they think Mesoraco won’t be ready for a couple months but will be ready eventually. They trade Wieters at the deadline in that case.

    Not saying that it’s dumb for the Reds to be looking for a veteran just-in-case catcher, but it’s not going to be a player with the longer-term ambitions of Matt Wieters. If anything, Reds should find an older catcher who could live with being a backup or even cut.

    This rumor strikes me as one of those times when a national reporter/analyst asserts a fit with a specific team without fully understanding that team’s situation. Or maybe even generated by Wieters side to drive up bidding.

    • Typical BS reporting by Crasnick. Even if Mes can’t catch full time, Barnhart is better than Weters factoring in defense. The line about the ballpark differences is ridiculous as Camden and Great Am play similarly and Weters hit poorly.

    • It also wouldn’t surprise me if someone ‘leaked’ news of such an interest on Wieters’ behalf. Naw, an agent or somebody would NEVER do that, right??? Just to try to widen the appearance of interest??

      I don’t think I can squint hard enough to see this making sense for the Reds.

  3. This report makes me uneasy about Dev’s health. Reds know more than they’re letting on about his condition? If he can’t catch, Wieters/Barnhart wouldn’t be bad.

  4. I don’t know Wieters’ framing numbers, but Barnhart has registered as well below average (as noted above). I think we’d all agree that the single most important thing this year is bringing the young pitchers along. And so the question becomes this:

    How much is it worth to you to not have a catcher behind the plate who gives away strikes?

    Pitch framing is really, really important until such time as we have a strike zone that isn’t called by inconsistent humans. This is doubly true when you have lots of new pitchers.

    • I thought I’ve read here that Barnhart handles his pitchers (many of whom he’s come up with) quite well. That should be a factor to consider as well. Framing certainly is an issue with the seeming inability of our young pitchers to throw strikes (are we going to blame our pitching staff’s records BBs on Barnhart’s framing??)

    • I would take those framing numbers with a big spoon of salt. Getting extra strikes is as much on the pitcher as the catcher. You cant frame a pitch if it is 18 inches away from the target. The pitcher has to come close to the target for the catcher to frame it perfectly. Needless to say, the Reds staff last year had some, uhh….command problems.

        • Depends on which framing stat you use I guess. BP put out a new one last year that was supposed to account for pitcher, batter, and umpire tendencies and isolate just the catcher’s input. I dont know how successful they were in that attempt but the fact that they felt like they had to do that suggests that all 4- pitcher, catcher, umpire, and batter- play a role in whether a pitch is called a ball or strike.

        • Yes Jason, it actually does have some to do with the general control of the pitcher. BP’s new one may do a better job of it but framing in general is much harder when a pitcher is missing spots. Where this shows the most is in the following example:]

          A catcher is setup on the inside corner and up on his haunches a bit, right at the top of the zone. The pitch ends up down and away but still in the strike-zone, however the catcher needs to reach down quickly to catch the pitch. His momentum takes his glove pretty well out of the zone and the pitch, although catching a good part of the zone, is called a ball by the umpire. If that pitch goes where the target is setup, then it most likely gets called a strike as it is much easier to frame a pitch that is near where your target is setup.

  5. Wieters makes no sense for the reds. Boras will want 13 to 14 mil for a year. Maybe Saltamachea or Haningan make more sense on a one year deal. I hope that Mas is healthy and all this is pure speculation, but who knows…

    • Ryan Hanigan is 36 and had an OPS of .468 last year. I love him for what he did for the Reds earlier in his career, but giving him anything at this point is a Schumaker-level signing.

  6. We discussed this a bit on RML. I’ll reiterate some of my thoughts. Number one, is that Mesoraco was supposed to have some tests done in mid-January that would provide the Reds FO a better time line for when he may be ready this spring. Well, it’s a little past mid-January and here we are with a baseball insider report that the Reds may be a fit for Wieters on a 1-year deal. Now I’ll take the “insider” knowledge with a huge grain of salt, but still…the timing is certainly interesting.

    The other factor beyond whether Mesoraco can catch again is whether or not he can hit again. Shoulder surgeries are brutal on hitters that rely on power. Ludwick was certainly much older when it happened, but he was a shell of himself after his surgery and honestly never really recovered. Maybe Mes will, but I doubt it will be this year. The shoulder surgery will likely sap power and slow bat speed.

    So he may not be able to catch or hit this year. Turner is fine for insurance if you believe Mes can get back to catching 2-3x a week early enough in the season. If not, carrying 3 catchers won’t be ideal for the bench. Especially if Mes can’t offer much as a PH.

    I don’t think Wieters will come for what the Reds should be willing to pay. But if it gets to ST and there are no better offers who knows? Maybe another Madson situation, one that hopefully works out for the Reds.

    • Plus, Mesoraco has essentially gone two years without regularly facing live ML pitching. I would think, regardless of the condition of his shoulder, it will be a challenge to step back in and hit consistently after that much time away.

  7. I think they should consider Only if it seems Meso is out for a long period early this year. Injury history of wieters and stats declining are issues. I like the sign and flip idea but only if meso is out extended period.

  8. Cut and paste from my post on RML just now. Feelin’ lazy.

    I’ve been in on this for awhile, with the thought of using Mesoraco off the bench in LF and RF, C, perhaps at 1B, even 3B as needed. It is doubtful Mesoraco returns to full time catching. Don’t forget his concussion history. He may not have many collisions left in him as it is. Full time playing is another story. How do we get as much value out of his next two years, and beyond, is one question. His bat is his value. He’s an average catcher at best. But he is athletic. If giving up catching is good enough for Joe Mauer, Craig Biggio, and Dale Murphy, why not Mes?

    Second question, and probably more significant, is how would signing Wieters help the rebuild. Several ways, actually. He’d be an excellent bridge to the next generation of catchers. He’d be a role model for Tyler Stephenson given body type. He would team with Tucker in developing a young staff and in providing a veteran for the veteran arms. He’d provide a solid bat to hit fourth. He’d help guide Tucker, and Mes as he’s allowed to catch. He’d transition to that veteran on the bench, potentially, that fits the current desire for high flexibility in positions played, assuming he can move out from behind the plate. I’d say two years with an option. Wieters would be an excellent bridge to Okey and Stephenson

    • The hitch is that Meso’s (power) hitting is at much a question due to the left shoulder surgery as is his ability to catch full time.

  9. To me, much more than Wieters, this is about what’s going on with Meso if at this relatively late point in time the Reds are now kicking tires on guys who seem to be more than journeymen back ups.

  10. This is very distressing. At what point do you cut bait on Mez? I can think of 10 better ways to spend $12MM than to sign Wieters.

  11. Anyone remember the ridiculous hype on Weiters when he was close to breaking into the bigs? Good lord it was Strasburg esque. Was rated even higher than Posey if I recall and they both made their debuts about the same time. Is he just another guy at this point?

  12. Even if Mesoraco can’t catch and the front office knows it, this doesn’t make any sense. How does one year of Wieters help the rebuild? He’s not going to start unless Barnhart also gets hurt. When I initially read the report last night, I discounted it.

  13. “An MLB insider with knowledge of catching market sees…”, tweets Jerry Crasnick.

    C’mon folks! This is a marginal national writer trying to generate something to justify his worth. Crasnick picks up the phone and calls someone marginally associated with MLB and asks, “where do you think Wieters might sign?”

    This has nothing to do with Mesoraco or any interest by the Reds. This is simply an off-the-cuff remark, made as an unattributed source with no association with the Reds and no insider knowledge of the Reds organization or operations, trying to help out a writer with no substantive information to post.

  14. I thought Chris Ianetta would have been perfect . Has mashed lefties and been bad against right handers his whole career. Pair that with Tucker who is solid against right handers and horrible vs lefties. Arizona only gave him 1.5 million for one year. He would have been a perfect insurance option in case Devin doesn’t come back.

    If you are going to fill a hole through free agency, catcher is a pretty good spot. Their short shelf life and the fact that very few catch more than 120 games keeps their contacts pretty reasonable. You can usually get a solid catcher in his early thirties with only a year or two commitment. If the Reds are gonna win anytime soon they are gonna need more than Tucker and a minor league journeyman. Here is hoping that Devin comes back strong but they can’t be planning on it and need to have a contingency plan.

    • That’s kind of where I’m at on this. The Reds can’t rely on Mes coming back and being his old self. They simply can’t. The money on Mes is spent and there is nothing they can do about that. What they can do is insure they have a bonafide MLB starting catcher for the start of the next competitive window. If the team is serious that the window starts in 2018, there may well be a hole behind the plate if Mes can’t go. The guy is an upgrade over Tucker in my opinion and a fairly large one at that. Why not a 2-year deal if the price is right? That way, you have someone you can count on for 2018. If it turns out Mes is good to go, which in my opinion is a long shot, then you can always try to move Wieters at the deadline or after the season. On a 2-year deal, some team with a catcher injury and in the hunt will want to trade for him.

  15. I think its about his experience in calling a good game. The reds haven’t had that. A good savy veteran behind the plate can do wonders for a young staff. Tucker had one of the worst catching era’s in the league. Devin the same. Weiters are Yodier Molina would make a world of difference. Catcher I’Q should be an Mlb rating.

    • This is my thinking. Catcher is the most difficult position for those not on the field to judge, imo, due to the subjective nature of working with pitchers. A lot of pitching is mental and the catcher is the first counselor. To me, it’s harder to quantify their abilities and influence from my couch than it is for other positions, or even other coaches. I’ve agreed with the off season moves so far, and if this is more than rumor I will have to defer to management on this one.

      Perhaps we can get him cheaply on a one year deal as he seeks to re establish himself for a big pay day (a la Ron Gant).

      If not, I must admit it would be nice penciling a guy in the lineup who can hit 25+ HRs behind Joey and has shown a plus ability behind the plate. If he does make a considerable difference to our pitching staff and contribute offensively, it might be worth it even for this season .

      I’m sorry, but I have long since quit counting on Devin contributing behind the plate in anything other than an emergency role (Scott Hatteburg) again. Hope I’m wrong.

      • I was a catcher and it’s hard for me to judge catching impact. Without talking to the pitchers and the staff. Even then it would be somewhat hard as nobody really wants to flame their catcher(s) when they influence every single pitch in a game. What could perhaps help with my personal evaluations would be if I could eavesdrop on the conversations on the mound and in the dugout. Even then though, all these guys know what their doing and I think I’d be in over my head as far as trying to judge.

  16. After the WTFshock wore off, it started to make some sense.
    If true, this signals some big concern by the front office on Mesoraco. If he can’t catch, but shows in spring training he can still hit, I think the Reds have a few AL teams interested in Mesoraco as a DH. But he will have to show it in the spring.
    Mesoraco is due $7.2MM this year and $13MM next year. If they can trade him in mid-spring training, or near the end, then that in itself pays and makes room for Weiters.
    I just have a hard time believing Mesoraco will be ready for C duties by spring training.

  17. If true, hopefully not a play to get a piece to flip at deadline.

    Catchers notoriously hard to flip unless attached to a premium bat (think Lucroy).

  18. Sounds like Boras is trying to create a market for his catcher client. Guessing the Reds have zero interest in Wieters unless Mesoraco is hurt or Wieters will take 1/$5m. Very unlikely pairing.

  19. If Meso isn’t ready to go in 2017, want a pitch framing catcher? How do the Reds get 33 year old Miguel Montero from the Cubs, when the Cubs have a great young C in Wilson Contreras now??
    He is due $14MM in 2017, then a free agent after this season. Money maybe better spent than on Weiters for young developing pitchers. But it would require a prospect too.

    http://www.statcorner.com/CatcherReport.php

    • Montero makes less sense because the Reds aren’t competing in 2017. Wieters on a 2 year deal makes more sense in my opinion and you don’t need to give up talent to get him.

      • I agree. The more I think about it, the more I would like a Weiters/Barnhart combo.

        • See my reply to TCT earlier in the thread for more of my reasoning if you want.

  20. I agree with you about the Reds not putting themselves in a position to having to count on Mesoraco. I think his hitting will be OK this coming year, but behind the plate, not optimistic. I also agree that Weiters on a 2 year deal would be OK, too, maybe even a 3rd option year. But if Weiters goes elsewhere, there isn’t much else to go after on the free agent market.
    Montero is an option. Who knows, DW might be able to get the Cubs to kick in a few million $$. I am sure even the Cubs don’t want $14M sitting on their bench. And if you have Montero for one year, you are at least in a position to roll it over into 1 or 2 more years. There isn’t much left on the FA market C-wise, and the C’s on the top half of the statcorner list, not many look attainable in a trade scenario.

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