The Tampa Bay Rays have been looking for a right handed hitter to supplement their lineup. Would free agent catcher Matt Wieters make sense?
In theory, the Tampa Bay Rays would not need a catcher. They had signed Wilson Ramos to a two year deal, with the idea that he would give that position a presence in the lineup that they never had in their history. Paired with Evan Longoria, Ramos could help provide more punch to the middle of the Rays lineup.
The problem with that theory is that Ramos tore his ACL last year and is expected to be sidelined until sometime in May or June. Even then, there is no guarantee that Ramos will be ready to get behind the plate once he comes back, as he may need to spend time at either first base or as the designated hitter. Once again, that question of who will catch for the Rays remains unresolved.
Instead, the Rays may be able to solve two problems at once. As they continue to search through free agency for a right handed bat that fits their needs and could come at a discount, Tampa Bay has been linked to free agent catcher Matt Wieters. Such a pairing could allow the Rays to remain cautious with Ramos, and let Wieters catch the vast majority of the games, at least for the first half of the season.
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In a way, this may be the best case scenario for Wieters. Since requiring Tommy John surgery in 2014, he just has not been the same player, with a .253/.309/.414 batting line and 25 home runs since his return in 2015. After struggling last season while playing under the qualifying offer, Wieters may well accept a one year deal to show that he is back on track.
The question is whether or not Wieters will have a price tag that is palatable for the Rays. Even though he has struggled and dealt with injuries in the past three years, he still has Scott Boras as an agent. Bargain contracts just are not a part of his vocabulary.
Nonetheless, in a strictly baseball sense, this would be a signing that makes a lot of sense. The Rays would be able to bolster their lineup, and be able to get solid production behind the plate while Ramos is out. And, when he returns, Wieters could get a few partial days off by spending time as the Rays designated hitter, possibly improving his numbers as he does not have the same workload behind the plate.
Matt Wieters may not seem like the type of player that the Tampa Bay Rays would target, but he fills a specific need. It makes perfect sense for this deal to happen.