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Tampa Bay Rays: The Case for Signing Matt Wieters

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Sep 21, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) fields a ground ball in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 21, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) fields a ground ball in the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /
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Still needing a right-handed bat, the Tampa Bay Rays will take a wait and see approach during spring training as additional candidates become available to make their next move. However, that bat is right under their noses in Matt Wieters.

It is the waiting game as spring training opens for the Tampa Bay Rays in their quest to find a right-handed bat to compliment all of the lefties. Linked to numerous players throughout the off-season, whether they were cost-prohibitive or not, they are still hopeful that during spring training they will find that bat.

That bat could very well come from former Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, who according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times is talking with the Rays. However, Wieters is represented by Steve Boras and when mentioning Boras’ name, there is always a big price tag associated with his clients.

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Adding Wieters is a long shot, but as time dwindles away, Boras and his client may just have to bite the bullet.

Undoubtedly, teams are reluctant in signing Wieters, some say it is because his offense has suffered – bottom line it has more or less remained the same and that he is not the most capable at “pitch-framing” which so many teams want from their catchers.

Is his catching defense that bad – no, it still is his one of his most valuable assets.

According to StatCorner, Wieters ranked 68th in framing among catchers who received at least 1,000 pitches last season, saving -7.3 runs compared to the average catcher (Buster Posey was first at +26.8). Baltimore manager Buck Showalter never discounted Wieters defense, he has raved how much Wieters made the Orioles pitchers better, which Boras also pointed out.

"The Orioles, while making the playoffs for the third time in five years last season, pitched better when Wieters was their catcher.Their staff ERA with Wieters: 3.98 in 980 1/3 innings.With their other catchers: 4.72 in 451 1/3 innings."

Furthermore, his defense has not decreased as over the past five years. He has allowed the fewest passed balls per inning of any catcher (only one in 2016) and he has thrown out more runners attempting to steal at a higher rate (33.7 percent) than before undergoing Tommy John surgery (32.5) – 34.8 percent in 2016 taking down 23 of 66 runners.

Another possible reason that Wieters has remained is unsigned is that Boras revealed that during the off-season Wieters required stitches for a laceration on his left forearm. While there was no nerve damage, why are so many teams still reluctant on signing the 31-year-old, four-time All-Star?

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When Baltimore declined to offer him a qualifying offer for $17.2 million, they also missed a compensation draft pick, which for some teams is a big deal – evidently not for Baltimore though. However, there has to be more behind the door and that remains to be the $64,000 dollar question as to why the reluctance.

However, one team’s reluctance is another teams’ fortune and that is where the Tampa Bay Rays come knocking on Wieters door. The Rays need Wieters and Wieters needs the Rays. It is a win-win situation.

What the Rays can offer him is the opportunity to catch on a regular basis, play some first base and even DH to keep him fresh. They will look to him for veteran leadership in and out of the clubhouse, to lead a young pitching staff, and play for a team that WANTS him.

Other interested teams will undoubtedly offer him lots more money than the Rays would, but it is extremely doable that he would get a one-year, incentive-laden contract deal where he can restore his value offensively/defensively to the point where the Rays could either trade him by the trade deadline or let him walk into free agency next season.

Next: Archer Adamant Placing Burden on Starters

Matt Wieters could be that “lightning in a bottle” pick-up; he could be the piece of the off-season puzzle that boosts the Rays back to the post-season.

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