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Tampa Bay Rays: Wieters off the Board, Norris Next Target?

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Feb 21, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker (left) chats with Nationals catcher Derek Norris (right) during spring training workouts at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 21, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker (left) chats with Nationals catcher Derek Norris (right) during spring training workouts at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Tampa Bay Rays made him an offer, but it was not enough to lure Matt Wieters so the search continues for a right-handed bat.

The Tampa Bay Rays waited and waited to make their offer to former Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, hoping that since there seemed to be little or no movement for his services from other teams they would have a chance.

Any chance for signing Wieters ended as Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported that a deal was in place with the Washington Nationals.  Wieters new deal lands him just a stone’s throw away from Baltimore, playing in the Nation’s Capital for the next two years for a reported $21 million as Tweeted by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Specifications of the deal have Wieters making $10 million this season, which would have been doable via an incentive-laden contract, something that the Rays have done for other players, with the most resent being Colby Rasmus, Logan Morrison and Nathan Eovaldi.

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The Tampa Bay Rays were aware that other teams would offer him lots more money, something that they could not do. However, what the Rays could offer him was the opportunity to catch on a regular basis, do some DHing with an occasional start at first base. More so, they were looking at him as a veteran leader, with post-season experience that could be an asset in the clubhouse and to their young pitching staff.

With Wieters gone, the Tampa Bay Rays will need to continue their search for a right-handed bat and could look to the Nationals for help. The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes indicated via Twitter that Nationals manager Dusty Baker hinted that team would look for a trade partner for Derek Norris.

Originally drafted by Washington in 2007, Norris was traded in 2011 to Oakland where he would make his major league debut one year later. Following the 2014 season, Oakland traded Norris to the San Diego Padres where he would remain until his trade to the Nationals this past December.

The December trade came on the heels of losing Wilson Ramos, with Norris penciled in as the starting catcher for Baker’s Nationals. Avoiding arbitration, Norris signed a one-year, $4.2 million deal and fits into the Rays financial structure.

Additionally, according to StatCorner, Norris is considered one of the better pitch-framers and rates average in some of the other defensive areas. However, he has struggled enormously at the plate, specifically last season as he turned in career lows in just about every offensive category.

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His 2016 slash line was an abysmal .186/.255/.328, however, he did tie his career high in home runs (14) though only knocking in 42 runs but stole a career high nine bases.

Whether or not the Rays would consider trading for Norris, financially he fits and though offensively he had his problems last year, he is an offensive upgrade over the 2016 performances from  Curt Casali (.186/.273/.336, 8 HR, 25 RBI, 84 GMS) and Luke Maile (.227/.252/.361, 3 HR, 15 RBI, and 42 GMS).

Among the remaining free agent right-handed bats that the Rays could target is Billy Butler; however, position less he would only assume the role as a DH – and his clubhouse problems last season could be a cause of concern. OF Cole Gillespie formally of the Marlins, switch-hitter OF Angel Pagan and Nolan Reimold are the most notable names.

Next: Candidates for the Bench

Whether or not the Rays would consider trading for Norris, he could be that bounce-back player that the Nationals envisioned and provide the Rays with a skilled and adequate front-line catcher.

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