Tampa Bay Rays: Reportedly Sign Catcher Derek Norris
By Althea Pashman
Never having enough depth at the catcher position, the Tampa Bay Rays have reportedly added another backstop to bolster that department with the signing of free agent Derek Norris.
The Tampa Bay Rays continue to fortify their long-time catching issues as they are about to sign free agent catcher Derek Norris to a one-year deal. Norris was released last week by the Washington Nationals, in what was a “writing on the wall” scenario once the Nationals signed Matt Wieters.
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first reported the signing, and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times followed that up with writing that the deal is pending a physical, and that the contract is less than $2 million. Norris, who was arbitration eligible, signed a one-year $4.2 million deal to avoid arbitration and based on that agreement, the Nationals will owe him $688,000.
Norris also has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining (through 2018), so the Rays do have another year of control over Norris. Essentially, this means that the Rays could retain him for 2018 – of course that being whether or not he is affordable.
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Norris was acquired by the Nationals from the Padres in a December trade following the release of Wilson Ramos, who would eventually sign with the Rays and was set in becoming the everyday Nationals catcher. However, once the Nationals signed Matt Wieters, the writing was on the wall and Nationals manager Dusty Baker had even gone as far by saying that the team would look for a trade partner.
The signing does comes as a surprise, considering that the Rays currently have three catchers – Curt Casali, Luke Maile and Jesus Sucre vying for two spots. However, experience won over as Norris gives them a solid defender behind the plate and will be a much better choice having a Casali/Norris tandem versus a Casali/Maile tandem.
While Norris has had his problems offensively the last couple of seasons, his defense has not suffered and is considered one of the best pitch-framers according to StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus.
Casali and Maile both have minor league options remaining and are on the 40-man roster, so there is no issue with either player being optioned. However, Sucre has no minor league options and since he is not on the 40-man roster, the Rays would need to create a spot for him on the 40 and then on the 25-man if they are going to keep him.
The Rays though will need to add Norris to the 40-man roster before adding him to the 25-man roster which means the Rays must move someone off the 40-man roster – speculation is that Erasmo Ramirez could be traded as he was the starting pitcher in Friday’s game against the Pirates instead of taking his usual bullpen session.
In addition, Topkin reports, that Norris chose the Rays over other teams based on the chance for more playing time, and according to MLBTradeRumors, the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals had also shown interest.
Next: Rays Release David Carpenter
For now, Norris will handle the majority of the starts and upon the full-time return of Ramos they will share duties behind the dish – more importantly though is that the Rays made the right choice so late in spring training.