The Milwaukee Brewers have been a bit more active on the free agent market this winter than they were last year, signing three players - Eric Thames, Neftali Feliz, and Tommy Milone - to major league deals this winter. The club apparently may be interested in adding some free agent help behind the plate, as according to Tommy Stokke of Fanrag Sports, the Brewers have emerged as a “potential suitor” for Matt Wieters.
Weiters debuted in 2009 with Baltimore and had spent his entire career to this point with the Orioles. He became a free agent this winter after spending last year playing on the Qualifying Offer contract he accepted following the 2015 season. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that the veteran backstop would sign a 3-year, $39 mil contract, but he has lingered nearly into February now and Stokke suggests that he’s looking more at 1-year deals at this point in the winter.
Stokke writes that Milwaukee has been interested in catchers all winter, but it’s really only recently that Wieters has fallen into their price range. Matt is reportedly a strong clubhouse presence and the other teams who are reportedly interested include the Nationals, Angels, and Braves. Stokke says his market is “sorting out” but there’s no indication of anything particularly close at this time.
Wieters, who turns 31 next season, was a strong performer from 2010-2013, accruing 12.5 WARP across those four years and making 130+ appearances in each season. He had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2014, however, and has only managed 199 games over the last two years while posting wRC+ marks of 101 in 2015 and 88 in 2016. For his career, Wieters is a .256/.318/.421 hitter (97 wRC+) with 117 home runs 3,468 plate appearances. His pitch framing numbers have been well-below average in each of his last four full seasons, though his 31% and 35% caught stealing rates in his two seasons post surgery are still in line with his career 33% rate.
Wieters could make sense for Milwaukee, who as of now will go into camp with the relatively unproven trio of Andrew Susac, Jett Bandy, and Manny Pina battling for playing time behind the plate. On a one-year deal he could become a prime trade candidate at the deadline if he stays healthy and performs well, and it’s not a bad thing to add a respected veteran to a clubhouse full of young players. If he gets hurt or falls flat, then it’s only a 1-year deal and the team could stick him on the bench or release and move on with minimal impact on the future of the ballclub.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs