For a front office that has made a living the last couple of offseasons by making big time moves, this offseason has been relatively tame. Make no mistake, signing stopgaps RA Dickey and Bartolo Colon as well as highly regarded utilityman Sean Rodriguez in addition to gambling a bit in some trades for Alex Jackson and Jaime Garcia is not what I would call a “quiet” offseason. However, it is clear that there is a shift in strategy from aggressively rebuilding the farm system towards positioning the team for playoff contention (even if that means having 2017 not be the year that happens).
The trade and free agent market has largely transpired like many thought it would....benefiting sellers greatly with the returns the White Sox got for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton being strong examples here. There have been some weird wrinkles including the glut of power-hitting but somehow flawed 1B/DH/corner outfield types on the market, but many of those guys will likely still get paid in what is one of the worst free agent classes in recent memory.
Given the market, it has made sense why the Braves have stayed out of the big transactions. They don’t want to undo the progress they have made in the farm system or hurt payroll flexibility for players they don’t love. That has made the most recent rumors all the more confusing.
nationals, braves among teams looking at free agent catcher matt wieters - https://t.co/V8uAAhQqYh— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 29, 2016
Now, there is nothing in Heyman’s piece that says that anything is imminent or that the Braves are bidding for Wieters’ services. In fact, there is really only one sentence in the article that mentions the Braves interest and it doesn’t appear to be super high. Jim Bowden had a similar report about a week ago. However, the Braves beat writers have been pretty on point as to what the Braves interest level likely is.
Bow is great in this segment in general, but if you cut to around the 2:00 mark there is Wieters talk where he clearly is relaying that the Braves’ interest is due diligence and that there are a lot of reasons that the Braves aren’t going to break the bank for Wieters including his age, decline, injury history, and the presence of Tyler Flowers as a comparable option.
So why is there so much smoke about the Braves and Wieters if there isn’t even a little fire?
To be blunt, this feels a lot like the work of Scott Boras, Matt Wieters’ agent. There is no agent on the face of planet Earth that is better at creating a market for his clients when there isn’t one and the Nationals, who seem to the “leaders” for Wieters right now, are very often one of the teams Boras targets.
I am sure the Braves did check in on Wieters as most teams should, but with Wieters’ Georgia Tech connections and the Braves propensity of late for making bold moves, rumors that Atlanta is involved have more traction than some teams. One wonders if Boras is using his considerable media connections to drum up the market for Wieters.
However, from the Braves’ perspective, such a signing makes zero sense. Wieters has questionable value and will certainly not come cheap. To the first part, his defense and pitch-framing has slipped in recent years, he is a large-framed catcher who is already 30 and has only played 225 games over the last three seasons due to injury, and his OPS and WAR totals since 2012 have been mediocre at best. One doubts that he would find the Fountain of Youth and Good simply by signing with Atlanta.
To the second part, players with name recognition with Scott Boras as their agent don’t sign cheap. While most front offices would likely prefer Boras move on to different endeavors, the guy knows how to get players paid and has done so time and time again. Someone will pay Wieters a good chunk of money....it just will likely not be the Braves.
So should the Braves monitor Wieters and his asking price? Absolutely, this market is definitely weird and the aforementioned glut of 1B/DH bat only guys likely limits Wieters options and market. Crazier things have happened than a reasonable deal that the Braves would offer to Wieters that he would sign. I just don’t think that is what we are seeing right now.