Free agent Matt Wieters, a Boras client, won’t come cheap

PHOENIX – The Braves would like to sign or trade for a catcher, preferably a left-handed hitting one to pair with Tyler Flowers. But there are few available and the best of those, free agent Matt Wieters, figures to be quite expensive coming off an All-Star season and represented by agent Scott Boras.

The former Georgia Tech star made his fourth All-Star team in his eighth season with the Orioles. Wieters, 30, hit .243 with 17 homers and 66 RBIs in 124 games including 111 starts at catcher, and he threw out 35 percent of would-be base stealers, second-best percentage in the American League.

His 1.7 WAR was merely tied for 16th among major league catchers, with Cubs backup David Ross and Toronto’s Russell Martin. But to hear Boras describe him, Wieters is a quintessential catcher with all the intangibles to go with his bat and strong, surgically repaired arm. Here’s what Boras said Wednesday when this Atlanta writer asked about Wieters.

“Switch-hitter, special guy. But the key thing about him, you’ve got a lot of teams that have starting pitchers with big arms — big, young arms,” said Boras, whose description, not coincidentally, fit the Braves. “And what Matt Wieters has done in Baltimore with all of their pitchers — they’re all improving, they’ve all become successful, all their draft picks are working out, and that largely has to do with his ability to mentor and develop pitching staffs.

“(Orioles closer) Zack Britton and (reliever Dylan) Bundy and (starters Chris) Tillman and (Kevin) Gausman. … All these arms that are coming through there that are all being successful. And that says a lot. We can look at his performance record, which makes (Wieters) elite. But really, he’s a general in the clubhouse. He really provides a value to a team because he effects so many pitchers in what he does.”

MLB Trade Rumors projects a three-year, $39 million contract, but it’s a good bet that Boras will ask for significantly more for Wieters, who won Gold Gloves in 2011 and 2012 and hit 22 or 23 home runs in three consecutive seasons through 2013. He had Tommy John elbow surgery in 2014 and was limited to 91 games over a two-year span.

“He’s an All-Star catcher,” Boras said. “I went back and you look at certain organizations and you look at who’s won Gold Gloves, who’s had multiple 20-home run seasons — this year Matt had 17 home runs and 65 RBIs — who does that and plays Gold Glove defense? And the answer is, I had to go back to Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez) in 2003 to find the last free agent that was available that had won Gold Gloves and had multiple 20-home run performances.”

If Wieters is too expensive, the Braves could make a run at free agent Jason Castro, a left-handed hitter who’s far less of a hitter, but is regarded as an outstanding pitch-framer and handler of pitching staffs. Right-handed hitter Nick Hundley, also commended for his work with pitchers, is another possibility.

And don’t forget the Braves have discussed a possible trade for longtime former Braves catcher Brian McCann and have revisited that at times to see if the Yankees’ initial asking price would come down.

Castro is only a .232 hitter with 62 homers and a .699 OPS in six seasons with the Astros, but against right-handers he has a .247 career average and .753 OPS. He had 10 homers in 279 plate appearances vs. right-handers in 2016.

The Braves say if they can’t find a catcher who fits their needs and budget, they’ll be OK with bringing back Anthony Recker to pair with Flowers.