WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Derek Norris is still a member of the Washington Nationals and as long as he is, which he knows probably isn’t for much longer, he will report to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches prepared to compete for a starting job he has little to no chance of winning. He doesn’t have a choice as the Nationals attempt to find a club willing to pay the $4.2 million salary he is owed this season after they signed Matt Wieters to replace him as the club’s starting catcher, a role Norris held for nearly three dead months on the calendar.
It’s a situation that could have easily become awkward, but Norris, acquired from the San Diego Padres in December, insisted it isn’t.
“Whatever transpires over the next weeks or month or however long to decide what they’re going to do, I’m still doing the same thing, whether I’m wearing red and white, purple and gold, or green and yellow,” Norris said Thursday. “I’m out here to get my swings, get my at-bats, get my innings. It doesn’t change much for me other than the fact that it may or may not be the teammates I’ll be playing with. So on my end it’s control what I can control. Go out there and play my games and get ready for a season.”
The market for Norris’s services has not been bustling, according to people familiar with the situation. Teams potentially in need of a catcher — such as the Angels, Brewers, and White Sox — are reluctant to pay $4.2 million for a 28-year-old player who batted .186 with a .583 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for San Diego last season.
The Nationals would ideally trade Norris, but there’s another option — releasing him and swallowing a minor cost. That’s an alternative because Norris’s contract, settled before arbitration, is non-guaranteed until Opening Day and the Nationals would be on the hook for just one-sixth of his projected salary if released.
Until then, Norris, who was already traded by the Nationals once in December 2011, will continue reporting to work in West Palm Beach knowing it could be his final day with the Nationals.
“It’s a different situation,” Norris said. “It’s unique in itself, but at the end of the day you still got to go out there and prep for what you’re getting paid to do playing baseball so, with the decision, whatever happens, it’s out of my control. I don’t know what’s going to happen and, frankly, I’m not sure that they as of right now do either. So just, like I said before, I’m still trying to win a starting job here until something else happens and we’ll get there when that wave comes. As of right now, that’s the goal.”