Nationals release veteran catcher Norris

Nationals release veteran catcher Norris

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Nationals released catcher Derek Norris on Wednesday morning, bringing an end to his second stint with the Nats just three months after the club traded for him. The end had been imminent for Norris for weeks, however, since the team signed free-agent catcher Matt Wieters on Feb.24.

Washington had searched for a trade partner for Norris during the past few weeks before it placed him on waivers over the weekend. By releasing the catcher Wednesday, the Nationals only owed him a termination pay of about $700,000 instead of the full $4.2 million he was set to make after arbitration.

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The Nats acquired Norris from the Padres on Dec. 2 in exchange for Minor Leaguer Pedro Avila, and they were betting on him bouncing back from a rough 2016 season, when he hit .186/.255/.328 with a 56 OPS+ (100 is league average). But Wieters lingered on the free-agent market past the start of Spring Training, and the Nationals did not pass up signing him on a decreased price tag.

So Norris' second tenure with the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 Draft ends similarly to the first, before he ever appeared in a regular-season game for Washington. He was traded to Oakland as part of the Gio Gonzalez trade in '11.

"I think I got through that a few weeks ago," Norris said. "It's a bummer. I'm very familiar with a lot of the coaching staff and a lot of the guys in here. So for sure, it's a bummer. But it's part of it. I enjoyed it while it lasted. And even though it was a short time, I still got an opportunity to learn some things from the guys here and to keep me carrying on forward."

Even though Norris was placed in an awkward situation during the past few weeks of camp, playing for a team and working with a pitching staff that he was almost certainly not going to begin the season with, the Nationals complimented his attitude the entire way.

"He handled it like a professional, handled it like a man," Nats manager Dusty Baker said. "He still was busting his butt playing, trying to help pitchers. I didn't know him before he got here, but he'd be an asset to any team. He would've been an asset to us, as well. It just didn't work out. It's a numbers game. And sometimes, business decisions supersede other decisions. It's a shame the way things have gone, but that's how it is."

Norris is now a free agent and hits the market that stalled a bit for catching help during the offseason. But there are a few teams that could use a backstop, especially considering Norris has looked good this spring, going 6-for-17 with two home runs.

"Where it gets a little different for me is trying to find somewhere with the best interests for myself and getting with a team that I know I can have not necessarily an everyday gig, but a chance to determine my own destiny," Norris said, "where if I'm doing well, my playing time goes up. And if I'm not, then we'll see what happens. So I'm just trying to find a place where I'm given an equal opportunity to go out there and kind of put myself back on the map."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.