Matt Wieters Rumors
Let's start the weekend up with a poll. As MLBTR's Steve Adams noted recently, two young stars (Adam Jones and Miguel Montero) signed significant extensions during May of 2012. While there have not been significant rumblings about any similar deals recently, the Jones and Montero deals both sprung up with relatively little advance buzz: Jones said he was not aware of any talks with the Orioles just a month before his six-year, $85.5MM deal was inked. And the build up to Montero's five-year, $60MM extension consisted largely of the Diamondbacks' acknowledgement that the team was open to in-season negotiations.
Jones had one year of arbitration eligibility remaining when he signed, while Montero would have become a free agent at the end of the year. Both were relatively young (26 and 28, respectively) and fairly well established as above-average players at premium defensive positions. And each had been with their teams for all or virtually all of their big league careers.
With those deals in mind, let's take a look at some generally comparable position players who could be positioned for similar deals. We will not include Robinson Cano, as he is at a different level of performance and contract extension, along with being somewhat older. Anyhow, we already asked MLBTR readers what they think about the likelihood of a Cano extension. Likewise, we'll leave out Chase Headley, given his recent comments. (Also, MLBTR readers just weighed in on a possible Headley extension, with the majority believing a trade was more likely than an extension.)
The Nationals' Ian Desmond, 27, has continued to build off of his emergence last year. He sports a .296/.311/.530 line, although he has also registered seven early errors. The shortstop has spent his entire career in the former-Expos organization, and is poised to hit the open market in 2016. We know the Nats are open to negotiating an extension with Desmond, and the Elvis Andrus signing provides a relevant (albeit imperfect) point of reference.
Orioles' catcher Matt Wieters is another obvious candidate. He will turn 27 later this month, and is looking at free agency in 2016. Ongoing negotiations between Wieters and the O's are seemingly at a simmer, but could pick up at any time. While Wieters is off to a bit of a slow start, slashing just .224/.297/.388 to date, he also probably had less to prove this season than Desmond.
Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox, 29, is similarly situated to Montero. He has played his entire career in Boston, but is set to become a free agent after the season. While the center fielder has not returned to his MVP-level 2011 season, when he exploded for 32 home runs, he has bounced back from his injury-shortened 2012. Thus far, his batting line (.286/.338/.405) and league-leading steal totals (11) are right in line with his strong 2008-2009 seasons. While both player and team appear interested in discussing an extension, Ellsbury's representation by Scott Boras -- and the possibility that he could significantly raise his value with an injury-free 2013 -- could make a deal unlikely.
Jason Heyward of the Braves is two years from free agency at just 23 years old, but as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes notes, the cost-conscious Braves could look to extend him. Heyward is currently on the DL after undergoing an appendectomy, and has had a poor start to the year. Nevertheless, he has established himself as few big leaguers have at his age.
Austin Jackson, the Tigers' center fielder, is a young 26 and still two years from free agency. He is also a client of Scott Boras. But his strong early track record could make him a target for Detroit to try and lock up early. With so many big-money free agent deals on the books, it could make sense for the Tigers to try and save on Jackson by guaranteeing him money in advance. Jackson is off to another good start, putting up a .293/.356/.407 line to go with five steals.
APRIL 13: The Orioles would be willing to give Wieters six years in an extension, reports Buster Olney ESPN.com (on Twitter). Olney further notes, however, that there is no momentum in the long-term extension discussions between the O's and their star catcher.
APRIL 3: The Orioles recently offered a contract extension of at least five years to Matt Wieters, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. However, Heyman adds that there is no evidence that the two sides are anywhere near an agreement. In fact, Wieters (a Boras Corporation client) says that if the O's have made an extension offer to him, then he doesn't know about it, tweets Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun. Then again, the catcher says that he doesn't want to be briefed on contract talks right now.
Wieters, who can become a free agent following the 2015 season, avoided arbitration with the Orioles this offseason by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $5.5MM. Heyman notes that the bar for catchers has been raised significantly with Buster Posey's extension, but it's safe to say the two aren't exactly comparables. Posey already has a Rookie of the Year, an MVP and two World Series titles under his belt. His .317/.384/.509 batting line from 2010-12 is also far superior to Wieters' .253/.326/.423 performance during that same span.
A look at MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows that catchers with between three and four years of service time have typically signed extensions worth $15-16MM. That's too low for Wieters, whose salary is already north of $5MM. A number closer to Miguel Montero's five-year, $60MM contract with the Diamondbacks could be more reasonable, though Montero was just one year from free agency when he signed that deal.
Heyman asked Orioles GM and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette how talks between the two sides were going but was simply told, "We'll enjoy him while he's here," in reply. Wieters recently told reporters that he would be open to discussing a long-term deal in Baltimore.
One Scott Boras client created a tense moment for another today as Prince Fielder lined a ball off the left hand of Stephen Strasburg during a Spring Training game. Strasburg seemed fine after the knock and continuing pitching, finishing the outing with three runs allowed and five strikeouts over six innings of work.
Here's the latest from around the Beltway from both the Nationals' and Orioles' camps...
- Matt Wieters told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com that he would be open to discusing a multiyear extension with the Orioles but didn't confirm whether any talks had taken place. "At this point, I am getting ready for the year and if something were to ever develop, I'd pretty much tell Scott [agent Scott Boras] to present the information," Wieters said. O's executive VP Dan Duquette said in January that the team would likely approach Wieters about a long-term deal at some point during the offseason, while the catcher said he just wants to focus on playing once Opening Day hits. Wieters has two more arbitration eligible years left and is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- Jair Jurrjens can't opt out of his Orioles contract until June 15, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (via Twitter). The O's signed the veteran righty to a minor league deal last month.
- The Nationals are internally confident that Gio Gonzalez won't be suspended for his connection to the controversial Biogenesis clinic in Miami, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports. MLB is continuing to investigate Gonzalez and other players named in the clinic's records, though last month it was reported that no banned substances were among Gonzalez's alleged purchases from Biogenesis.
- Nationals center field prospect Eury Perez could become trade bait after this season, MLB.com's Bill Ladson opines as part of a reader mailbag. Perez has become expendable with Denard Span in center and other prospects like Brian Goodwin and Michael Taylor also in the mix.
- Nats GM Mike Rizzo hinted to reporters (including Ladson) that Chris Young may opt out of his contract on or before March 24 since there doesn't seem to be room for the right-hander on the Nationals' Major League roster. "We are certainly not going to keep him in the minor leagues if he has a chance at a big league job," Rizzo said. "That's only right. That's how we get these players to come with us under these conditions, because they know we are going to do right by them and treat them well."
- "We'll know what other teams think of him," Rizzo said of utilityman Carlos Rivero, who is out of options. "He is a good, versatile player. He is a guy that could help some teams....We'll see shortly." Rivero, 24, has a .265/.322/.386 line over 3222 career PA in the minor leagues since 2006. Here is the full list of this year's out of options players.
This morning, legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver passed away at the age of 82. O's managing partner Peter Angelos released a statement reading, "Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball. This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family." Here's more out of Baltimore as we fondly remember the Hall of Famer..
- Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette believes that the club will discuss a long-term deal with catcher Matt Wieters at some point, writes Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com. The club avoided arbitration with Wieters yesterday by agreeing to a one-year, $5.5MM deal.
- Duquette expects Joe Saunders to make a decision this week but doesn't have a read on which way he might be leaning, tweets Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. The O's would like to have the pitcher back but other teams are interested, including the Twins.
- Closer Jim Johnson is heading to arbitration with the Orioles but he says that he isn't concerned as he has faith in the club and his representatives at Moye Sports Associates, Melewski tweets. Johnson filed for $7.1MM while the O's countered with $5.7MM.
- As we've heard before, shortstop J.J. Hardy isn't going anywhere, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. Hardy definitely has trade interest though and the Tigers are said to be fans of his.
The Orioles avoided arbitration with Matt Wieters, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The Scott Boras client obtained a $5.5MM contract for 2013, and topped even the most aggressive of estimates from MLBTR's resident arbitration forecaster, Matt Swartz.
Wieters remains under team control through 2015 and recently expressed interest in staying with the Orioles long-term. However, Boras clients rarely surrender free agent years while they're arbitration eligible, unless it's a precedent-setting deal.
The Orioles haven't yet engaged in any extension talks with Matt Wieters, but the catcher tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that he would be very interested in staying in the black-and-orange for years to come.
"I've always been interested [in staying long-term in Baltimore]," Wieters said on Tuesday. "I'm a huge fan of Baltimore and what [Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette] have done. It's something to where it's a great baseball town, it's a fun place to play and it's a place where I enjoy playing."
Wieters is under team control through 2015 and is arbitration-eligible for the first time, with a shot at receiving a record salary for first-time arb-eligible catchers according to MLBTR's Matt Swartz. Before the 2012 season began, MLBTR's Mike Axisa thought a five-year, $22-$25MM extension would fit Wieters but the catcher's price tag has likely gone up following a performance that included 23 homers and a .249/.329/.435 slash line.
Connolly notes that Baltimore's location fits Wieters for family reasons, and the catcher himself has been impressed with how the O's have seen fit to lock up other building blocks like Showalter, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy in recent years.
"To have a manager like that and players like that [locked up], that definitely doesn't hurt," Wieters said.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.
After missing the “super two” cutoff of arbitration eligibility by just ten days in 2012, Matt Wieters has finally reached arbitration eligibility in 2013 with three years and 129 days of service time. My arbitration model projects the seasoned catcher to obtain a $4.6MM salary, a potential record for first-time eligible catchers. Due to his durability and his hefty experience for a first-time player, Wieters will probably get close to the model’s projection, though I suspect he will fall short of it.
There have been only 34 catchers who have reached arbitration eligibility for the first time in the last six years, and five them received multiyear deals which make them weak comparisons. Of the remaining 29, only five had at least 400 plate appearances in their platform seasons and only one had at least 470. Wieters had a whopping total of 593 plate appearances in 2012, topped only by Russell Martin’s 650 in 2009.
Wieters, a Boras Corporation client, hit only .249 this past season, but he did hit 23 home runs and he knocked in 83 RBI. Going into 2012, he had already accumulated a total of 1,438 plate appearances and had hit .264 to go along with 42 home runs and 166 RBI. Only a handful of catchers have entered arbitration with that kind of track record. Considering the importance of playing time to arbitration models, it will probably help his case considerably that Wieters is the only player other than Victor Martinez in the last six years to accumulate 2,000 plate appearances from behind the plate before his first year of arbitration eligibility -- and Martinez was already playing on a multiyear deal by the time he would have been eligibile.
In fact, most of the catchers who had numbers like Wieters' before reaching arbitration received multiyear deals before they even became eligible. Martinez in 2007, Brian McCann in 2009, and Kurt Suzuki in 2011 would have been reasonable comparables for Wieters, except that all three received multiyear deals a full year or more before reaching eligibility. This makes it especially hard to find good comparables. Plus, catchers are generally isolated from other position players in arbitration.
Usually multiyear deals are not considered when looking for comparables, even players who signed multiyear deals while negotiating for one-year deals. However, if figures were exchanged, exceptions can be made. Due to the lack of comparables other than aforementioned Martin (who I will discuss more shortly), Joe Mauer could be a reasonable comparable for Wieters. He signed a multiyear deal which paid him $3.75MM in 2007, his first year of eligibility, but he had exchanged figures of $3.3MM and $4.5MM with the Twins before that deal was signed. Even though Wieters may not have the value that Mauer had at this time, his extra power would probably have made his arbitration case more compelling despite his batting average deficiencies. Wieters had 23 home runs and 83 RBI in his platform season, while Mauer only had 13 home runs and 84 RBI. Going into this season, Wieters had 42 home runs and 166 RBI, while Mauer had just 15 home runs and 72 RBI. Of course Wieters had just a .264 average going into his platform season in which he hit .249, and Mauer had a .297 average going in to his platform season and then hit .347. However, power matters more, and the fact that Wieters had 1,438 pre-platform plate appearances and Mauer only had 676 would make Wieters' case far stronger. While Mauer’s request of $4.5MM might not necessarily help Wieters, given that neither the Twins nor an arbitration panel gave him that sum, there is a case that Wieters should get well in excess of the $3.3MM that the Twins offered and probably more than the $3.75MM he ultimately received in his multiyear deal.
Other than Mauer, Russell Martin’s $3.9MM in 2009 stands alone as the best comparable. Martin did have 650 plate appearances, more than Wieters’ 593, and his .280 average exceeded Wieters’ .249. However, he only hit 13 home runs to Wieters’ 23. Martin also had fewer pre-platform plate appearances (1,088 vs. 1,438) since he was eligible as a super two, and he only had 29 home runs and 152 RBI before his platform years, which fall short of Wieters’ 42 home runs and 166 RBI. On the other hand, Martin had 49 career steals by the time he reached arbitration and Wieters has only four. Martin’s case is four years old and that he had less power than Wieters, so I expect Wieters should be able to argue for more than Martin’s $3.9MM and safely break $4MM.
Interestingly, there are almost no other cases that are even close to a match for Wieters. In fact, only Geovany Soto even topped $2.2MM and he only got $3MM after accumulating just 387 plate appearances in 2010. His weaker 17 home runs and 53 RBI (though with a superior .280 average) would make a weak comparable if the Orioles tried to argue to keep Wieters down in the in the $3MM range.
Overall, it’s hard to imagine Wieters getting much less than $4MM and he will probably get more. My projection of $4.6MM would set a new precedent by a considerable margin, so I think he will fall short. Even so, he will probably get relatively close to the projected amount.
Mariano Rivera told reporters that he still has "love and passion for the game" and wants to play next year, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. Rivera’s out for the season after tearing his ACL and his contract with the Yankees expires this winter. Here are more links from around MLB...
- For the Orioles to win fans back to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, they’ll have to win, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes. The success of the NFL's Ravens and the nearby Nationals hasn't made it any easier for the Orioles to draw large crowds.
- Matt Wieters of the Orioles is emerging as one of the game's best catchers, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick writes. The 25-year-old will be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2012 season and he's under team control through 2015.
- White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports that he realizes he could be traded this summer (Twitter link). “If that comes about, I’ll welcome that and do what I’m asked to do,” he said. “But I’d love to be in Chicago.” Peavy may become a midseason trade candidate, as Mike Axisa explained earlier this season.
Carlos Santana and Jonathan Lucroy recently signed extensions, but some other catchers are on track for year to year raises through arbitration. Three of the game's top young backstops will be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2012 season. Matt Wieters, Alex Avila, Buster Posey are well-positioned for 2013 salaries in excess of $2MM if they stay healthy this year.
Deals from long ago, players from different service classes and long-term extensions won't generally have sway in the arbitration cases for players such as Wieters, Avila and Posey who determine salaries year to year. Catchers are typically self-contained in arbitration, meaning players at other positions don't figure into the discussion most of the time. For comps to have pull with agents (and the MLBPA) and teams (and the Labor Relations Department), they have to be recent and relevant.
What's relevant? First-time eligible catchers who agreed to one-year deals via the arbitration system provide the framework within which the salaries for Wieters, Avila and Posey will be determined. Reaching back more than five years would be pushing it, which further limits the selection of comparables. Many top catchers (Brian McCann, Yadier Molina) signed long-term deals and other potentially comparable catchers like A.J. Pierzynski went to arbitration long ago (post-2003). These cases aren't centrally important to Wieters, Avila and Posey.
We're left with the Arb-1 salaries for Russell Martin ($3.9MM), Geovany Soto ($3MM), Nick Hundley ($2MM), Miguel Montero ($2MM) and Mike Napoli ($2MM). Each of those settlements came within the last five years and could help determine the earnings for this offseason's first-time eligible backstops. Before signing his first extension, Joe Mauer and the Twins exchanged arbitration submissions and arrived at a $3.9MM midpoint ($4.5MM vs. $3.3MM). Those six-year-old filing numbers could also figure in to next winter's cases.
Posey didn't play after a gruesome home-plate collision ended his season last May, so there's no way he'll measure up to players such as Avila, Wieters, Soto and Martin in terms of bulk stats like games, plate appearances and RBI. Posey resembles Soto, another NL Rookie of the Year winner, on a per-game basis, but he probably won't catch up to the Cubs backstop in terms of counting stats.
With a full season, Posey should have better bulk numbers than Hundley, Napoli and Montero did as first-time eligible catchers. Each member of that trio obtained $2MM their first time through the arbitration process, so a salary in the $2-3MM range is within reach for Posey.
If Avila plays in 104 games, makes 470 plate appearances, hits 23 homers and drives in 69 this season, he’ll have matched the career stats Soto had as a first-time eligible player. Avila could match Martin in homers, and a better platform year is within reach. But in terms of most significant counting stats, Avila won't measure up to Wieters and Martin, the record holder for first-time eligible catchers. Still, Avila's similarity to Soto should set him up for a comparable payday in the $3MM range.
Wieters will have distinguished himself from $2MM catchers such as Hundley, Montero, Napoli and John Buck by the time the season ends. In fact, it's not hard to argue that he has already done so. The switch hitter currently compares well with Soto's post-2010 career numbers despite his relative inexperience. He'll match Soto's career numbers with eight more homers and 21 RBI, but the Cubs backstop had a better career batting line. Even so, $3MM seems quite attainable for Wieters.
With a healthy season, Wieters would surpass some of the numbers Martin had as a first-time eligible player. The Orioles catcher is on track to have more games, plate appearances and RBI than Martin did when he set his record after the 2008 season. And Wieters' bulk numbers are already superior to those Mauer had as a first-time eligible player. However, Wieters doesn't offer Martin's speed or the batting average and on-base percentage that Martin and Mauer both had. Wieters' 2013 salary could be closer to $4MM than it is to $3MM, but it's unreasonable to expect him to break any records just yet.
These informal projections could change quickly. As Posey knows all too well, injuries can interrupt seasons and limit bargaining power. Playing time is one of the most important determinants of a hitter's salary, so these three catchers must stay healthy to remain on track. If all goes well, their salaries will climb above $2MM following the 2012 season.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire.
Catchers often take a few years to adjust to big league life after being called up from the minors, in part because they have to learn a pitching staff in addition to focusing on their own development. The Buster Posey-types who have an immediate impact are few and far between. Matt Wieters was the best prospect in all of baseball before the 2009 season according to Baseball America, but it wasn't until 2011 that he started to put it all together.
Wieters, 25, hit .262/.328/.450 with 22 homers for the Orioles last season and was named to his first All-Star Game. A switch-hitter, Wieters was Barry Bonds from the right side (.339/.430/.694) and Neifi Perez from the left (.235/.291/.371). His career splits are much less pronounced, however. Wieters won the Gold Glove Award for his work behind the plate, and also won the Fielding Bible Award at the position for those of you who prefer a more analytical approach to defense. His career may have started slowly, but now Wieters is starting to break out.
Quality catching is hard to find, which is why teams are eager to lock up their young backstops these days. Nick Hundley (three years, $9MM) and Salvador Perez (five years, $7MM) traded their arbitration-eligible years for guaranteed payouts this offseason while Yadier Molina set the market for free agent backstops with his five-year, $75MM contract. A Molina-like payday may be unavoidable for the Orioles and Wieters down the road, but the club certainly has reasons to look into buying out his arbitration years as well some potential free agent years with an extension.
Molina ($9.25MM), Kurt Suzuki ($14.85MM), Brian McCann ($15.5MM), and Joe Mauer ($20.5MM) all signed away their three arbitration years for similar amounts as part of a multi-year extension. The free agent years surrendered as part of those four extensions range in value from $5.25MM (Molina) to $12.5MM (Mauer). Miguel Montero did not sign an extension but will earn $11.1MM during his three arbitration years. Using those five backstops as a blueprint, a five-year contract worth $22-25MM could make sense for both the O's and Wieters. It would cover his final pre-arbitration year (2012), all three arbitration years ($13-15MM total), and one free agent year ($9-10MM). Options for additional free agent years are, as they say, optional.
It's worth noting that Wieters is a Scott Boras client, but the superagent has been willing to let clients like Jered Weaver, Carlos Gonzalez, Stephen Drew, and Elvis Andrus sign long-term extensions in recent years. Baltimore hired new GM Dan Duquette back in November and they're just starting to pick up the pieces of a franchise that's finished in the AL East cellar in each of the last four years. Wieters could be part of the next contending Orioles team, and the club might want to gain some cost certainty before he continues his breakout and gets even more expensive.
Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.