Matt Wieters Rumors
News and notes out of the American League East..
- Orioles catcher Matt Wieters told reporters today that he doesn't hold a grudge against the club for renewing his contract, writes Peter Schmuck of The Baltimore Sun. The Scott Boras client will be eligible for arbitration after this season and can hit the open market after the 2015 season.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post offers up two ideas for how the Yankees can stay below the $189MM threshold while keeping their core in tact. His first idea is to extend and rework Alex Rodriguez's after the 2013 season in order to lower the average value of his contract. Rodriguez is currently slated to make $86MM over four years starting in 2014 but Sherman suggests that the Bombers could turn $24MM in uncertain bonuses into a $14MM add-on for '18. The Bombers could also suppress the average salary of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson by extending them under their current deals rather than after 2014.
- As he waited for the Yankees' call this offseason, Eric Chavez wasn't sure if he'd be playing this year, writes Jeff Bradley of the Star-Ledger. Chavez, 34, also had conversations with the White Sox but ultimately chose to return to New York.
- Bobby Valentine & Co. are working to solve the Red Sox bullpen puzzle, which involves several relievers who are out-of-options, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
- Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey took a long and strange path to wind up where he is today, writes Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe.
The success of the Orioles' offseason hinges, in large part, on their ability to add to the pitching staff. But at the General Manager Meetings in Milwaukee today, newly-appointed GM Dan Duquette suggested he'll let the market develop before obtaining pitching reinforcements.
"Everybody else is chasing it, too," Duquette told MLBTR. "We have to wait for the sharks to feed and then we'll wait to see what's left over."
In other words, it doesn’t appear that the Orioles will sign highly-coveted free agents such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle. Baltimore begins the offseason with internal rotation candidates such as Jeremy Guthrie, Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Jo-Jo Reyes.
Duquette also noted that the defensive alignment for Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis remains undetermined, though manager Buck Showalter is leaning toward playing Reynolds at first with Davis at third. Duquette hasn't yet considered extensions for Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, but he wants to keep both players in place, so the topic may come up after December.
Extension season might not be over yet, but if recent history is any indication, we've seen most or all of this spring's extensions. You have to go back to 2008 to find an extension completed in May or June, so there's a chance that Ryan Braun's deal will be the last one of its kind for a few months.
If that's the case, 37 players will have signed extensions since the beginning of the 2010-11 offseason. Exactly one of those players, Ryan Hanigan of the Reds, is a catcher. It's noteworthy, if not downright surprising, that no starting catchers signed extensions when you consider that dependable catching is hard to come by and that teams spent aggressively last winter.
Unlike the 2009-10 offseason, when the Twins extended Joe Mauer, no backstop was an obvious candidate for an extension. Mike Napoli is getting expensive and he doesn't have a reputation as a good defender. Matt Wieters hit just .249/.319/.377 last year, so it's understandable that the Orioles didn't commit to him on a mutliyear deal. And it would have made little sense for the Indians to extend Carlos Santana, who had an operation to repair a damaged knee ligament (his LCL) last August.
Buster Posey was an extension candidate, but there's no rush for the Giants to extend him, since he's under team control through 2016. Perhaps the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year will be in line for a long-term deal after 2011 if he repeats his breakout rookie performance.
Geovany Soto would have been a more traditional candidate for an extension. He hit .280/.393/.497 with 17 homers last year and was arbitration eligible for the first time in his career after the season. Soto is young enough for the Cubs to want him to keep him around (28) and close enough to free agency that they might be thinking about securing his services for an extra season or two (Soto is eligible for free agency after 2013). They didn't agree to terms on a long-term contract and instead signed a one-year, $3MM deal.
Given the circumstances surrounding each extension candidate, it's easier to see why Hanigan was the only backstop to sign long-term. Next year, however, more catchers, including some of the ones above, could sign extensions. Elite catchers don't hit free agency often, so the teams that develop catching may choose to keep it in place long-term by offering promising catchers extensions.
The Orioles will attempt to recover from their first loss of the season tonight when they face Brad Penny and the Tigers. In the meantime, here are some links...
- Victor Martinez tells Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun that he appreciated the Orioles' interest in him this offseason, when they offered $48MM over four years to become their first baseman. "It was a pretty tough decision," Martinez said. Instead, he signed with the Tigers for $50MM.
- Orioles pitching coach Mark Connor told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that catcher Matt Wieters is "by far the most amazing 'feel' guy at that age" he has ever seen. Wieters' tempo and game-calling are impressing the Orioles. Those skills were a big reason the Orioles weren't interested in Martinez as a catcher.
- Peter Schmuck of the Sun isn't looking to nitpick, but he says Adam Jones' approach at the plate is one potential area of concern for the Orioles early on.
- After a surprising 4-1 start thanks to their impressive pitching, the Orioles are 15th on WEEI.com's power rankings.
Some items from the AL and NL East as the eastern clubs dive into Grapefruit League action...
- Joba Chamberlain won't be a Yankee by this time in 2012, predicts Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Matt Wieters is listed as one of "the most disappointing prospects of all time" by Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus. "His glove and the dream of what might have been will keep him around for years, but stardom now seems spectacularly unlikely," Goldman writes. Given that Wieters is entering just his third Major League season and hasn't turned 25 yet, this ranking seems awfully premature.
- The Orioles' farm system lacks depth, especially in comparison to its AL East rivals, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. "The team’s offseason moves...represent nothing more than a Band-Aid," Rosenthal says, noting that the O's "are practically a zero" when it comes to international scouting. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined these issues in his offseason-in-review piece about Baltimore earlier today.
- Johnny Damon tells Ken Davidoff of Newsday that his free agent discussions with the Yankees this past winter involved a scenario that would have seen Damon make three starts per week for New York. Damon turned the deal down since the lack of playing time would have hurt his quest for 3000 hits.
- Damon also tells Peter Gammons (Twitter link) that had he known the Tigers weren't going to bring him back, he would have gone to the Red Sox when Boston claimed him on waivers last August.
- The Phillies made Chad Durbin a $2MM offer in December, considerably more than the $800K deal Durbin eventually signed with Cleveland, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Once Philadelphia signed Cliff Lee, however, the team pulled back the contract and instead offered just a minor league deal. "When Cliff signed, it took any ability to go back there on a Major League deal off the table," Durbin told MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Durbin doesn't have any hard feelings towards the Phillies over the move: "You know, I'd take Cliff Lee over Chad Durbin."
- Anthony DiComo of MLB.com looks at the twists and turns of Tim Byrdak's baseball career. The veteran left-hander is trying to make the Mets' Opening Day roster after signing a minor league deal with the team in January.
On this date four years ago, the Mets locked up franchise cornerstone David Wright to a six-year deal worth $55MM guaranteed. A club option for 2013 could put another $15MM in his pocket, and he's already earned an extra $300K in award based incentives. Wright, just 23 at the time and now a .307/.387/.517 career hitter, would have become a free agent after this season had he not opted for the long-term security. Can't say I blame him.
Here's a look at what's being written in the baseball corner of the blogging universe...
- Mets Paradise hosts a post-trade deadline roundtable discussion with fellow Mets bloggers.
- 1 Blue Jays Way interviews Toronto prospect Danny Farquhar.
- NPB Tracker recaps the deals made on the July 31st trade deadline in Japan.
- River Ave. Blues wonders what would have happened if Alex Rodriguez hadn't opted out of his contract after the 2007 season.
- Pittsburgh Lumber Co. defends the Pirates' Chan Ho Park pick-up.
- Bright House Sports Network thinks Matt Garza's time with the Rays may soon come to an end.
- Camden Crazies looks at what's wrong with Matt Wieters.
- SD Sports Net deciphers the Padres' deadline deals.
- More Hardball breaks down the young players the Pirates have coming up through the system.
Last weekend the Twins shook up the baseball world by signing catcher Joe Mauer, their franchise player, to an eight year contract worth $184MM. It's the fourth richest contract in baseball history and by far the biggest for a backstop. After seeing what it took to sign Mauer a year before he hit the open market, would it behoove the Orioles to approach Matt Wieters, their franchise catcher, about a long-term deal now?
The 23-year-old Wieters reached the big leagues last year with similar hype to what surrounded Mauer when he first arrived in the show. Although his overall batting line of .288/.340/.412 in 385 plate appearances was solid yet unspectacular, he finished the season strong by hitting .331/.389/.479 in his final 157 plate appearances. The expectation is that Wieters will develop into a switch hitting version of the Twins' catcher, though it's unrealistic and unfair to expect anyone to match what Mauer's done in his career to date.
Because he wasn't called up until the end of May, Wieters won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. Even though he was a high profile draft pick in 2007, he did not sign a Major League contract, instead opting for a $6MM bonus up front. Ryan Braun (eight years, $45MM) and Evan Longoria (six years, $17.5MM plus two options) are the only two position players in recent memory to sign a long-term deal with less than one year of service time, and they both play a less demanding position than Wieters.
My gut says the Orioles should take advantage of their right to pay Wieters close to the league minimum for the next two years before attempting to sign him long-term, but what do I know? Do you think the O's should try to sign Wieters long-term now, or is it too soon and too risky given the demands of the catching position? What kind of contract would be appropriate, something along the lines of what Braun and Longoria got, or a little less?
Remember, the Orioles are by no means a small market club; they offered Mark Teixeira (a Georgia Tech product like Wieters) a nine-figure deal last offseason and certainly appear willing to add payroll for the right players. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are already under contract for the long haul, and Baltimore also has Adam Jones, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Nolan Reimold under team control for the next several years.
Gregg Zaun was offered arbitration by Tampa Bay today, but the free agent catcher has at least one serious suitor in the Seattle Mariners. Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports report that the M's are looking to sign Zaun as a veteran platoon mate for prospect Adam Moore. Rob Johnson, the only other catcher on the Seattle 40-man roster since Kenji Johjima's opt-out, is coming off of surgeries to both hips and may not be ready for Spring Training.
Both Moore and Johnson are right-handed batters, so the switch-hitting Zaun would provide Seattle with a lefty bat for a platoon situation; Zaun had an .801 OPS against right-handed pitching last season. Should Zaun and Moore end up in a platoon, Zaun would find himself sharing time with a highly-regarded prospect for the second consecutive year. He began 2009 in Baltimore in a platoon with Matt Wieters.
Earlier today, we learned that Zaun expects to sign by the end of the week.
The Orioles aren't expected to be major players on the free-agent market this winter, but if the team does make a move, it will likely be to acquire a veteran presence at first and/or third base.
Speaking to MASN Sports' Steve Melewski, Baltimore team president Andy MacPhail said that given the Orioles' young outfield and second-year catcher Matt Wieters, he would "like to put more proven bats" in the lineup to compliment the team's young stars. The O's have prospects Brandon Snyder and Josh Bell in the pipeline at first and third, respectively, but since MacPhail said he doesn't see either making the leap to the majors in 2010, the experienced hitters that MacPhail wants will have to come at the corner infield spots.
Baltimore already has Luke Scott (a team-leading 25 homers in 2009) penciled in at either first base or DH, and utilityman Ty Wigginton is available to play third. Prospect Michael Aubrey (an .826 OPS in 95 plate appearances last season) is also in the 1B mix, possibly in a lefty-righty platoon with Wigginton that would lock Scott into a DH/LF split with Nolan Reimold and would then leave third base open for either a free agent or a player to be acquired in a trade. The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly predicted the O's would sign Pedro Feliz, while there has been some speculation that the Orioles will make a trade with Florida for Dan Uggla and then move Uggla from second to third base.
In his Offseason Outlook series entry about Baltimore, Tim Dierkes listed names like Adrian Beltre, Carlos Delgado and Nick Johnson as possible targets for the Orioles. These players would fit the "short-term" designation that MacPhail mentioned, but since MacPhail didn't rule out the possibility of "the right deal for the right player, even if it was a longer-term deal," would there be any other bigger-name corner infielders that you could realistically see Baltimore signing?
The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly details the questions facing a Baltimore team with some young offensive talent, some terrific young pitching on the way, and a lot of extra cash.
Connolly writes that while the 64-98 record Baltimore had in 2009 was the third-worst in team history, "there is a sense that the future has promise because of the emergence of young starting pitchers Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, catcher Matt Wieters and outfielders Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie."
Left unsaid, of course, is the emergence of Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continuing to be a tremendous player.
The good news? The Orioles, according to Connolly, went from roughly $77MM owed in payroll at the start of the 2009 season-including $9MM to Jay Gibbons and Ramon Hernandez- to a $30MM commitment for 2010, not including raises through arbitration.
The bad news is that there aren't many marquee free agents (though there is Jason Marquis), and those that do qualify- Jason Bay, Matt Holliday, John Lackey- aren't great fits, particularly Bay and Holliday in an overcrowded outfield.
Connolly captures the problem of desires vs. realistic options perfectly here:
"The preference is to find a right-handed or switch-hitting first baseman in his prime, like the New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira. But there's no one who fits that profile in this year's class. The best free-agent options might be left-handed-hitting first basemen Russell Branyan and Hank Blalock or right-handed do-it-all Mark DeRosa."
So what's an Oriole to do?