Matt Wieters Rumors
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.
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.