Matt Wieters suffered a laceration that required stitches to his left (non-throwing) arm earlier this offseason but is fully healthy with Spring Training on the horizon, agent Scott Boras tells Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
Rosenthal spoke to Boras about the circumstances that have led to Wieters remaining on the open market, and the agent acknowledged that his client’s poor pitch-framing metrics likely have impacted his free-agent stock. However, Boras also noted that framing numbers are impacted by the velocity of the pitcher, seemingly indicating that they might not be as dependable as some make them out to be. Says Boras:
“…Because the hitters have to commit early, because you have big velo, your command comes from actually learning to throw balls — hitters often swing at ’em. That’s why velo pitchers are very, very effective in the ERA category with a catcher, but their framing statistics are going to be well less than the norm.”
There may well be merit to Boras’ claims that velocity significantly impacts pitch-framing metrics — he’s not the first to suggest as much — but the parallel that’s being drawn seems out of place. The Orioles, as a staff, tied for 18th in overall fastball velocity last season, so it seems somewhat counter-intuitive to point out that higher-velocity arms can lead to dubious framing grades. If softer-tossing arms generally portend superior framing marks for their catchers, one would expect Wieters to have somewhat of an edge over those that caught harder-throwing staffs. Instead, he’s been consistently below-average in that regard for the past several seasons. The O’s have never been one of the 10 hardest-throwing teams in baseball in that time, with the exception of the 2014 campaign, in which Wieters played just 26 games.
ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote today that Wieters’ best chance at landing a notable contract at this point could be to wait until an injury arises in either Spring Training or the World Baseball Classic that could create an opportunity. Wieters has been tied to the Nationals and the Angels all winter long, it seems, but Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post recently appeared on Olney’s Baseball Tonight Podcast (audio link) and explained that the Nats are largely set on Derek Norris entering the season as the starter behind the dish. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, meanwhile, wrote earlier this morning that if Wieters does end up with the Halos, it’d likely have to be on a one-year deal at a discount rate.
Boras tells Rosenthal that Wieters’ market has only truly begun to take shape in the past month, but he unsurprisingly offers no indication of a potential asking price. (Rosenthal notes that “even a $50 million deal is probably a stretch,” though I’d contend that’s been the case all offseason.) Wieters would be far from the first Boras client to secure a surprising multi-year deal late in the offseason, so it’s certainly possible that the market for his services is more robust than most reports indicate at present. However, while the majority of theoretical suitors listed by Rosenthal in his column — the Orioles, Nats, Mets, Rockies, Rays, Angels, D-backs and White Sox — all make sense on paper, it’s also difficult to see any from that group breaking the bank on a multi-year deal barring an injury elsewhere on the staff.