22 July 2013

A Baltimore Without Matt Wieters

There has been a great deal of emphatically contradictory opinions between those who want to get a Matt Wieters extension done yesterday and others who are just as passionate for the team to deal the man, who once had a prolific PECOTA projection, for prospects.  I wrote this column several months ago for Camden Depot and the short of it is that I still think a 5 year extension worth 64-70 MM makes sense.  I also understand why one might spend beyond that amount.  I think the conventional wisdom that big catchers age more quickly is something that is not supported by historical evidence and Matt Wieters has not shown himself to be injury plagued.  The other point of view is that Wieters is overrated and not worth the money he will probably demand as a supposed first division catcher.

Here is what Wieters has accomplished so far:
2009 23 96 385 15 9 28 86 .288 .340 .412 96 1.4 1.3
2010 24 130 502 22 11 47 94 .249 .319 .377 90 2.5 2.2
2011 25 139 551 28 22 48 84 .262 .328 .450 110 5.1 4.7 AS,GG
2012 26 144 593 27 23 60 112 .249 .329 .435 107 3.6 3.9 AS,MVP-21,GG
2013 27 90 354 19 13 29 62 .238 .297 .420 93 0.4 1.8
5 Yrs 599 2385 111 78 212 438 .257 .324 .421 100 13.1 13.9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/21/2013.
As you can see above, Wieters has been an excellent catcher.  He has been worth a great deal of value to the team and has deserved his two All Star appearances and at least one of his Gold Gloves.  To say he has had no value is simply untrue.  That is evident.  Whether or not he will be worth something in the future is another story.  This begs the question: can the Orioles replace Wieters and can they replace him for less money?

Over the past few years, there have been some options on the market:

Cost Year 1st year fWAR
John Buck 2 2010 2.7
Jason Kendall 3 2010 1.2
Bengie Molina 4.5 2010 0.1
Miguel Olivo 2.5 2010 2.6
Ivan Rodriguez 3 2010 0.9
John Buck 6 2011 1.6
Russell Martin 4 2011 2.8
Miguel Olivo 3.5 2011 0
AJ Pierzynski 4 2011 1.1
Yorvit Torrealba 3.1 2011 0.8
Ryan Doumit 3 2012 1.4
Russell Martin 8.5 2013 3.1
AJ Pierzynski 7.5 2013 1.3

Over the past four years, five average to above average catchers have hit the market: John Buck (one of two times), Miguel Olivo (one of two times), Russell Martin (twice), and AJ Pierzynski (one of two times).  It is not an excellent record.  This should not seem surprising because teams tend to keep a hold of catchers, shortstops, and centerfielders.  These positions rarely make their way to the open market.  Those that do have major concerns and produce unevenly.

How does the 2014 market shaping up?

fWAR Proj fWAR
John Buck 1.6 2.7
Brian McCann 2.2 3.8
Jose Molina 0.0 0.0
AJ Pierzynski 1.3 2.2
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 1.5 2.6

Brian McCann is the only blue chipper and is likely to make more money than what Wieters will earn over the next couple years.  Buck and Pierzynski have uncertainty attached to them.  Molina has no offensive capabilities, but, arguably, is an All Star quality catcher simply with his ability to frame pitches.  Salty has been offensively similar to what Wieters has been doing this year, but with obviously worse defense.  I’m not sure whether he represents much in terms of saving money to spend elsewhere.

In the end, we have the likelihood that Wieters’ performance cannot be replaced without spending considerably if McCann hits the open market.  That said, perhaps Wieters could bring back something useful beyond promising.

Why could Wieters bring back in a trade?
If we assume that Wieters is in fact a first division catcher, then the general trade structure would be a top 25, top 50, and top 100 prospect.  Who has perhaps the need for a top notch catcher along with the horses to pull this off?

Addison Russell, SS
Michael Choice, OF
Sonny Gray, RHP

The Athletics’ MO has not typically been to give up prospects to acquire a single player.  However, they do have a need behind the plate.  Derek Norris and John Jaso are not the most useful guys behind the plate.  However, they cost less than Wieters.  Far less when you consider premier talent Addision Russell (who would keep Machado as third base).  Michael Choice, a decent outfield prospect who can at least fill in at all three fields, has plus power potential.  Sonny Gray is a poor man’s Chris Sale.  He has a great chance of being a solid closer and a slight chance of being a very useful starting pitcher.

Anthony Rendon, 3B
Lucas Giolito, RHP
Brian Goodwin, OF

Anthony Rendon is more and more showing that he belongs in the Majors, so I have doubts he would be available.  However, if the Nationals think they can resolve 2B more easily than C or that the oft-injured Rendon is not a good fit at second, then they may reconsider.  His presence on the Orioles would shift Machado to SS and make J.J. Hardy a surplus.  Giolito is just getting back into baseball after having Tommy John surgery last year.  He profiles as a plus-plus fastball and plus curve starting pitcher with top of the rotation potential, but more likely a 2 or 3 slot as his ceiling.  Goodwin has solid tools and is slowly putting it all together.  He could be a solution to having Adam Jones move to left field in a few years.

Gary Sanchez, C
Rafael De Paula, RHP
Tyler Austin, OF

I have no doubt that the Yankees would be quite interested in making a deal for Matt Wieters.  There are some who think the Orioles should be willing to send him to New York City before the Yanks simply outbid the Orioles for his services in a couple years when Wieters is scheduled to become a free agent.  What could the Orioles get?  I passed on Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams.  Both are incredibly promising players, but have some non-baseball challenges they need to overcome that I would not personally want to take on.  Gary Sanchez has had difficulty taking to the catching slot and his offense might not be enough to play elsewhere.  If all goes well, he is an All Star catcher around 2016 or 2017.  De Paula has some issues with his age claims (he is actually 22), but he shows excellent stuff.  He could be a mid-rotation arm or a solid late inning arm.  Finally, Austin is struggling a bit in AA, but profiles as a Nick Markakis like RF.  Solid defense, solid doubles power, and good athleticism.


As I see it, those are pretty much the options the team has in front of them.  My preference still is to extend Wieters and move forward with him.  Prospects are excellent to acquire, but they do take time to develop and very few wind up giving elite performance.

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