Your Lone Acquisition of September and October: Andy Wilkins
This time of the year nothing much happens with players coming in or out of an organization. In the Majors, teams can make moves in September and October, but those players are not able to appear on a post-season roster. In the Minors, the leagues have all ended, so there is no need for depth. Most often, the kinds of moves you see are ones where a team wants to bring someone to the expanded active roster and needs to designate for assignment a player in order to open a spot on the 40 man roster. Such a situation led to the Orioles' lone September acquisition Andy Wilkins.
In 2014, Wilkins played first for the Chicago White Sox AAA affiliate in Charlotte, mashing 30 home runs and slashing 293/338/558. He was two years younger than the average player in the International League. The following Spring the team waived him after no finding anyone willing to trade for Wilkins. For those who fall in love with players with big seasons like Trey Mancini, Christian Walker, Lou Montanez, etc., performance scouting can be misleading. Wilkins' issues are largely two items: (1) his poor athleticism results in rather shoddy defense among other things and (2) his bat speed is below average which limits him when facing plus fastballs as well as makes him into a bit of a platoon player. You may wonder how a 30 home run bat could have poor bat speed. If you wait on a specific pitch and time it, then you can hit it well. At the MLB level, it is more difficult to succeed with that approach.
Anyway, Wilkins was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays and then optioned (yes, he had options and was waived, he has two more option years) to Buffalo where he proceeded to put up no home runs over 85 plate appearances. Ready to move on to different options, the Jays traded him to the Dodgers for cash considerations. After being reasonably productive for the Dodgers, he was waived to open up the 40 man roster. Wilkins passed through the National League and about halfway up the American League before the Orioles decided to use a 40 man slot on him. He has yet to play for the club on any level.
At the moment, Wilkins looks like insurance. This offseason is a poor one for clubs looking to find serviceable first basemen on the free agent market. The Orioles have Christian Walker and, maybe, Trey Mancini as possible solutions. Wilkins adds another bat to the mix of likely at best fringe Major League talent. His value, as evidenced by the Orioles being his fourth club this season without any team getting a single player in return, is rather minimal and it would not be surprising if Wilkins is one of the first people to be waived if the club needs to open up room on the roster in order to acquire a player in the off season.
What to Do with Matt Wieters
One of the blights on the season has been Wieters' walk year. Effectively, Wieters has been in the shadow of his injured self of last year when he required Tommy John surgery. During the Spring and Early summer, his arm responded poorly to throwing and the club resorted to having him catch on non-consecutive days beginning in June. The hope was for him to develop enough of a track record this season to help the club reach the playoffs, but also perhaps be enticing enough to other teams for a Qualifying Offer to be safely placed upon him. That has not worked out as Wieters has stumbled a bit at the plate and is now playing intermittently with a sore wrist, which explains his power outage. All this makes one wonder if another club would be willing to invest a draft pick in order to sign Wieters.
With this slow recovery, the club has been able to gain confidence in Caleb Joseph as well as test out Steve Clevenger as a backup catcher. That is the silver lining. As we suggested last year, Joseph is a starting catcher capable of an All Star performance level. This season has solidified that suggestion and the team should feel confidant that catcher is not a hole that needs filling this off season. In fact, the club would be enjoying a major luxury if they also retained Matt Wieters. A luxury that the club can ill afford with several other holes that need filling.
All that said, it seems a Qualifying Offer makes a great deal of sense. As much as his arm has been maligned as not being as strong this year (and it hasn't been), his caught stealing rate is league average and he still blocks well. Pitch handling metrics are uneven on him, but none rate him atrocious. In other words, he is a solid MLB quality catcher based on defense, which is a rare commodity. Even rarer, Wieters, assuming the offseason heals his wrist, is a catcher who is capable of .200 ISO power and should be regarded as a 2.5 to 3.5 WAR quality player.
With injury in 2014 and another injury-filled 2015, a reasonable team would error on the side of caution and consider Wieters a 2.5 WAR value. As such, a contract of 3/54 with an option year would be appropriate. A Qualifying Offer would probably take that down to 3/42, which Wieters would probably prefer over a 1/16 deal by accepting the offer from the Orioles.
Orioles Blueprint for 2016
Over the next week and a half, Camden Depot will be running a 2016 blueprint series. Several of our writers will take part in putting forward their vision of what the team should do in the offseason. The discussion is rooted by Baseball Reference's Payroll estimation, a variation of Dave Cameron's salary computation that we have used before, and the assumption that the payroll would be at most 120 MM. Each writer will decide on Qualifying Offers, releases, and free agent targets. We will not predict the trade market because that seems to go a bit too far from our certainty on cost and availability.
If you have any interest in taking part in the series, feel free to email us your plan at CamdenDepot@gmail.com. We do not promise to publicize your solution to the club's needs, but we just might.