There is currently an extensive debate occurring between Baltimore Oriole fans.
We all marveled at top prospect Matt Wieters‘ ability as he surged through the minors in 2008, and he has now begun his spring hitting for a .400+ average. Now, the question is being asked: “Do we bring him up to be the Opening Day catcher, or do we send him down to Triple-A Norfolk to better prepare him for the pros?” I have seen and heard this topic being discussed first-hand on message boards, talk radio shows, and even Orioles’ Spring Training broadcasts. While tuning in to an O’s matchup this past week, though, a man called in with a point that caught my attention. He asked if the Orioles’ front office is taking Wieters’ agent Scott Boras into account, and the show host replied with something in the ballpark of “you have to believe so”.
Image Courtesy of the Baltimore Sun
This got me to thinking. How could the most widely-recognized agent in baseball affect the way the O’s play their cards? In fact, fellow fans, Scott Boras may have everything to do with Weiters’ future.
Before we start predicting where the O’s stud catcher will end up come Opening Day, let us first look at the situation at hand. The concept is simple: Either bring the MLB-ready youngster to the big-league lineup, or let him work on his final touches with the Norfolk Tides. Though this may seem like an easy decision, the front office must also take other factors into consideration. As you may or may not already know, Wieters is currently under Baltimore’s control for the next six seasons (assuming he makes his debut at some point in 2009). In other words, the Orioles have him on lockdown for a while. After these years tick away, another query will be brought to the fans’ attention. What do the O’s plan to do? Sign him long-term? Easier said than done. We all know how difficult it is to negotiate with Boras, who I’m sure is licking his chops as he awaits the opportunity to jump the gun and grab Wieters a mega contract with New York (Hmmm….remind you all of anyone?).
In order to prevent this, the Birds would have to sign him to an extension right out of the gate; this should involve a deal similar to the one awarded to Tampa Bay Rays’ third baseman Evan Longoria last season. I was amazed to see such a large sum of money being given to an unproven talent; however, I would be even more appalled if the same occurred for Wieters. Longoria’s agent pales in comparison to Boras, something that will most likely sadden many O’s fans as the catcher’s career closes in Baltimore. Now, the real issue is becoming a reality. The Baltimore Orioles must hold on to Matt Wieters for as long as possible. So how can this be accomplished? Very simply. All they have to do is keep him in the minors until his arbitration clock has ticked away. That set day is exactly 13 days into the 2009 season. After this date, Weiters becomes under team control for an extra season.
This leads to my opinion. I firmly believe that the Baltimore Orioles should keep Matt Wieters at Triple-A Norfolk until he is under team control for an extra season, whenever that point may be. Yes, you read that correctly. Here’s why. First off, are the most devoted Orioles’ fanatics even predicting a .500 season for the Birds? I know I’m not, so why should we rush the number one prospect in baseball to join a losing ball club. Sure, many of you believe that Matt is the “savior” of the O’s, but the true future success of Baltimore baseball rides on the shoulders of top pitching prospects Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta. I just don’t see the point in bringing the big boy up when he isn’t needed.
Secondly, he could use all the seasoning possible. How could an extra month in the minors hurt his career? If anything, he should be able to work on his tactics behind the plate while with the Tides, only bettering his chances of succeeding at the Major League level.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, is Scott Boras. As previously stated, it will be difficult for the Orioles to re-sign Wieters after his contract is up, so why not guarantee an extra year with the club?
Scott Boras’ presence is unmistakable. His will is unshakable. And the scariest part of all, he is the “X-factor” in the Matt Wieters saga. Hold on to your seat O’s fans! It might be a bumpy ride.