After signing Adam Jones to a six-year, $85.5 million extension last summer, the Orioles appeared ready to begin working on a deal to keep franchise catcher Matt Wieters in Baltimore for years to come. At the end of June, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that those talks had stalled and that there was “no momentum” between the Orioles and Wieters’ representative, Scott Boras.
As of now, the O’s are reportedly planning for Wieters to test the free agent market after the 2015 season. He agreed to a one-year, $5.5 million deal last winter in his first year of arbitration and has posted disappointing numbers at the plate in 2013.
The two-time All-Star is hitting just .232/.291/.408 this season. Against left handed pitching, Wieters has posted a .242/.298/.421 slash line. Last season he hit .323/.404/.504 against southpaws.
However there’s no denying his stellar defensive talents. Wieters leads the American League with 17 runners caught stealing, his .563 stolen base percentage ranks fourth. Wieters has played in more games than most catchers, participating in 88 of the Orioles 96 games in the “first half” of the season. He’s been behind the plate in 81 of those games.
Of course, the work Wieters has done with the Orioles pitching staff is incredibly hard to quantify and is often overlooked. Every arm that comes up through the minor leagues compliments the Birds’ backstop for being a steadying force in their outings in the bigs.
So what would Wieters get if he hits free agency? Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina signed a five-year, $75 million deal back in 2012, but he was coming off a breakout season offensively, .305/.349/.465. The Twins inked Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million deal in March of 2010, but he was the 2009 MVP.
Wieters finds himself in an interesting spot. The Orioles signed Jones to the biggest contract in franchise history on May 27, 2012 after he hit .309/.351/.597 with 14 home runs in 47 games. The O’s catcher is obviously headed in the opposite direction.
What would the market bear for a strong defensive catcher who struggles to produce at the plate? How much would Wieters’ upside help in negotiations for his first long-term deal?
It’s my personal belief that contract talks have stalled with the Orioles because of Wieters’ struggles this season. No agent wants to make a deal when his client is under performing. The O’s have plenty of time to work on an extension and figure out what type of player they think they’re getting in return.
I still don’t think you’ll see Wieters hit the market in 2015.