Sep 18, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Much has been thought about and written about over the past year concerning what the Baltimore Orioles should do concerning Matt Wieters. The elbow injury and subsequent surgery has terribly complicated the situation.
Over the years, I have been less enthusiastic about Wieters than the typical group of fans who make comments on our board and those of other Orioles outlets. Over time, those comments have become more critical and a greater number of fans have jumped off the Wieters Express.
There was never any doubt about Wieters as a defensive catcher, particularly when it came to throwing out runners and controlling the basepaths. Some doubt has been cast upon his ability to handle the staff in terms of calling a game. Quite an extensive accumulation of numbers displays that the staff has a definitively lower ERA with Caleb Joseph. Could it be simply bad luck for Wieters? I don’t know for sure, but the pattern is clear.
The great frustration was to see this huge fellow — a catcher of immense size — not live up at all to his billing as a power hitter. His approach at the plate seemed very mellow, almost passive. There was not a pattern of attacking the pitch; and along with his gentle persona, it all looked slow and weak — sort of like a 5’9” / 165-pound, contact-hitting utility infielder.
At the end of 2013, Wieters was batting .255. Then, at the beginning of 2014, it all appeared to finally come together; the Wieters that was advertised when drafted had finally arrived. In 26 games he hit .308 with five homers and 18 RBIs. Then the elbow happened.
Coming back this season, he seemed to be trying to catch up to the speed of the game. It was not encouraging, though recovering from TJ surgery is a big deal. Finally, at the end of the season he looked like the Wieters we remembered from the beginning of 2014. He hit in his final eight games, going 12-for-27 with six walks and two home runs. The approach was aggressive.
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So which Wieters will be the one who appears in 2016? I think there is reason to believe the guy we saw at the beginning of 2014 and the end of 2015 is the real Matt. He should truly come back fully healthy by spring training.
But the next question is what should the Orioles do? Should they make the qualifying offer and risk Wieters taking it for one year at $15.8 million?
He is not worth the QO money, but not offering means the Orioles will not get a compensatory draft pick when he signs elsewhere. Though no player has ever taken the offer, some think Wieters is the perfect storm to be the first. But don’t forget the high pressure system in the midst of that storm — his agent Scott Boras.
I am going to do a 180-degree flip-flop on this and say that the O’s should offer it. It would be quite a story to have a Boras client be the first to take the offer. And if he does, well, in the possible loss of Chris Davis, Wieters and Steve Clevenger can handle some first base duty (as Clevenger is out of options).
It is complicated. This free agent situation for the Orioles has all the moving parts of an Ubaldo windup and fastball!