I hope you are in a sharing mood today.
Because your barkeep is about to get all touchy-share-y here. OK, not really. But I’m gonna throw some observations your way, lots of them, and then I want you to return the favor.
On Tuesday, former Orioles’ catcher Matt Wieters agreed to a two-year, $21 million deal with the Orioles’ geographic rival, the Washington Nationals. There is an opt-out after this season, so he can leave Washington at the end of 2017 and enter the wild world of free agency again next year if he desires.
For me, there’s a whole lot to say about this deal, this guy and this free-agent market. So, sit back, grab a cold one from the bar and act interested. Then it will be your turn to opine.
Here are some thoughts:
Wieters will be missed in the Orioles’ clubhouse
I don’t think that can be questioned. He took that “veteran leader” tag seriously. Sometimes he rubbed people the wrong way. Heck, he and I had some fiery discussions over the years. Because he cared about his craft and the people around him, and sometimes my objective and his clashed.
But I respected the guy. I respected how he handled the pressure of being the so-called “Joe Mauer With Power,” how he handled the criticism when he didn’t meet the public’s lofty expectations and how he dealt with a career-threatening injury.
And I wasn’t around the guy all the time the way his teammates were. There truly was a mutual respect there. Remember when Chris Davis was suspended at the end of the 2014 season? Well, Wieters was one of the guys who immediately contacted Davis and got on him for letting his teammates down. Davis said it was one of the toughest conversations he’s ever had. But Wieters – and Darren O’Day – could say those things to Davis. Because they had earned that credibility. That’s going to be hard to replace, like it was when Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz left.
Wieters will be missed on the field
Yeah, I’ve seen the numbers. I know he’s 30 now and his offense sputtered in 2016 and his pitch-framing metrics aren’t good. Tough to argue with stats, I suppose.
But I also know that most pitchers really liked throwing to him. And I know he worked tirelessly. And I know he played hurt. And I know he seemingly dialed-up his game when a big hit was needed.
Personally, I think Wieters is going to have a tremendous 2017 in Washington. Not spiteful thinking, I don’t get wrapped up in that kind of stuff. I just think he’ll want to prove a lot of people wrong about his much-discussed declining skills.
Additionally, I think Welington Castillo is really going to have to play well, because Wieters is now 50 miles away, but his shadow will linger here – especially if Wieters gets off to a hot start.
The hype machine was his biggest downfall
I think part of the reason for the Wieters-bashing I’ve heard in the last few years has more to do with the hype surrounding Wieters’ career than his actual performance. Catcher is a brutal position, and Wieters was one of the better ones in the majors during the last decade.
You can make an argument that he is the best all-around catcher in Orioles history – see this piece for more on that – if you combine offense, defense and leadership. But many view Wieters as a disappointment because he wasn’t Johnny Bench 2.0.
He didn’t create those expectations (besides his performances as an amateur and minor leaguer). He never seemed to care about all those accolades when he arrived or the fact that some cheers turned to jeers when he proved to be a mere mortal.
Why didn’t the Orioles re-sign him?
Many people have asked me this question, and there are plenty of theories. But I think the simplest one is the most accurate: Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette believed the slightly younger Castillo would provide better offensive production than Wieters and adequate defensive capabilities while costing less.
The financial assessment is correct. Castillo signed for one-year, $6 million with a $7 million player option for 2018. The Orioles could get Castillo for two years at a price that’s only $2.5 million more than what Wieters will command in 2017.
Also, in November no one thought Wieters would settle for two years, and the Orioles didn’t want to completely block top prospect Chance Sisco, who should start this year at Triple-A Norfolk. But once it became clear that Wieters’ overall market was dropping and that he could be had for a shorter-term deal, the Orioles didn’t seem to be more interested.
The bottom line is that Duquette, who is all about most bang for the buck, believes Castillo is a better value for 2017 (and potentially 2018). He might be wrong. But he’s paid to make those calls. And he made the call. Pretty simple.
Boras did what he does
Maybe Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, didn’t win this one, but, ultimately, he didn’t lose it either. Wieters didn’t get a five-year, $85 million deal like Brian McCann in 2013 or a five-year, $82 million deal like Russell Martin in 2014. But Wieters also didn’t have to settle for a one-year deal either, like many thought he would once his unemployment dragged into February.
In fact, Wieters still ended up with a contract worth more annually (albeit one-year shorter) than what Jason Castro, poster boy for pitch framing, received from the Minnesota Twins (three years, $24.5 million) this offseason.
Boras knows how to read the market as well as anyone, and the sudden collapse of this offseason’s free agent carousel threw just about everyone off. But Boras rebounded by landing another client in a familiar environment: the deep pockets of the Nationals and aggressive GM Mike Rizzo. It certainly wasn’t Boras’ finest moment playing the free-agent market, but, in the end, he brokered a solid deal in a shaky landscape.
Why the catcher-heavy Nationals?
Wieters had been rumored to the Nationals for months, partially because of the relationship between Boras’ clients and the team, and also because the Nationals had some questions behind the plate despite having five catchers on their 40-man roster, including Derek Norris, Jose Lobaton and promising youngster Pedro Severino. Now, it looks like Norris may be dealt, Lobaton will settle in as the backup and Severino will wait his turn in the minors.
Another reason for the Nationals: They are an East Coast team, and that was always a preference for Wieters, who grew up in South Carolina and lives in Atlanta. The fact that the Nationals are technically a rival of the Orioles surely didn’t play into Wieters’ decision. And I’m not sure how much that resonates with the Orioles’ fan base, anyway. From what I culled from social media Tuesday, some fans are disappointed that he’s with the Nationals while most are just glad he didn’t land in the AL East and can still be watched locally.
That’s one of the questions I have for you today. But it’s really an open-ended query. I just want you to share a little. I’ll dim the lights.
Tap-In Question: It’s over, so what are your thoughts of Matt Wieters as a Washington National — and not a Baltimore Oriole for life?