There’s talk in the stands, streets and blogs about Matt Wieters. It is driven by concerns about his batting average, which has trended down and currently stands at a career low. But that talk invariably trends to the future.
Matt’s high — nigh-on religious — polish among Baltimore fans has been tarnished somewhat by unproductive at-bats and an OBP that as of this writing has fallen beneath the demarcated line of worry: .300.
Meanwhile some say, as a Scott Boras client, that Matt shouldn’t be trusted to make a good-faith, long-term deal with the Orioles — a pact that could be seen both as lucrative and fair to Matt and also workable for the not-so-free-spending organization.
Those folks used to be a quiet minority in the kook section arguing for a trade. Now, while still likely a minority, they’re talking louder and bolder.
But others point out that, going back to early 2012, the Orioles, with newly anointed boss Dan Duquette at the helm, could have proffered the proverbial Olive Branch with a legitimate pre-arbitration raise — and didn’t.
Yet any notion of distrust between the sides is just conjecture. There is absolutely no record to suggest any bad blood exists.
And that, friends, gives you insight into Wieters’ smarts. After he signed his deal with the Birds for ’13, Wieters told the Sun “right now I am just focused on playing baseball and I’m going to let any negotiations stay behind the scenes.”
Even going into 2012, when the Orioles clearly didn’t pay him his due, Wieters was quiet and diplomatic, refusing to say anything controversial.
Smarts, friends, is something baseball GMs crave in a catcher. The smart GMs, anyway.
(Maybe one day down the road we’ll get the leaked quote that tells the tale — whether it comes from the organization or from Matt’s camp — but we’re not there yet. Maybe we never will be.)
Governing all of this at least in part by virtue of its gravitational pull across the baseball galaxy is, of course, the Buster Posey contract. Buster’s deal now serves as the Great Measure by Which Future Catcher Deals Will Be Gauged.
In late March the Giants locked up Posey through 2021, agreeing to pay him $164 million over 9 years. Matty, who may be back in arbitration after the 2013 season and currently makes $5.5 million, becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.
Few of us know what it’s like to make $5.5 million in a year’s time, still, when compared to Buster, Matty is a relative pauper.
While the Giants happily handed Posey a stratospheric sum, the Orioles have not as of yet succeeded in enticing Matt with a long-term deal. If they’ve tried, we don’t know much about it beyond one or two scraps of unconfirmed reporting.
When you look at the two catchers’ numbers, you probably must conclude Matt won’t get Buster money, which is roughly $18 million a year.
The smaller-framed Posey has OBP’d at a .382 clip over his career, which began in 2009 like Matt’s. For his career Matt has OPB’d at a respectable but far more worldly .325 — and, again, the number has trended the wrong way over the years.
As of this writing Posey has posted a 162-game average of — this amazes me — 184 hits. Wieters has averaged 150 hits for every 162 games. Posey is good for at least one more hit per week.
Posey’s power numbers — HRs, doubles and RBI — all are better than Wieters’. But they’re not eons better. They’re better the way Diet Coke is better once you add ice and a lemon.
To finish the knocks on Matt: Wieters is a true and pure base-clogger who relatively rarely takes the extra base. And sometimes, frankly, Matt looks more keen on getting his gear back on than extending an inning — especially if he comes up with 2 out and the bases empty.
But there are areas where Matt outshines Buster. Posey has been injured more. It’s hard to knock Posey as being injury-prone since he was hurt in a bad collision and, really, there was not much he could do about it. (Or was there?) Either way he came back as quickly as he could and didn’t lose any of his powers.
But Wieters appears to be injury-proof. Despite his size he has great instincts around the plate and has never been prone to getting himself in the wrong spot. He can absorb collisions and make cat-like swipe tags, depending, and rarely gets hit hard. This year he has played nearly every day. He’s very hard to keep out of the lineup.
And then there’s the marquee defensive stat for catcher: the rate at which they throw out would-be base stealers. Over his career, Matt’s stands at 34 percent and this year Matt’s rate stands at an otherworldly 50 percent. Posey’s rate over his career is 31 percent but this year Buster’s rate has fallen to a sort of inept 18 percent. As a result, it should be added, more people are attempting steals against Buster.
Whether Wieters “calls a better game” or not than Posey really isn’t for anyone to say. Probably they’re both as intelligent as a young catcher may be. And they both have superb managers who help them in-game.
Posey, however, sees DH’s less often and he also is blessed with having worked with starters including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.
The Orioles have given Wieters no such A-listers. That’s not to say the Orioles starting staff is completely devoid of talent, but they certainly don’t have anyone — going back to 2009 — who remotely approaches the results of the aforementioned pitching triumvirate.
And there’s no real reason to assume that Matt can’t make adjustments and find ways to have more productive at-bats, while perhaps still preserving his decent power output.
When you run through all of the information, you come to the conclusion that the Orioles — this off-season — probably quietly will give Wieters his years and his number. That number is going to be less than Posey’s number. As for the years, well, that’s just a mystery. But we do know that the Orioles tend to be skimpy on years.
Given Matt’s obvious desire to keep the spotlight between the chalk lines, the key word here should be “quietly.” If we start reading Tweets about how the organization is “willing to listen to offers,” or “might scout a catcher in the draft,” etc., well then the chances of the right deal drop.
A deal could still be struck in the 2014 off-season, but I think this year is the best window of opportunity.