Saturday, January 19, 2013
By Jason A. Churchill
Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters hasn't quite been the star many believed he'd be by now, but he's been very good, is still just 26 years of age and is approaching his prime years. The switch-hitting backstop agreed Friday to a one-year, $5.5 million contract for 2013, avoiding arbitration. It's a high number for a first-year eligible -- though fitting of a good, young catcher -- suggesting Wieters is a player the O's should consider locking up for the long-term.
This isn't news to skipper Buck Showalter or GM Dan Duquette, who said he would like an opportunity to extend Wieters, according to the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo Encina. That's a subject that will undoubtedly be discussed with Wieters' agent at some point.
The problem for the team is that Wieters' agent is Scott Boras, who believes in free agency. As such, it's rare for a Boras client to sign a contract that buys out free agent years, or even arbitration years. Carlos Gonzalez and Jered Weaver are two of the exceptions, but dozens serve as evidence to the contrary, including Shin-Soo Choo, whom the Cleveland Indians traded because they couldn't get signed long-term.
Considering that this would have been Wieters' first pass at arbitration and that he plays a premium position, the Orioles will have to pony up if they go year-to-year. Next winter's salary could approach or even exceed $10 million, which sets up a final arbitration salary after the 2014 season that could be in the $15 million range. That's about $30 million for three seasons, far more than what most All-Star caliber players receive when selling out their arbitration years.
If Boras sticks to his guns, however, Wieters will hit the open market in three years, at age 29, with some serious wear and tear on his body and the potential for some signs of decline, especially considering he's big, especially for a catcher, at 6'5" and 240 pounds. Could Wieters be another exception and ink an extension sooner rather than later to avoid risk?