Can the Orioles afford to sign Wieters and Davis?

Can the Orioles afford to sign Wieters and Davis?
November 4, 2013, 10:45 am
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A few days before the season ended, Dan Duquette talked about how he wanted to extend two of the Orioles most valuable players this winter.

Not only are Chris Davis and Matt Wieters two of the most valuable Orioles, they’re two of the most popular. Easy for teammates, management and the media to deal with, Davis and Wieters are popular with the fans, too.

On the season’s final day, the Orioles gave out Davis bobbleheads to the first 25,000 fans 15 and over, and there were huge lines even before the gates opened.

There’s no question that keeping Davis and Wieters around is smart business, but can they afford to extend both and still stay in play for others.

Eighteen months ago, Duquette negotiated a six-year extension with Adam Jones. The extension, which included a signing bonus, is worth $91.65 million. Clearly, Duquette isn’t shy about spending money.

Let’s take Wieters first. He’s two years away from free agency, and he’s represented by the powerful Scott Boras.

In his four complete major league seasons, Wieters has averaged 132 games behind the plate. He’s won two Gold Gloves and was a finalist for a third this year. This year, only 68 runners tried to steal on him, a career low, and he threw out 35 percent of them.

He’s hit over 20 home runs in each of the last three years and averages about 80 RBIs. His batting average fell to .235. His lifetime average is .255.

At 27, how much is Wieters worth?

A year after unilaterally signing him for $500,000 irking his camp, the Orioles paid him $5.5 million this season, his first of arbitration eligibility.

Duquette and Boras talked during the early part of the season about an extension, a subject Wieters does not like discussing, and could not come to an agreement.

The closest comparison with Wieters is probably Buster Posey. He’s a year younger at 26 and played against Wieters in college. Posey signed a nine-year, $164 million with the San Francisco Giants during the season.

Posey came to the majors a few months after Wieters and played a key role in the Giants’ World Series wins in 2010 and 2012. He missed most of 2011 with a knee injury after he was hurt blocking home plate

He’s a better offensive player than Wieters. In 2012, Posey led the National League with a .336 average with 24 home runs and 103 RBIs. His lifetime average of .308 is 53 points better than Wieters.

Posey has never won a Gold Glove, and many more runners attempt to steal, and are successful against him than Wieters. He also plays first base about once a week to keep his bat in the lineup. Wieters has rarely been the designated hitter (just 14 times the last two years) because manager Buck Showalter prefers to completely rest him when he doesn’t catch.

Yadier Molina’s contract with St. Louis has four more years at $58 million. There’s also a 2018 option for $15 million.

Posey’s contract averages $18.2 million, and Molina, who is 31, and widely considered baseball’s best defensive catcher $14.5 million over the next four.

The Orioles probably don’t want to give Wieters close to the nine years the Giants gave Posey because as he nears his mid-30’s, he may not be able to catch 130-140 games a year. He also hasn’t hit well enough to be a highly paid DH.

Davis, also represented by the Boras Corporation, had the breakout year, earning an enormous raise from 2013’s $3.3 million.

Like Wieters, Davis is 27 and two years away from free agency. He’s publicly stated he’d like to stay in Baltimore while Wieters is more reticent to talk about it.

If Wieters were a free agent this year, he’d probably more coveted than Atlanta’s Brian McCann, a strong hitter, but a weaker defensive catcher. rates McCann the fourth most attractive free agent.

The three ahead of McCann are New York’s Robinson Cano, Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Cincinnati’s Shin-Soo Choo. If Davis were available, he’d certainly crack that top tier.