Orioles shouldn't think about trading Wieters

Orioles shouldn't think about trading Wieters
November 11, 2013, 9:30 am
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The General Managers meetings begin today in Orlando, Fla. and Dan Duquette will initiate some talk on potential trades. He’ll also talk free agents, and perhaps discuss a contract extension for Matt Wieters with Scott Boras.

It appears that Boras and Wieters aren’t eager to agree on a contract extension with the Orioles. It’s still two years until Wieters can be a free agent, but according to some of the readers, the Orioles should think about trading Wieters now.

FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal mentioned the idea in a weekend piece, and I think it’s one that shouldn’t be broached…yet.

With many star players negotiating extensions before free agency, the quality of the market hasn’t been terribly strong the last two winters. But, it elevates some of the secondary free agents into primary ones.

Are Shin-Soo Choo, Ervin Santana and Brian McCann worth five years and $100 million? But, they’re among the best players available.

If Wieters is on the market in 2015, he’ll have plenty of suitors, and if that group is like the last two years’, Wieters can be one of the top five available free agents.

Despite some disappointing offensive numbers, Wieters’ defense is superb. Fewer runners even attempt to run on him each year, and trading him would harm the Orioles’ stellar defense.

Wieters is one of the principal reasons Chris Tillman had a breakout season. Many times, Tillman would struggle in the first inning or two, then Wieters would get him on track, and he’d dominate.

Changing catchers with a young and relatively inexperienced staff that relies heavily on Wieters is a bad idea.

If the Orioles are convinced that Wieters is determined to test the open market in 2015, there’s no rush to trade him. After 14 forgettable seasons, the Orioles finally have put together a contending team, and a Wieters trade could remove lots of the goodwill earned the past two years.

After 2012, Orioles fans were confident that they’d have at least two more years with the core of the ballclub—Wieters, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis—intact.

Even if the Orioles traded Wieters now, they couldn’t trade him to the Yankees or Red Sox, two teams that could afford him. The Orioles would want to bring back another catcher and major league ready prospects, and there aren’t many teams that could offer them equal value.

What’s wrong with trying to negotiate with Boras for another year while keeping the team’s key players and trying to improve through the free agent market?

The Orioles were in the postseason in 2012 and contended until the season’s last week this year. Boston and Tampa Bay aren’t invincible, and it’s not lunacy to think the Orioles could return to the postseason next year.

It’s important for the fan base, which has clearly been energized, to be convinced that the Orioles won’t act like a small market team and prematurely sell off players they can’t re-sign.

A year from now, it might be clearer that Wieters wants to test the free agent market, but the Orioles will have gone through another season with him and the others. If they make it to the postseason or even just come close, it will be apparent that the team is a long-term contender.

Hardy and Markakis’ contracts expire after next season. Davis is up for an extension, too. It may be financially impossible to keep all of them, and Wieters, too.

But, it’s too soon to trade him.

There may be no harm in keeping Wieters through 2015, either. There’s currently no catcher in the minors who’s ready to step in.

Caleb Joseph had a big season offensively at Bowie, but at 27, he’s just a month younger than Wieters, and played other positions more often than he caught this season. He’s also played just a handful of games above Double-A.

Michael Ohlman had a strong offensive season at Frederick, but he still has to tested for another year or so in the higher minors.

Four of the Orioles’ first 11 picks in June’s draft were catchers. They were obviously positioning themselves for a possible Wieters departure, but those players are far from major league consideration.

Even if the Orioles kept Wieters and allowed him to test the market, they could still try and outbid the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies for him. They could make a qualifying offer for Wieters and get a draft choice if he signed elsewhere.

The Orioles still have Wieters for at least two years and can be thankful that Andy MacPhail delayed his ascension until late May 2009 to give them an extra season of control.

There’s no guarantee Wieters will be in Baltimore beyond 2015, but no suitable replacement is on hand.