With the stigma of being the first player to take the qualifying offer removed (thanks, Colby Rasmus!), Matt Wieters should seriously consider becoming the second player to take the bait and sign a one-year deal. Should and will are obviously two very different words. With Scott Boras as his agent, there is probably still less than a 10% chance Wieters takes the qualifying offer, but there are plenty of reasons he should.
Wieters is the best offensive catcher on the free-agent market. There’s just one problem — very few teams need a catcher. The Atlanta Braves, a team many saw as a potential landing spot for Wieters, just re-signed A.J. Pierzynski. The Twins, another team who possibly needed a catcher, just traded for John Ryan Murphy. The only team that now seems likely to really want and need Wieters is the Los Angeles Angels. Both Texas teams are a possibility as well, but neither seems to have a dire need at catcher. It is nearly impossible to envision a National League team taking a chance on a bad body catcher still recovering from elbow surgery who will be 30 next May.
Wieters got on the field for 55 games at catcher this year, barely catching consecutive games. Did he really show enough after major arm surgery to convince a team to sign him to a four- or five-year deal? That’s the 80 million dollar question. Wieters was once trumpeted for his defensive prowess behind the plate, but in 2015, he cost the Orioles runs in more ways than one. The sabermetric statistics show that Wieters was a negative when it comes to defensive runs saved. The plain old eye test will also tell you that he was a negative. Wieters is a bad pitch framer. The pitching staff logged a 4.38 ERA with Wieters doing the catching. That’s significantly higher than the same staff did when working with Caleb Joseph.
Offensively, Wieters never quite blossomed into an elite bat. He hit .267 with only eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 75 games. His bat seemed to drag through the zone at times. The .267 batting average is definitely a step in the right direction, though, as Wieters failed to crack .250 in 2012 and 2013, his last full seasons of play. The problem with the level of production Wieters brings is that in three years, he will be playing a lot of first base. What offense Wieters provides as a catcher is borderline All-Star, but at first base or designated hitter, it’s below average.
The best case scenario for Wieters is the Angels pony up a four-year deal. There is no guarantee that happens. The Orioles don’t need him to come back, so Wieters will not be able to land on a safety net type of deal. It really makes sense for him to take the qualifying offer, prove he can handle catching 120-130 games, and then go back out on the market after showing he is fully healthy. If the best Wieters can do in free agency this year is a two- or three-year deal, waiting it out one more year could prove beneficial in the long run.With a full season in 2016, Wieters could easily find a deal that pays him more than $16 million per season. That may not be possible this winter.
The only real drawback to passing on a multi-year deal is the elbow. The guaranteed multi-year deal will probably be too much to pass up for a catcher who has already gone under the knife once. While it makes a lot of sense for Matt Wieters to play one more year in Baltimore, it’s highly unlikely that scenario will play out in reality.