Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Blank Check For Matt Wieters

Sometimes, there's an applicable use for the statement "elephant in the room," but when it comes to the Twins catching problem, that might not do the situation justice. Kurt Suzuki was less than mediocre in 2015, and there isn't much help on the horizon. Those developments put the Twins in an interesting position. What remains to be seen is whether or not they'll dole out the big payday Matt Wieters has coming to him.

ESPN, Twins Daily, heck even here at Off The Baggy, Wieters has been linked to the Twins. He's a living, breathing, and capable catcher on a free agent market void of many options. Outside of the Twins trading for a backstop, the pickings are left relatively slim. With A.J. Pierzynski as a likely backup option, the Twins must consider Wieters. The question is to what extent.

In 2015, Wieters was in the final year of a deal that paid him $8.3 million for the season. Although he's a year removed from Tommy John surgery, he's also a Scott Boras client, and a 29 year-old catcher looking for his big payday. With his one chance, he'll likely be holding out for the highest bidder.

This past year, Wieters played 75 games for the Orioles, but was behind the plate for just 55 of them. He slashed .267/.319/.422 (or essentially his career numbers). Although he played less than half a season, Wieters mustered just eight long balls and 25 runs batted in; he added 14 doubles and tripled once. Behind the dish, Wieters arm was tested 26 times, and he caught eight base stealers (31%). That mark is just one off the league average of 32% and significantly better than the 15% Suzuki threw out.

Looking at how to address the catching situation, much of the Wieters discussion centers around what he should be perceived to be going forward. No doubt his production was muted in 2015, but how much of it was due to being eased back in following injury? He's just 29, and should have plenty of run on him into the future. Spending big on Wieters however, requires the Twins to be of the belief he will produce both at and behind the plate.

As things stand, the Twins need their catcher of the future. A.J. Pierzynski would be a far cry from a fix to that situation. While the former Twin makes a lot of sense on a one-year deal, he creates a the same problem in 2017. Wieters on the other hand, could fill the gap if the Twins believe in his projections going forward.

Prior to his arm injury, Wieters had caught at least 125 games in every season since 2010. He's consistently thrown out would be base stealers around a 35% clip, and his bat is regarded as an asset (launching 20+ homers three different times). In signing Wieters, the Twins would likely be getting a more polished all around version of Josmil Pinto (and a significantly better defensive version).

We are just a few days away from the Twins having to muster up the dollars to present an offer. Wieters should have plenty of suitors, and there's little doubt Boras is going to drive the market as much as he can. It may take a big blank check from the Twins (something their payroll can handle), but the belief that better times are ahead must be there.

Whether it's Wieters or Pierzynski, I think both make a great deal of sense in Minnesota for significantly different reasons. Noting that A.J.'s market is going to be secondary, I'd hope the Twins would go all in on Wieters, until it doesn't make sense to do so. Use the secondary market for what it is, a fallback option.

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