MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli reported last week that the Orioles had tried and failed to secure a contract extension for Matt Wieters. Just how far apart were the teams in their offer? There is no word on what the O's offered to Wieters, but ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider required) brings some clarity on what it would take to keep Wieters from becoming a free agent:
The counter (the Orioles) received before the 2013 season was something in the range of the eight-year, $184 million deal signed by Joe Mauer.
This is insane. No wonder there have been rumors as to Wieters being potentially available in a trade. That's how he was valued before a disappointing 2013, but it's doubtful the demands have come down too much. Back in July, I wrote that five years and $65 million seemed about right. He did not do anything to bump that number upward in the last two months of the season.
It's possible that this represented Wieters' agent, Scott Boras trying to discourage further negotiation, or it's possible he simply thinks Wieters will get much more than whatever the Orioles offered. Given that baseball's salary situation is trending ever upward, this is not a radical notion. Whichever is the case, it seems clear that Wieters will not be with the Orioles after his team control runs out.
Does this mean the best play is to trade Wieters as soon as possible? The O's are no longer at a point where they can concede that the next year or two are hopeless as far as competing for a playoff spot. They were good in 2012 and a little less good in 2013. 2014 is not a lost cause before it begins like some other years we might name. The team needs a catcher and they already have Wieters. They could mess around with that, but only for good reason.
From Olney's column, the idea that Wieters might be moved seems to be coming more from other teams than from the O's themselves:
Officials in other organizations are doing the Orioles' math, as they evaluate trade possibilities, and they figure that something has to give; they figure that Duquette will have to slash somewhere. Maybe the Orioles would actually dump Wieters if they would get a decent prospect in return. In a winter in which the prices for free-agent outfielders are rocketing northward, maybe they can find a taker for Markakis, who is an emotional leader for Baltimore.
The most stunning revelation is that Nick Markakis has emotions.
Many teams could use a Wieters for the next two years, regardless of what he demands or where he goes as a free agent. The O's are one of those teams, so why trade him, especially considering they would have to sell low on Wieters after his 2013 campaign?
Whatever happens with a trade or not, something we suspected is becoming more clear: Wieters does not look to have a long-term future with the team. The only question is whether his time runs out when he hits free agency, or if there is something to send him elsewhere sooner.
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