As all MLB players report to camps in Florida and Arizona and mid-February starts to creep towards late-February, Matt Wieters remains unsigned. A big reason that he is unsigned is probably that he is apparently still seeking a multi-year contract in free agency.
The fate of Wieters has little to do with the Orioles directly. There’s the off chance he signs with an Orioles competitor - he received an offer from the Rays recently - but what mostly makes him interesting to O’s fans is he was here for a long time and for a lot of that time we viewed his departure as a dreadful prospect. Yet the only people in Birdland who seem to be surprised he’s still a free agent are beat writers.
As the agent for Wieters, Scott Boras is supposed to be his cheerleader, but if he’s really going around peddling what he said recently on Jonah Keri’s podcast to teams, well, no wonder Wieters remains unsigned:
I told someone, he’s got the same projection as Carlton Fisk. “What?!” I’m going like, excuse me, Matt Wieters has won two gold gloves at 30, Carlton Fisk had won one. He’s a better ball blocker and he throws the same. Carlton Fisk was on the All-Star team six times by the age of 30. Matt Wieters, four. He has the same number of games caught by the age of 30. Their home runs and RBIs are very similar. All of a sudden they’re going, “Are you saying he’s Carlton Fisk?” And I’m saying, “What I’m saying is he’s Carlton Fisk-like.” Carlton Fisk’s batting average is 30 points higher. But he plays in Boston. And the reality of it is, in this time and this age, the whole thing, no one ever associated Matt Wieters with Carlton Fisk. And you know what? Pretty associational behavior.
(h/t to Deadspin for transcribing this portion)
As much as an argument that a player is overrated or getting more media attention solely because he plays in Boston or New York is catnip to Orioles fans, that doesn’t make what Boras says about Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and Wieters make any more sense.
There is nothing Carlton Fisk-like about the career to date of Wieters. Boras fudges “Fisk-like” by saying, “Fisk’s batting average is 30 points higher,” as if this is a small and trivial detail, but it’s not. A difference of 30 points (actually 29) is a lot, and when you add in on-base percentage and slugging, the difference in OPS is incredible: 109 points higher for Fisk.
That’s probably because Fisk began his career the way that Wieters was expected to. Fisk’s rookie season saw him hit .293/.370/.538 at age 24. In 1972, that was good for a 162 OPS+, meaning Fisk was 62% better than the average hitter.
In any of his full seasons before age 30, Fisk was never a below-average hitter. Wieters has been below-average relative to the league in four of his eight seasons at the big league level. Over a 24-year career, Fisk hit for a higher OPS (.797) than Wieters has mustered in any season where Wieters played more than a month.
And of course, one of the things that really made Fisk such a legend is that he hung on as a full-time, productive catcher through age 43 in 1991. I would not bet on Wieters catching 106 games in 2029.
Boras can peddle around the name Fisk all he wants, but that’s a ridiculous comparison for Wieters and it’s no wonder that teams aren’t biting with multi-year deals based on the name-dropping of a Hall of Famer whom Wieters is nothing like.
What are they waiting for to come down to one year? At this point, it seems like they’re hoping for an injury to a contender’s catcher to create some leverage. Perhaps if they did come down to a single year, they could at least find out who would submit the best bids for that one year.
Boras almost always gets his client paid. That’s what makes him Boras. But that doesn’t mean he never makes mistakes. When it comes to Wieters, he’s really going to have to pull a rabbit out of the hat late in the offseason to get a multi-year deal or even a better one-year deal than he could have had back in November or December.