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Reevaluating the Orioles decision to let Matt Wieters go

The Orioles did not make a significant attempt to keep the catcher around after the 2016 season. Looking back, that’s a bit surprising. However, the Birds made the right call.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It’s easy to pile on a team that’s 20 games out of first on Memorial Day. To be honest, the Orioles deserve a very large chunk of the criticism that they’ve received from the media, fans or anyone with a set of eyeballs. No one can dispute that.

For years, Orioles fans clamored for the organization to spend more money. The team needed to shell out big contracts in an attempt to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. Now, many Baltimore fans wish the Angelos family had kept the checkbook in the desk drawer.

Seven years, $161 million. The Chris Davis contract is an albatross that will plague the Orioles for years to come. Baltimore also decided to keep Mark Trumbo around to the tune of three years and $37.5 million. While the majority of the league has shied away from high power, low average type of players, the Orioles have doubled down on them.

All of this makes it a touch surprising that the Orioles never made a large effort to resign Matt Wieters after the 2016 season. A four time All-Star, Wieters fit the mold (prior success, inconsistencies, and bound for regression). It’s amazing that Wieters isn’t wearing orange and black in 2018.

The Nationals signed Wieters to a two-year, $21 million deal. Somehow, some way, the Orioles would have found a way to pay more than that. Wieters is currently sidelined with a hamstring issue and will not play in the series against Baltimore.

Wieters tore the tendon that connects the hamstring to the knee when rounding first base May 11. He recently had surgery to address the issue, and the Nationals hope to have him back prior to the season’s end. Before the injury, Wieters was hitting .235 with three home runs and seven RBIs in 65 at bats.

In his first year with the Nationals, the catcher hit only .225 and tallied just 10 home runs. His OBP registered at .288, just one point higher than his career low in 2013, and he drove in 52 runs.

The Orioles replaced Wieters with the signing of free agent Welington Castillo. Castillo hit .282 and mashed 20 home runs in his lone year in Baltimore. “Beef” got on base at a .323 clip and drove in 53 runs. The Orioles paid Castillo a mere $6 million for that year, and the catcher opted out of a second year that would have paid him $7 million.

Castillo proceeded to sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the White Sox. He made the news last week after testing positive for erythropoietin (EPO), and was suspended 80 games. Not only did the O’s avoid overpaying for Wieters, but they also cut ties with Castillo before a PED suspension. Things could always be worse.

The Orioles likely felt more comfortable moving on from Wieters with Chance Sisco lurking in the minor leagues. A former top prospect, Sisco was labeled the catcher of the future not long after being selected in the second round of the 2013 draft. Still, Sisco did not earn a full-time roster spot until this season.

Nick Cicere took the time to break down the odd season that Sisco has had so far this year. The rookie has shown several encouraging signs, and no one should expect him to put it all together in the first half of his first year in the bigs.

Hopefully, Sisco will avoid the inconsistencies of Wieters and Caleb Joseph. Joseph, who notoriously went all of 2016 without recording an RBI, obtained moderate success in 2017. He hit .256 and drove in 28 runs in 89 games. However, Joseph struggled again at the beginning of this season.

After batting a measly .182 in 24 games, the Orioles demoted Joseph to Triple-A Norfolk on May 17. Joseph entered the season as the starting catcher, but now the Orioles doubt his ability as a backup backstop.

Would Wieters be an improvement over Joseph this year? Yes, if he stayed healthy. But would adding Wieters to this team provide any measurable improvement? No. The Orioles catching situation is a rare example of the organization making a wise decision.

Would the Orioles have reconsidered their contract offers to Davis and Trumbo if they knew the hitter that Trey Mancini would develop into? More than likely. The presence of Sisco prevented the Orioles from over paying at a position that would not have yielded a significant improvement. It’s nice when there’s quality prospects on the farm.

I enjoyed watching Matt Wieters play in Baltimore. He delivered clutch hits, taught the world that you “never run on Matt Wieters,” and provided excitement to a fan base that was aching for a star. Buck Showalter often lauded his ability to call a game behind the plate and work with young pitchers. He was never “Mauer with power,” but he was a four-time All Star catcher.

That being said, the Orioles made the right call to not resign him after the 2016 season. With some of the current contracts in place, and a rebuild on the horizon, the Orioles must make the right decisions when deciding which players to extend, and who to let go.