The Baltimore Orioles have no intentions of falling back into the cellar. The fall is all too common among surprisingly successful upstart teams. They climb into contention, and some (like the Orioles) even make the playoffs. Then when the fall comes, it's all the more devastating. One way Baltimore intends to avoid this fall is to lock up their great players long-term. This is why a long-term extension for Matt Wieters may be on the horizon.
According to Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore, Wieters will be the next to sign a long-term extension with the club. Adam Jones did. Buck Showalter did. Now, even though Wieters employs the shark-like services of agent Scott Boras, the club understands they will need to lock him up long-term. And they will have to do it soon. However, Dubroff thinks the deal may wait a year.
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Wieters just recently agreed to a one-year $5.5 million deal in his first year of arbitration eligibility. For the uninitiated, that's a lot of money for a first-year eligible player. Baltimore understands his value, and they can't afford to wait much longer before signing him to a multi-year contract. Wieters is still under team control through the 2015 season, but for the Orioles to have any shot at a team-friendly deal (and at this point team-friendly is probably not the first priority), they will have to start negotiations soon.
Wieters has four years of Major League experience under his belt now. He is a career .260/.328/.421 hitter, but he is getting better. That's the scary part for opposing clubs (especially pitchers). Wieters hit 22 home runs in 2011. He hit 23 home runs last year. Now, he looks like he's ready to breakout and could easily have a 30+ home run season. He may never hit for a high average, but Wieters could find himself on a short list of catchers with incredible power. Plus, he's pretty good at the catching gig too.
For those who trust advanced defensive statistics, Wieters has accumulated 6.3 wins above replacement in his career based on his defense alone. Clearly, Wieters can also handle a pitching staff. He had a less than optimal staff that managed to work itself to at least an average staff in terms of ERA. Much of the credit there belongs to Wieters.
Baltimore will be playing in an American League East that is surprisingly down this season. Unless a club like the Boston Red Sox surprises us, or the New York Yankees make some moves to make up for the devastating hits their roster has seemingly taken this offseason, the Orioles will be poised to compete for the division crown. They will have to fight off the Tampa Bay Rays, who are perennially scrappy and competitive, and the Toronto Blue Jays, who are loaded for a World Series run. But Baltimore has the talent to compete. There's no questioning that. Now, if they can lock up Wieters long-term, they should have the talent to compete for many years to come.