Will Matt Wieters get paid like Joe Mauer?

Hannah Foslien


The rumor: Matt Wieters and Scott Boras asked for a contract like Joe Mauer's before the 2013 season.

My guess at what happened: Matt Wieters and Scott Boras didn't specifically ask for a contract like Joe Mauer's before the 2013 season.

That isn't to say that Buster Olney is reporting the typhus hallucination of someone in the Orioles' front office, but I'm guessing there's more context. Here's what didn't happen:

Dan Duquette: We're interested in an extension.

Scott Boras: Okay. We're expecting a contract like the one Joe Mauer got.

Duquette: /straps on jetpack

Duquette: /flies through skylight

Here's a more realistic scenario:

Duquette: We're interested in an extension.

Boras: We're less interested. We think Matt's value can only go up the closer he gets to free agency. Now if you wanted to go nuts and offer something in the range of the eight-year, $184 million deal Joe Mauer got …

Duquette: Ha ha, no, we'll talk about an extension at another time.

Both scenarios are dumbed down substantially, but it's easier to believe that Wieters's crazy demands were a part of a prefer-to-wait strategy rather than a here's-what-I'm-worth strategy.

But there's an important thing to remember, which is the Mauer-like demands supposedly came up before the 2013 season. This didn't just happen. Boras's gamble -- and it was a good one -- was that Wieters was going to improve on his good 2011 and 2012 seasons. He might finally have that fabled season that PECOTA projected back in 2009, and if that happened, an MVP Award and a $100 million contract would follow.

That didn't happen. Wieters had a relatively disappointing 2013 campaign. It wasn't a disaster or anything. But if Boras expected three steps forward, he got one step back. Mauer hit .365/.444/.587 with 28 homers before signing his extension. Wieters hit … not that. That's why "Wieters asks for Mauer money" is such a good hook. It's instantly silly to put those players together.

The Mauer and Buster Posey contracts were bizarre anomalies. Only seven catchers had won an MVP before those two, who were both in their mid-20s. Both players were perfectly timed conflagrations of money-fire. They were young, decorated stars doing things young catchers usually didn't do.

But Wieters isn't just a run-of-the-mill catcher, either. If his 2013 was his floor, his floor is awfully danged high. He's still a plus defender with more offense than the typical catcher provides. That would be true if his name is Rex Rexgood or Champ Catchballs. But his name is Matt Wieters, Former Super-Prospect Catcher Who Could Break Out at Aaaaany Second. He doesn't really have a good comp.

Bringing up Mauer as a comparable player is insane, but what's not insane is the idea that Boras and Wieters are expecting the Orioles to pay for something they haven't seen yet. The Orioles want to pay for Wieters as a good defensive catcher with above-average offensive skills for the position. The Wieters camp is probably expecting a team to pay for that plus a potential-premium. He did used to be the #1 prospect in the land, you know, and he could break out aaaaany second.

And you know what? Boras is probably right. There are teams that would pay for that right now. The problem is that Wieters isn't a free agent until after the 2015 season. If he has two more seasons just like the last two, there probably aren't going to be a lot of teams thinking, "Wow, Matt Wieters! He could be an MVP one of these days!" He'll be a few months from 30 and very much a known quantity.

That's why when you read headlines like "Orioles Willing To Trade Matt Wieters?", it's not a completely bizarre idea. If one of those teams really is convinced Wieters is going to break out offensively, maybe they'll give bushels of prospects to the Orioles. That would free up money for the offseason, too. It's not as goofy as it sounds. The Orioles have to check that idea out, at least, especially if they're done waiting for Wieters to break out.

What's more likely to happen, though, is that Wieters stays with the Orioles for two more years. He either re-signs or he doesn't, and he eventually earns a pretty substantial contract. But nothing that comes within spitting distance of Mauer. Partially because he hasn't been the destroyer of worlds that a lot of us expected, and partially because no one will get that kind of deal for a long time. If Wieters wanted one, he needed to start hitting like Tony Gwynn several years ago. He and his agent would probably agree.

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