Wille’s Way: Starting At Catcher For Your Minnesota Twins….Matt Wieters?
by, 11-13-2013 at 01:40 PM (927 Views)
When the Minnesota Twins announced earlier this week that Joe Mauer would be making the permanent shift from catcher to first base, few blinked an eye. Twins’ fans deep down—no matter how much we tried to fight it—knew that one day this was going to happen. Mauer’s end-of-the-year injury certainly didn’t help his odds of remaining at catcher for the remainder of his career and at the end of the day, Mauer is simply too valuable for this team to be sitting on the disabled list; thus, the move to first base was warranted.
While this is a great move for the future health of Minnesota’s last remaining franchise cornerstone, it now presents an entirely different issue that the front office must address: who will replace Mauer as the Twins’ starting catcher? Names have been floated around over the past few days ranging from the polarizing A.J Pierzynski, to the aging veteran John Buck, to even handing over the reins to the wide-eyed rookie Josmil Pinto. However, there remains one name that hasn’t been floated around in connection with the Twins’ vacancy at catcher and that name—in fact—may offer the best fit and hope for a long-term replacement for Mauer at catcher. The player I am referencing: Matt Wieters.
Now that you have stabilized the chair that you have fallen out of or are done wiping the tears away after your hysterical laughter following the reading of that last sentence, let’s get down to business. Is this move even possible? Would the Twins even consider it? Would Baltimore even consider trading Wieters? The answer to all of those questions is yes; but, it will come at a price.
Baltimore has been, reportedly, trying to ink their 27 year-old catcher to an extension, due to the fact that Wieter’s contract expires after the 2015 season; however, they are continuing to hit a snag in negotiations and that snag continues to be Wieter’s agent, Scott Boras. Boras has been known to drive a hard bargain for his clients and typically will demand that his clients be paid top-dollar for their services. In some cases, even with the Twins, organizations have opted to avoid Boras’ clients simply because they do not want to deal with the tyrannical agent. The situation unfolding in Baltimore between the Orioles’ management and Wieters is a classic Boras-like move; thus, the Orioles are confronted with two options: overpay for Wieters and meet Boras’ demands or trade the catcher now and get as much as possible in return for him. It is for this reason that the Twins may have stumbled upon a perfect opportunity to protect their aging franchise cornerstone while acquiring the heir apparent at catcher—and possibly as a franchise cornerstone—in the process.
Since rumors are bountiful during this time of the year, it becomes increasingly difficult to regulate between trade rumors that have the possibility of becoming a fact and ones that are bound to remain fiction. At any rate, it is reported that Baltimore will be seeking a catcher and “major-league ready” prospects in any deal for Wieters. The Twins certainly have a catcher they can send back in any deal—Pinto—who is young, controllable, and has a ton of upside—but in terms of “major-league ready” prospects, the Twins have few that are “deal-able”.
You could say that the Twins could throw in Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer, or Miguel Sano in any trade and you could argue that all are nearly “major-league ready” prospects, but the Twins aren’t trading a prospect of Buxton, Meyer, or Sano’s caliber for a player like Wieters; he simply isn’t worth that. Instead, if you look at the Orioles’ roster, their weaknesses appear to be in the outfield, at designated hitter and at third and second base. Oddly enough, two former Twins’ greats—Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla—currently occupy two-thirds of the holes that the Orioles possess at third and second base respectively.
If you look at the Twins’ organization, you could see that they do possess a few assets at areas of need for the Orioles which could prompt them to seek the Twins as possible suitors for Wieters’ services. More specifically, the Twins could include in any deal a combination of Brian Dozier, Travis Harrison and Josh Willingham with Dozier filling a need a second, Harrison filling a future/present need at third and Willingham filling a present need in the outfield and as a designated hitter. Personally, I’d be willing to include all three in a deal for Wieters simply for the fact that although Dozier had a great year in 2013, his heir apparent—Eddie Rosario—is almost ready to be an everyday player in the majors. Rosario has the tools and potential to be twice the player Dozier can ever become and the likelihood of Dozier repeating the success he had in 2013 is very unlikely in my opinion; thus, he becomes serious trade bait in this situation.
In Harrison’s case, he is blocked by mega-prospect Sano in front of him so his future—if it’s with the Twins—will likely need to occur at another position. Certainly, nothing is ever certain with the development of prospects, but Harrison’s value is currently high and the Twins should use that to their advantage and package him in the right deal while they still can. Willingham would be a great fit simply because he is in the last year of his deal, can hit for power, can drive in runs, and because he can be a valuable contributor now on a contending ballclub who reportedly had interest in him at last season’s trade and waiver deadline.
The one potential issue with acquiring Wieters—which is likely the major hurdle and deterrent for any team willing to acquire Wieters—is whether or not the Twins will be willing to meet the monetary demands that Boras is certainly going to place upon his client. A deal somewhere in the range of seven years and $85-100 million is not out of the realm of possibilities for what Boras may demand. In my opinion, for a player who is a career .255 hitter who averages 21 HR and 81 RBI a season and is a gold-glove caliber catcher, Wieters is worth $10-15 million a season; but that’s beside the point. Would the Twins be willing to pay two players on their roster—both former or current catchers—$10 million dollars or more when their most pressing need is to use their available payroll to fix their troublesome starting pitching? I have a tough time believing that they would; but if there were a time for the Twins to take a chance and make a drastic move like acquiring Wieters, now would be it.
The likelihood of Wieters ending up in the Twin Cities is not great; but at this time of the year, why not dream big? Every rumor has a possibility of coming true and currently, there are plenty of rumors floating around that have to potential of becoming a reality. Despite what you hear and despite what you may fear, the bottom line is this: Wieters is going to get paid somewhere before or after his contract expires at the end of 2015. Why can’t that place be in Minnesota?
Photo Courtesy of: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports