The Baltimore Orioles were able to avoid an arbitration hearing with All-Star catcher Matt Wieters after agreeing to a one year, $7.7 million deal on Thursday. Wieters, who will be eligible for free agency after the 2015 season, had filed for a new salary of $8.75 million, whereas the Orioles had offered $6.5 million. He received a raise of $2.2 million after earning $5.5 million in 2013.
There had been rumors of a multi-year contract extension for either Wieters or slugging first baseman Chris Davis, but apparently the club was only interested in offering Wieters a one-year deal, then proceed to see where the two sides stand at the end of the upcoming season. Other players that could be extended in near future include shortstop J.J. Hardy and starting pitcher and likely opening day starter Chris Tillman.
Wieters, who has been known as one of the premier defensive catchers in baseball, did not perform to his usual standards behind the plate in 2013. His defensive WAR (Wins Above Replacement) fell from a solid 2.7 in 2011 to a 1.3 in 2012, then fell all the way down to a -0.3 mark this past season. Over the course of his young career, he has been widely known for his ability to throw out base runners attempting to steal second base. However, his production at the plate has continued, as he batted .235 with 22 home runs and 79 runs batted in. 2013 marks his third straight season with at least twenty long balls.
Wieters will play a major role in how the Orioles perform on offense this year. Over the past few seasons, the Orioles have benefited from the switch hitter’s great power from both sides of the plate. Having a power-hitting switch hitter in the lineup on a daily basis against both right-handers and southpaws could prove crucial to maintain a consistent offensive attack.
While he might be an above-average contributor as far as catchers go at the plate, his skills behind the plate have really established Wieters as one of the premier backstops in the American League. In 2011, he won the Fielding Bible Award as the best defensive catcher in all of baseball. He was also named an All-Star in 2011 and 2012.
With the signing of Wieters, the Orioles have eliminated any possibility of an arbitration hearing, as they have already agreed to terms with Chris Davis, Bud Norris, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.