With 2014 contract not yet set, Matt Wieters faces an uncertain future as an Oriole

It has been a winter with some Matt Wieters rumors. There were rumblings that the Orioles have approached Wieters and agent Scott Boras about a long-term contract, but did not make much progress. That led to rumors that the club was open to trading Wieters.

At this point, there’s been no long-term deal or trade. Is it a coincidence that of the six players who were eligible for arbitration, the only one yet to agree to terms with the club is Wieters?

Wieters is seeking $8.75 million through arbitration, while the Orioles have countered at $6.5 million. He made $5.5 million last year and the sides will probably meet in the middle and quite possibly avoid an arbitration hearing. But that hasn’t happened yet.

Plenty of Orioles fans are still solidly in Wieters’ corner. But there is another segment that has become frustrated as his average has dropped from .262 to .249 to .235 the past three years, along with his OPS falling from .778 to .764 to .704.

In 2013, Wieters’ average and OBP (which was just .287) were at career-low levels and his OPS was second-lowest of his five years in the majors. Even his caught stealing percentage went down from 38.6 in 2012 to 35.3 last season.

At one time, there was a a thought that Wieters could get a contract to rival some of the biggest ever given a catcher. But now is there any way he can approach the deals signed by Joe Mauer and Buster Posey? Mauer got an eight-year, $184 million deal from the Twins in 2010. Posey signed an eight-year, $167 million deal with the Giants last March.

Wieters is under team control for the next two seasons, even if we don’t know his contract figure yet for 2014. He’ll be an Oriole through 2015, barring a trade.

But there is certainly some doubt now that he’ll be an Oriole beyond that season. Maybe behind the scenes the sides are making some contract progress, but that would come as a surprise at this point.

Wieters has plenty of support in the clubhouse and huge support from manager Buck Showalter and the coaching staff. Few appreciate No. 32 more.

But some fans are still disappointed that Wieters has never hit in the majors like he did in the minors. He was named Baseball America’s 2008 minor league Player of the Year. But Wieters hasn’t dominated at the big league level. He has struggled to hit right-handed pitching. “Mauer with power” was never a fair label, but Wieters has had to live with huge expectations.

Now he heads into an uncertain future as an Oriole. Will there be a trade? Will he leave via free agency? Is the club truly not close with Wieters on a long-term deal? Can he ever live up to some of those big expectations?

Yep, his future is uncertain. For now, we don’t even know what his contract will look like in 2014.

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