More on Matt Wieters

The Orioles are having a typical non-playoff October, with only trickles of news before the World Series ends and the free agency floodgates open.

Reliever Brian Matusz underwent successful surgery on his right shoulder. The Orioles released their spring training schedule. They claimed pitcher Vance Worley off waivers from the Pirates and lost reliever Jorge Rondon to a waiver claim by the Pirates. They re-signed all seven of their coaches, but are going to conduct interviews for an assistant hitting coach. They added top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy to the Peoria roster in the Arizona Fall League.

They signed Catonsville High and University of Maryland left-hander Adam Kolarek to a minor league contract. First baseman Chris Davis was named to the Sporting News’ American League All-Star team. Center fielder Adam Jones will receive the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award. Third baseman Manny Machado was the organization’s lone Rawlings Gold Glove finalist. J.J. Hardy became a father. Outfielder David Lough attained Super Two status. Triple-A Norfolk closer Oliver Drake was voted the top reliever in the minors.

The rumor mill is churning slowly, but it’s going to spin out of control starting next month. Right now, you have to be content with speculating on the odds that the Orioles re-sign their pending free agents and how much it would cost.

Tim Dierkes of predicted yesterday that catcher Matt Wieters will receive a four-year, $64 million contract after turning down the Orioles’ qualifying offer. That counts as two predictions, since it hasn’t been confirmed that the club will extend the offer.

(I’m also predicting that the Orioles offer it and agent Scott Boras rejects it.)

wieters-high-five-smile-gray-sidebar.jpgThe speculation includes determining the market for Wieters. The Braves emerged as an early favorite based on need and Wieters’ ties to the area. He grew up rooting for the team, played at Georgia Tech and owns a home in Atlanta. Connecting the dots isn’t much of a challenge.

The Nationals routinely are linked to Wieters, but a source insists that they have no interest. We’ll see.

The Braves, White Sox and Rockies have protected first-round picks, as Dierkes noted. It’s an important distinction if Wieters turns down a qualifying offer and the Orioles are compensated.

Say what you will about Wieters, and he’s garnered his fair share of detractors while failing to become the next Johnny Bench or “Mauer with power,” but he’s a gem on a free agent catching market that includes the following:

Alex Avila
Carlos Corporan
Chris Iannetta
Michael McKenry
Dioner Navarro
Jordan Pacheco
Brayan Pena
A.J. Pierzynski
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Geovany Soto

Just off the top of my head, I can name Pierzynski and Saltalamacchia as two catchers who didn’t pique the Orioles’ interest the last time they were available.

Avila, who turns 29 in January, made $5.4 million this year. He won a Silver Slugger Award in 2011 after batting .295/.389/.506 with 33 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs and 82 RBIs in 141 games. However, he hasn’t come close to that level in the ensuing years.

His slash lines read as follows:

2012: .243/.352/.384 in 116 games
2013: .227/.317/.376 in 102 games
2014: .218/.327/.359 in 124 games
2015: .191/.339/.287 in 67 games (he spent two months on the DL with a knee injury)

Avila hasn’t hit more than 11 home runs or driven in more than 48 runs if you’re caught up on his non-catching stats. He was a Gold Glove finalist last season.

Wieters’ supporters point to his power and production at the plate, which separates him from most catchers, his arm (when healthy), his ability to block pitches and apply tags, and his leadership. His detractors point to his failure to match the hype that accompanied him since the day the Orioles drafted him and his poor marks for framing pitches. I’ve also heard the criticism over his pitch selection.

So would you give Wieters a four-year, $64 million contract if it didn’t hinder the club’s attempts to improve in other areas? I would go there without hesitation.

* Random trivia: Name the Orioles’ two opening day catchers in 2009. Answer below.

* The Mariners promoted former Orioles executive Lee MacPhail IV to director of professional scouting. He joined the organization as a major league scout in November 2012.

MacPhail IV worked for the Orioles from 2007-2012. They moved him to the amateur side of the scouting department in his final season.

MacPhail IV is the nephew of former Orioles executive and current Phillies general manager Andy MacPhail.

* Answer: The Orioles broke camp in 2009 with Chad Moeller and Gregg Zaun as their catchers. Wieters made his major league debut on May 29 against the Tigers.

Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” from 5-6:30 p.m. on MASN. Jacket and tie required (from me, not you).

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