Should the O’s extend Matt Wieters?
Lance Rinker Point: Catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t quite turned into the offensive juggernaut we all thought and hoped he would be through his first four seasons in the majors. Some would call him a major disappointment because of the expectations surrounding him coming out of college. Those expectations, ‘Mauer with Power’ were a bit unfair though.
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It routinely takes catcher four, five, and sometimes six seasons in the big leagues before they finally become solid players with the bat. The reason being is because they have so much more to learn and so much more responsibility at their position than any other player on the field. Not only does Wieters have to game plan opposing hitters on a daily basis, he also has to work on his defense to keep it sharp, he has to work with the pitching staff and learn their tendencies and how to handle each one individually, on top of studying opposing pitchers he’ll be hitting against.
That’s quite a bit of responsibility for a just turned 27-year old player. What’s remarkable to me though is the fact that some question whether the Orioles would be wise to sign him to an extension or not because he’s not hitting .300 and swatting 30+ home runs every single year.
He has already won two gold gloves (2011 and 2012), been to two All-Star Games (2011 and 2012), and he’s also one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball. On top of that he’s a guy that will slug 20 or more home runs every year and should finish with a batting line somewhere around .250/.320/.420. While that batting line doesn’t look all that spectacular you also have to keep in mind that he has one of the toughest jobs in baseball, the offensive environment has changed drastically since he’s been in the league, and there are no other catchers in the game that are as valuable (overall) as he is.
Sign the man to an extension and keep him in an Orioles uniform long-term as he’s better than his .238 BABIP is telling his average to show and don’t be surprised if he bounces back in a major way during the second half and the following seasons.
Jeff Long Counter Point: There’s no doubt that Wieters is not actually as bad offensively as he’s looked so far this season. There’s also no doubt about the value he provides on defense as he’s been a gold glove winner with incredibly strong numbers against would-be base stealers.
The question with Wieters is not about what he can do on the field, but rather if what he can do is worth the likely price tag that he will command on the open market. Wieters is a Boras client, and odds are good that he’ll be looking for a significant pay-day when it comes to his free agent years. He’s getting paid $5.5 Million this season, and that number will only continue to go up as he nears free agency. It seems obvious to me that Scott Boras will use the contract Yadier Molina signed in St. Louis as the basis for a Matt Wieters deal. Molina signed for 5 Years and $75 Million, keeping him in St. Louis through at least 2017. Molina also got a no-trade clause in the deal, which likely brought down the dollar amount to one degree or another.
So, are you comfortable paying Wieters what will likely be $15 Million a season when he hits free agency? I’m not. If Wieters actually became ‘Mauer with Power’ as Lance mentioned, then I’d be all for locking him up. The fact of the matter is that Wieters is a slightly above average bat with plus defensive skills. That skill set is not something that the Orioles should allocate 15% (or more) of their payroll to.
What should Kevin Gausman’s role on the team be?
Jeff Long Point: The O’s are currently using Kevin Gausman as a reliever for the big league club, which strikes me as being awfully short-sighted. Granted, Dylan Bundy pitched in relief last season, but the circumstances were different and the goal was simply to get Bundy (minimal) exposure to MLB. The Orioles are currently taking a gamble, as they are valuing a few innings out of Gausman in relief now over an extra year of arbitration down the road. That extra year of arbitration could cost the club several million dollars.
Winning now is important, but so is winning later, especially when your team has such a strong young core of players to build around for the next 6 – 8 years. It’s not like the O’s have no other options either. 9 pitchers have put up ERAs below 3 for the Norfolk Tides this season, including Jon Rauch who recently opted out of his contract because the O’s didn’t promote him to the big league club.
How about promoting Adam Russell who has allowed just 2 earned runs over his last 14.2 IP for Norfolk? The value the O’s can realize by having Gausman in the ‘pen over a guy like Russell is not even close to being worth losing that extra year of team control on the backend of Gausman’s arbitration. Kevin might not be ready to start in the majors, but the team should have him ironing out the kinks in the minors rather than throwing sporadically in the MLB bullpen.
Lance Rinker Counter Point: Let me start with a quote from Orioles Manager Buck Showalter regarding Kevin Gausman being in the bullpen, for now, before really diving into my point.
“I think he’s got a chance to be a starter again,” manager Buck Showalter remarked dryly of Gausman, who is the organization’s top pitching prospect. “We got 70-some games left. We are going to have to do some things between now and the All-Star break. He and Zach [Britton], they both have options, we like them both on the club. I think these things kind of solve themselves. It’s going to be about the need of the club. And the need of the club may be for [Gausman] to be starting at [Triple-A] Norfolk. We’ll see.”
The part I want to focus on from Showalter is the “It’s going to be about the need of the club” and right now the need of the club is having Gausman in the bullpen. Is it going to bump him up into Super-Two status? It’s very likely to do so but big deal.
I understand the financial aspect of the argument made to send Gausman back to Norfolk immediately so he stops accruing major league service time but it’s not like he’s going to learn a whole lot being in the minors. What he needs to learn now is how to get major league hitters out with consistency while also working on his slider.
He can do both of those in the bullpen with the Orioles and still have the opportunity to make a few starts here and there between now and the end of the season. Furthermore, I would prefer to have Gausman on the roster and eligible for the playoff roster (assuming we get there) then having someone that probably wouldn’t be able to provide as much value as he does in the bullpen.
Oh, and over seven innings of work out of the bullpen so far Gausman hasn’t allowed a run or a walk, has given up just four hits, and has struck out six batters. I’d say he’s just fine where he’s at, service time be damned.
Should Yasiel Puig be an All Star?
Jeff Long Point: With the ASG rosters being announced the vast majority of the All-Star Game participants have been identified. The lone question that remains is whether or not the fans will vote in Puig as their final roster selection in the National League?
If you ask me, I don’t think Puig belongs in the All-Star Game, and I’ll tell you why. Simply put, the guy has been in the major leagues for 30 days. Jacoby Ellsbury has been just as valuable (1.7 WAR) in the last 30 days, so should we talk about him being snubbed from the roster as well? Of course not.
The fact of the matter is that players get hot (Puig has a BABIP of nearly .500) and this is not his true talent level. Give the roster spot to a guy like Freddie Freeman who has put up a solid first half of the season.
Puig is exciting, and will certainly be a threat to make the All Star Game in any given year. That doesn’t mean that his hot start to 2013 justifies putting him on the roster this season. Let him play a full half of a season before deciding that he’s earned a spot on the All Star roster.
Lance Rinker Counter Point: I understand the argument against Puig being voted into the All-Star game because he’s only been in the major leagues for roughly a month or so but that doesn’t mean he should suddenly be disqualified from being eligible.
Like it or not the All-Star Game should be about the fans and what the fans want as opposed to what guys like Jonathan Papelbon say:
It shouldn’t matter what other players think of who makes the team and who doesn’t. This used to be a game that was meant to be a darling of a show for the fans and it seems like we’ve tried to get further and further away from that by making sure everyone gets an “A” for participation and that is, in my opinion, what is ‘stupid’.
How can you claim that either the best of the best made the team, which has never truly happened since the game was instituted in 1993, and how can anyone say this is still an exhibition for the fans enjoyment when so much political correctness goes into making sure a member of every team is an all-star and then add on the fact that there are so many stipulations that go into how or when players even get into the game.
If the fans want to vote Puig into the All-Star game for that final roster spot because he is one of those exciting players on the scene right now then so be it. If the fans want to see him in a game that is supposed to be meant for them anyway then I am in full support of that and believe he should make it.
Are the New York Yankees primed for a fall, or about to surge into contention?
Lance Rinker Point: The New York Yankees are primed for a big letdown performance wise come the second half of the season. Even though the team is currently a top five team in fielding and pitching those two things are not going to keep them afloat in the American League East for a full 162 games. Let’s go ahead and review the roster position by position.
According to FanGraphs, the Yankees have the second worst performing catching tandem in all of baseball with the Miami Marlins being the only team worse than them and it’s not by much. Their everyday catcher, Chris Stewart, isn’t much with the bat and his fielding is adequate but it’s clear to anyone paying attention that he’s a defense-first back-up catcher at best.
Not that Mark Teixeira is officially out for the season first base is now destined to be a black hole for them all year long. The combination of Lyle Overbay and David Adams at the position is no longer providing them much in the way of offense and the defensive capabilities of both are barely league average. The Yankees have gotten literally zero WAR total from the position so far this season.
Shortstop has long been a position that has lacked a certain defensive prowess, regardless of what diehard Yankees fans say, and it hasn’t gotten any better with the absence of Derek Jeter. This is a position that is fourth worst in baseball production wise for the team and the fact that the return of a 38-year old player will produce substantially more value offensively than any combination of players they have tried is sad, to say the least.
Without Kevin Youkilis manning the hot corner it’s been a bit of a disaster but still no worse for wear than shortstop or first base has been. Once he comes back they’ll be a stronger defensive team but they weren’t getting what they were hoping for offensively from him and are unlikely to once he returns.
As far as the outfield is concerned, they’re about middle of the pack in terms of overall production at all three spots but their center fielder (Brett Gardner) is a bit injury prone and has a Johnny Damon-esque arm, and their right fielder is a 39-yeard old Ichiro Suzuki who has batted just .237 with an OBP of .282 in July from 2010-2012, starting his great second half decent into mediocrity – or further into that is.
The only position where the Yankees are strong offensively at is second base with Robinson Cano and if anything were to happen to him they wouldn’t even be able to muster the 3.95 R/G they’ve managed so far this season as he accounts for a touch over 18% of their offensive production this season.
Jeff Long Counter Point: The Yankees should never be counted out when it comes down to it. Simple as that.
The Bronx Bombers will be getting back their emotional leader for the second half as Derek Jeter works his way back to the big club. Eduardo Nunez (and Alex Rodriguez?) are also on rehab assignments and could join the club in the second half as well.
The Yankees should also never be counted out when it comes to the trade deadline, as they could be one impact hitter away from a wild card spot. Add one new trade to the natural improvement from veterans like Jeter returning and you have a recipe for success in the second half.
Lance pointed out, conveniently, exactly why the Yankees should not be counted out this season. The club is top 5 in pitching and fielding which means that with a little luck and some timely hitting from veterans, they’re right in the thick of the hunt. As the summer progresses teams will naturally start to hit better, and the Yankees will naturally see more of a benefit from that than a team that is already hitting well.
Something tells me that Brian Cashman already knows that the Yankees are only some hitting away from being right in the thick of the race for the playoffs. After all, Lance has painted a pretty abysmal picture above; until you realize that the team he just described is only ½ a game out of the second wild card as we sit today.