News came down yesterday that the miracle Baltimore Orioles opted to extend the contract of manager Buck Showalter. And extend it they did, locking up their field genius for, um, six years? He’s in place until 2018? Okay then!
With 381 games as the Orioles manager under his belt, Buck Showalter is already one of the longest tenured bench bosses in baseball. By the time the 2018 season rolls around? Assuming Showlater can last the season in Baltimore, this will represent the longest stay of his long managerial career. Showlater’s was shoved out the door in New York after four years before lasting three years in Arizona and four years in Texas.
The Orioles and their front office believe in Showalter. They like what he brings and are comfortable with his hand on the stick as the franchise shifts from one generation of players (Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts) to the hopeful group led by Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado.
One player who might span this talent cohort is Matt Wieters. One of the most hyped prospects to hit the big leagues ahead of his big league debut in 2009, Wieters hasn’t quite lived up to his billing as the best catcher in the history of everything ever.
What Wieters IS, however, is one of the best catchers in the game. Period. Full stop. The list of catchers better than Wieters is as short as the list of teams who’d kill for his services is long. Wieters spoke publicly about his desire to sign a long-term extension with the only club he’s ever known this week. What else does Baltimore need to hear? Get it done, Duquette!
With the O’s backstop headed to arbitration for the first time, there is motivation for both sides to make a deal. The Orioles want to save some money and maybe snare one of Wieters’ free agent years. Wieters himself gets the security of knowing his future is more or less secure – an enticing option for any catcher.
The obvious comparison for Wieters is Joe Mauer, who is similarly enormous, though Mauer is a much better hitter. Because Mauer’s bat is strong enough to play at other positions and the Twins signed him to an eight-year deal, Minnesota protects Mauer by keeping him away from the tools of ignorance as much as they can.
In Wieters, Baltimore has a catcher. A league-average hitter with pop who catches 140 times a year is a valuable commodity indeed. But he is a catcher. The Orioles used him as their DH a few times in 2012 (against left handed pitching, natch), though these starts are the exception to the rule.
The durability which drives Wieters’ current value might just be the thing that gets him in the end. Many catchers before him wore down as the years piled up on the knees and back. Nothing in Wieters’ comments hint at a burning desire to sign a ten-year deal with the Orioles. Signing a three or four year deal now still allows him to hit free agency before he turns 31.
Locking up Showalter does not prevent any deal with Wieters. Signing a manager is much easier as there are so many fewer moving pieces. With their manger in place, O’s fans should hope they can get a deal done with Wieters so the team can head into the 2013 season with focus on repeating 2012. Rabbits feet and magic 8 balls for everyone!