Baltimore Orioles Have Matt Wieters Replacement on the Way

The Baltimore Orioles are losing a pivotal player in their longtime catcher, but his replacement is on the way from the minor league system.

The Baltimore Orioles made a decision earlier this week not to extend a qualifying offer to their longtime catcher Matt Wieters.

Wieters thus becomes a free agent, eligible to sign with any team at any time. The 30-year-old former fifth overall pick from the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft is likely to have at least a handful of suitors.

The Orioles are a legitimate contending team in the always tough American League East Division. The club finished in a tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for second place with an 89-73 record this season, just four games behind the division-winning Boston Red Sox.

The O’s then lost a heart-breaking AL Wild Card Game to those Jays by a 5-2 score on a walk-off three-run homer by Edwin Encarnacion in the bottom of the 11th inning at Rogers Centre.

If Buck Showalter‘s gang is going to again challenge for a playoff berth in 2017 they are going to have to find a way to replace Wieters.

In the 2016 season, Wieters was an AL All-Star for the fourth time in his eight-year big league career, all of which has been spent in Baltimore.

The catcher banged 17 homers and 17 doubles, knocking in 66 runs. He was also ranked seventh in the AL in defense as a catcher by Fangraphs.

Wieters made $15.8 million for a 2016 season that was his first fully healthy campaign since 2013.

The Orioles simply aren’t willing to pay the big dollars that it would take to keep him. Based on his age, his offensive production, and the injury risk going forward, that may be smart.

The club is not likely to have to look very far to find his replacement. Baltimore’s #2 overall prospect just happens to play the position, and looks like he is going to be a good one.

Chance Sisco will turn 22 years old as 2017 Spring Training down in Sarasota, Florida gets underway.

In their September organizational report on the Orioles, Baseball America named Sisco as the best position player in the club’s minor league system. That report states: “Sisco, 21, remains the top catching prospect in the organization, with a bat that has produced at every level.”

Sisco spent most of the 2016 season at AA Bowie in the Eastern League before receiving a late summer promotion to AAA Norfolk. He hit for a combined .317/.403/.430 slash line with six homers, 28 doubles, and 51 RBI.

His MLB Pipeline scouting report states the following in reference to his handling of the catching position:

“Sisco has good arm strength but otherwise is raw behind the plate. He’s worked hard to improve his footwork and catch-and-throw skills in the last year, and scouts have become less skeptical about whether he can develop the chops to be an everyday backstop.”

“He thrives on competition,” his Bowie manager Gary Kendall said per Jake Lourim for The Baltimore Sun. “I don’t think he’s a guy, he doesn’t let 0-for-4s get in his way. He has a quick turnaround, and after a couple games where he feels he could have been better, he’s a guy that will go out there and get big hits for us.”

The Orioles enter the offseason with 30-year-old Caleb Joseph and 27-yearold Francisco Pena as the only catchers on their 40-man roster. Neither is likely to hold off Sisco once the youngster is ready.

That will be the task in Spring Training, to evaluate Sisco’s readiness for the big leagues. The likelihood is that he will start the year back at Norfolk.

A strong showing in spring and at AAA is likely to put him in line for a summer promotion. By the second half of the 2017 season, it is possible that Sisco, the Orioles’ likely future behind the plate, will be handling the pitching staff in Baltimore.

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