The Baltimore Orioles placed catcher Matt Wieters on the 15-day DL this morning due to lingering elbow soreness. Manager Buck Showalter told Orioles beat reporters that Wieters will be out at least three weeks to let the elbow “quiet down” before it is re-evaluated.
If Wieters cannot throw by July 1, surgery could become an option — perhaps shutting the catcher down for the season.
With Wieters’ contract up at the end of next year, the Orioles need to decide soon if they want to sign him to an extension, trade him, or allow him to hit free agency in 2015. His injury gives the team a chance to explore its replacement options before they are forced to make a decision on the future of Wieters in Baltimore.
The Orioles have other expensive paydays that might be coming in the near future in shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is a free agent after this year, and first baseman Chris Davis who, like Wieters, hits free agency in 2015.
Trading Wieters or letting him walk would save the Orioles money that could be used to bring back Davis or Hardy.
With Wieters out for what could be a month or more, the Orioles will use this time to evaluate their lineup without Wieters and see if it can afford to avoid signing him to a costly contract extension.
So far this season, Wieters has been a crucial part of the Orioles’ offense, batting .308/.339/.500 with five home runs and 18 RBI. For the Orioles to continue their winning ways, the new starting catcher would need to play a role in replacing that production.
Who the new everyday catcher will end up being remains to be seen. For now, Baltimore’s own Steve Clevenger will do the majority of the catching, with 6-year minor league product Caleb Joseph backing him up.
Clevenger has shown that he can be a factor with the bat in limited appearances in 2014. He is hitting .256/.326/.462 with six doubles and five RBI in 39 ABs. Clevenger also played hero in Saturday night’s walk off win against the Houston Astros in the bottom of the tenth inning.
However, Clevenger isn’t guaranteed the job for the entirety of Wieters’ absence. News broke yesterday that the Orioles were considering trade offers for left-handed reliever Troy Patton in hopes of receiving another catcher.
This trade would solve two problems. First, it would get rid of one of four lefties in the Oriole bullpen, allowing the team to bring up another right-hander and alleviate the workload on Darren O’Day, Ryan Webb, and Tommy Hunter. Second, the new catcher would bump Joseph off the roster and give the Orioles another viable option if Clevenger proves that he should be limited to a reserve role.
Wieters’ injury could end up proving that he’s expendable, which is a good thing for the Orioles. If either Clevenger or the return on the potential Patton trade performs well, the Orioles may be encouraged to part ways with Wieters sooner rather than later.
While losing Wieters certainly doesn’t benefit the 2014 Orioles, his injury gives the Orioles an opportunity to decide how valuable Wieters truly is to this team and plan for the future.