The free agent catching market is a bit slim. After Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the next best option is 35-year old Carlos Ruiz. If you're one of the many teams that needs help behind the plate, you might be a little dissuaded by the mess in front of you. Texas' one-year contract with Geovany Soto might start looking better and better as the winter goes on.
But according to numerous reports, the catching market might start getting interesting. JP Arencibia is a popular name, with the Phillies being linked to him. Arencibia isn't much of anything, but you know who is? Matt Wieters. Baltimore might be willing to trade their franchise backstop two years before he hits free agency, and if they do, the bidding will be frantic.
Wieters had a down year in 2013 offensively, hitting .235/.287/.417 for the Orioles with 22 home runs. But Wieters was once again a rock behind the plate, catching 1000 innings for the fourth time in four full major league seasons. Since his 96 game debut in 2009, Wieters ranks third among all catchers with 87 homers – and the two guys ahead of him are Mike Napoli (who isn't a backstop anymore) and free agent Brian McCann. The only catcher to catch more innings than Wieters is Yadier Molina of the Cardinals, who had the benefit of a full season in the majors in 2009.
And while Wieters will likely cost you a lot in the terms of prospects, he won't cost teams a lot of money in salary. Wieters made $5.5 million in 2013, his first year of arbitration, and is projected to make $7.9 million in 2014 by MLBTR. That $7.9 million would be less than Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Molina, Miguel Montero, and Russell Martin are guaranteed to make in 2014, and will likely end up being less than what McCann, Saltalamacchia, and Ruiz will get this offseason. That seems like a pretty good deal for a guy who has smashed 20 homers in each of the last three years and is an elite defender behind the dish.
It will be difficult for the Orioles to replace Wieters behind the plate. But if they feel that they won't be able to reach a long-term extension with him before he hits the free agent market, why not dangle him out there as a cheaper, younger alternative to the catchers on the market this winter? If Dan Duquette really wants to move Wieters, he shouldn't have any problems finding a taker, though I'm not sure if he'll be able to get fair value for him after his down 2013.