O's win big in waiting game

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Should The Orioles Have Sent Matt Wieters To The Minors?

March 27, 2009|By DAN CONNOLLY

It's understandable that fans wanted to see catching phenom Matt Wieters in an Orioles uniform on Opening Day, but it just wasn't sensible.

What would you rather have had? A couple weeks of Wieters now as a rookie or a whole year of him when he is in his prime?

I thought so.

If Wieters were on the Opening Day roster, his service-time clock would have begun ticking. Assuming he remained on the club's 25-man roster or disabled list, Wieters would have been eligible for free agency after the 2014 season.

Now, with the Orioles surely leaving him in the minors at least the required 12 days - and likely for a while longer - Wieters will not get to six years' service time by the end of 2014, meaning he'll have an additional full year with the club in 2015 before he's eligible to test free agency.

There's another date worth watching, too. If he makes it through May (or perhaps early June) at Triple-A Norfolk before being recalled, he most likely will not be eligible for Super 2 arbitration status. That means his base salary won't skyrocket in arbitration until after his third season instead of his second. And that could affect his free-agent asking price, although it's doubtful the Orioles are worried about that when he gets to arbitration. When he gets to free agency, however, is a major issue.

Publicly, the Orioles say Wieters is headed for Triple-A because he has had just one year in pro ball and they want him to have success at the highest minor league rung. There is merit in that, too. Enough merit, combined with the financial ramifications, that it was a no-brainer to start him in the minors in 2009.

Ultimately, waiting a little bit on Wieters means seeing more of him in the future. And 2009 has to be about the future for the Orioles.

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