After the hype, Wieters having solid rookie season

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Now that he’s failed to live up to the immense hype and disappointed the people who misguidedly thought that he’d immediately be an MVP candidate as a 23-year-old rookie, Matt Wieters is quietly playing very well for the Orioles.
Wieters had the best game of his young career Tuesday night, going 3-for-5 with a three-run homer, a double, and five RBIs, and followed that up last night by twice gunning down Carl Crawford on steal attempts before delivering a walk-off homer.
Crawford had been 57-of-69 swiping bases prior to testing Wieters, who became the first catcher since April of 2007 to nail Crawford twice in the same game and has now thrown out 28 percent of steal attempts overall to rank solidly above the league average. Wieters has also pitch-called his way to a better catcher’s ERA than veterans Gregg Zaun and Chad Moeller.
Of course, while playing solid defense behind the plate is nice and all, the focus will forever be on Wieters’ bat. Since breaking the 4-for-28 (.143) slump that started his career, Wieters has hit .287 with a .340 on-base percentage and .411 slugging percentage in 282 plate appearances spread over 71 games. Obviously those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, but they’re significantly above average for a catcher.
His overall .273/.325/.395 line is modest, but an adjusted OPS+ of 86 ranks 15th among all catchers with at least 300 plate appearances and is pretty damn good for a 23-year-old rookie backstop. In fact, here’s the complete list of 23-year-old catchers with a higher OPS+ during the past 20 seasons: Joe Mauer, Jason Kendall, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, Charles Johnson, Ivan Rodriguez, Dave Nilsson. Each of those guys was an All-Star at least once and Wieters will be too.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.