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.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.