Orioles' MacPhail: Hernandez Trade All About Wieters
The Orioles and Reds have finalized their trade, with catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash (believed to be around $1 million) going to the Reds for utility man Ryan Freel and two mid-level infield prospects.
Orioles GM Andy MacPhail spoke frankly about the team's motivation behind the trade: "For us, this trade was more about Matt Wieters, frankly."
Wieters, of course, is the Orioles' stud prospect catcher, one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Removing the veteran Hernandez from the mix opens the door for Wieters to assume the starting catching job.... but when?
MacPhail was vague about the timetable, but acknowledged the team would almost certainly acquire a veteran catcher between now and spring training. This veteran, conceivably, could share time with Wieters in order to ease the kid into the job.
However, there is one other scenario, the possibility of which was confirmed by a team official: The Orioles could keep Wieters in the minors for the first two months of the season, in order to delay his service-time "clock" from starting. The purpose would be to put off Wieters eligibility for salary arbitration by an additional year -- pushing it to 2013, instead of 2012.
The Orioles could easily justify such a move by pointing out Wieters has had only 437 minor-league at-bats, with only 208 of those coming at a level higher than Class A.
It is not an uncommon ploy. In fact, the Minnesota Twins did it this year with Francisco Liriano.
But either way, the signal is clear: Wieters' arrival will come in 2009, whether it's April or June.
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