I mention this every trade deadline and at the start of every Hot Stove season, but if you don’t talk to or read me, and haven’t noticed yet, Ken Rosenthal has the best connections for valid and viable rumors within MLB organizations of any reporter in the business. He is to trades what Jon Heyman is to free agency.

So when Rosenthal steps out with a tweet like this one:

@Ken_Rosenthal: Sources: #Orioles willing to trade Wieters. Both Wieters and Chris Davis two years away from free agency and represented by Scott Boras.

https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/400672985524502528

it’s foolish to ignore it. Wieters should be considered a real trade candidate, in light of this revelation.

Wieters will be 28 in 2014. He’s been worth a solid 2-3 wins in each of the past three seasons. He’s a solid power hitter, and makes surprisingly consistent contact for a backstop with pop:

Catchers, 250 PA or more, 2013: Strikeout Rate and Power

# NAME TEAM LG YEAR AGE PA SOr ISO
1. Tyler Flowers CHA AL 2013 27 275 0.342 .160
2. J.p. Arencibia TOR AL 2013 27 497 0.298 .171
3. Jeff Mathis MIA NL 2013 30 256 0.297 .103
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia BOS AL 2013 28 470 0.296 .193
5. Alex Avila DET AL 2013 26 379 0.296 .148
6. Jason Castro HOU AL 2013 26 491 0.265 .209
7. Chris Iannetta ANA AL 2013 30 399 0.251 .148
8. John Buck NYN NL 2013 32 407 0.243 .152
9. Nick Hundley SDN NL 2013 29 408 0.240 .155
10. Hank Conger ANA AL 2013 25 255 0.239 .155
11. Wilin Rosario COL NL 2013 24 466 0.234 .194
12. Miguel Montero ARI NL 2013 29 475 0.232 .114
13. Derek Norris OAK AL 2013 24 308 0.231 .163
14. Welington Castillo CHN NL 2013 26 428 0.227 .124
15. Russell Martin PIT NL 2013 30 506 0.213 .151
16. Jose Lobaton TBA AL 2013 28 311 0.209 .144
17. Yan Gomes CLE AL 2013 25 322 0.208 .188
18. Jose Molina TBA AL 2013 38 313 0.201 .071
19. Matt Wieters BAL AL 2013 27 579 0.180 .182
20. Joe Mauer MIN AL 2013 30 508 0.175 .153
21. A.j. Ellis LAN NL 2013 32 448 0.174 .126
22. Devin Mesoraco CIN NL 2013 25 352 0.173 .124
23. Carlos Santana CLE AL 2013 27 642 0.171 .187
24. Brian Mccann ATL NL 2013 29 402 0.164 .205
25. Chris Stewart NYA AL 2013 31 340 0.144 .061
26. A.j. Pierzynski TEX AL 2013 36 529 0.144 .153
27. Wilson Ramos WAS NL 2013 25 303 0.139 .199
28. Dioner Navarro CHN NL 2013 29 266 0.135 .192
29. Salvador Perez KCA AL 2013 23 526 0.120 .141
30. Jonathan Lucroy MIL NL 2013 27 580 0.119 .175
31. Buster Posey SFN NL 2013 26 595 0.118 .156
32. Carlos Ruiz PHI NL 2013 34 341 0.114 .100
33. Kurt Suzuki WAS NL 2013 29 281 0.114 .087
34. Ryan Hanigan CIN NL 2013 32 260 0.104 .063
35. Yadier Molina SLN NL 2013 30 541 0.102 .158

Source: BaseballProspectus.com

The sheer numbers only put Wieters just on the right side of average in terms of avoiding strikeouts at catcher, but look at a lot of the guys who had better contact rates than he did. Only four of the 16 guys with lower strikeout rates than Wieters also had higher isolated-power figures. The same number had an ISO of .100 or worse. (ISO, by the way, is simply slugging average minus batting average, or put another way, extra bases per at-bat.)

Wieters is no more than average in walk rate, but he doesn’t need to be. His 2013 line looks ugly: .235/.287/.417. That batting average, though, and thus the OBP, was driven down by a .247 batting average on balls in play.

Now, BABIP is a skill, but it’s awfully high-variance, but consider the three seasons prior to this one: Wieters’s BABIP in those, in over 1,600 plate appearances, was in the high .270s. The most logical conclusion from the data is that Wieters had a bad, unlucky season, but that he will bounce back in 2014. That means he has upside from his current standing, as one of the dozen best catchers in baseball.

If I were the Orioles, I would hesitate to trade Wieters right now. It’s interesting that they’re even toying with it. If a trade does come to fruition, it will also be an interesting case study in how well front offices understand variance these days.

It was once conventional wisdom, in fantasy baseball, to chase guys whose BABIP, or strikeout-to-walk ratio or whichever stat, indicated they’d been victims of bad luck recently. The idea was that those players were at the nadir of their values, and that you could buy low on them. Of course, the chief tentpole in that argument was the assumption that you could find some fool who would assume the surface-level stats to be real.

By that sort of logic, now would be a bad time to trade Wieters. If his value is defined by his surface-level stats, even a little bit, then it’s lower than it has been in a long time. On the other hand, though, if the Orioles are confident that teams will look past an ugly OBP and pay full price for what Wieters really is and could continue to be, maybe they should act to take advantage.

I’m of the opinion that trading Wieters now wouldn’t make sense. The Orioles have at least some chance to contend in 2014, and given their history in free agency (virtaully none), it’s very hard to imagine that they can deal him away and find a replacement who actually makes them better. The decision point isn’t really here yet: Baltimore can wait until next winter to make this move, or even the deadline if they fall out of contention.

If they do trade Wieters, I would think it will be in an effort to shore up their starting pitching. The Red Sox could offer them Clay Buchholz for him. The Cubs could choose Wieters as the guy who makes trading Jeff Samardzija worthwhile. Colorado is rumored to be weighing a move of Wilin Rosario to first base, and Baltimore did well in getting the most from Jason Hammel after bringing him out of Coors Field recently. I’m not sure, though, how to make the talent match up there. If the Rangers lose out on Brian McCann, they could be candidates for a trade.

In the end, I’ll be surprised if something actually comes of this, at least this winter. Still, it’s an intriguing rumor, and Wieters would (quietly) be a big get.

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