One of the more interesting storylines of the 2016 season could be Caleb Joseph. At the end of last season, it looked as if Joseph could inherit Matt Wieters’ starting job.
In both 2014 and 2015, Joseph caught more games than anyone on the Orioles. Due to Wieters’ Tommy John surgery and recovery, Joseph caught 94 games last year to Wieters’ 55.
While Joseph insists that he’s delighted with Wieters’ return, he’s proven that he can be a regular major league catcher.
He just may have to wait a year.
Wieters took the $15.8 million qualifying offer in early November, and instead of the Orioles looking around for a veteran to play alongside Joseph and possibly Steve Clevenger, they suddenly had a surplus.
Clevenger was used to snare Mark Trumbo, leaving Wieters and Joseph.
In Wieters’ best years (2010-13), he caught between 126 and 140 games. He may not do that again, but if Wieters catches 120 or so games, would Joseph be satisfied with playing twice a week?
While Wieters can DH and play first base, Trumbo could be the regular designated hitter. Joseph can also play first and could be the DH, too if necessary.
The Orioles have a third catcher on the 40-man roster, Francisco Pena, but he’s ticketed for Norfolk unless there’s an injury.
Joseph and Wieters both turn 30 within a few weeks of each other, and it will be interesting to see if Joseph proves himself capable of holding down the top job a year from now if Wieters leaves as a free agent.
Four months ago, most observers thought Wieters would leave and were surprised when he didn’t.
The Orioles have a promising catcher, Chance Sisco, coming to camp, but he is not quite 21 and has played only 20 games in Double-A.
If the Orioles are confident in Joseph, he could have a good career with the team—even if he didn’t reach the majors until he was nearly 28.