Jorge Mateo: O’s placeholder or long-term solution?

This winter was dubbed the season of the shortstop. Of course, this was a follow-up to last season’s heralded winter shortstop frenzy.

With news of Carlos Correa spurning one mega-deal with the Giants for another with the Mets, this raised questions of the true value of the shortstop position, not only offensively but defensively as well.

Last season saw the likes of Francisco Lindor (who signed a long-term deal before the offseason), Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semein, Javier Báez and Trevor Story sign massive long-term deals.

This winter was Correa, via an opt-out, Dansby Swanson, Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner locking up long-term deals that will pay them into their late 30’s and early 40’s.

Of course, it is rumored that the Orioles offered an eight-year $300 million deal to Correa last offseason, though we are not truly sure if that really transpired.

The Orioles did, however, roll with the speedy Jorge Mateo at shortstop, and he gave them one of the most impressive defensive seasons in baseball last year.

Though he wasn’t a finalist for a Gold Glove, despite having better defensive metrics or as strong as the top three finalists, Mateo would take home the Fielding Bible Award, only the third Oriole to receive the honor.

Mateo did commit 17 errors but also had over 600 chances. In comparison, Jeremy Peña, the Gold Glove winner at shortstop, had over 100 fewer chances and committed two more errors than Mateo.

Mateo was also fourth in all of baseball with 14 defensive runs saved, the highest for a shortstop in 2022. He flashed his athleticism in the field and used a strong arm to make plays most could not.

Where Mateo brings up question marks, though, is on offense. You would think someone who led the AL with 35 stolen bases would use his speed as a great tool to his advantage.

Unfortunately, Mateo would slash just .221/.267/.379. Though 41% of his hits went for extra bases, including 12 home runs, Mateo has a 28% strikeout rate and less than a 5% walk rate for his career thus far.

What Mateo lacks in offense he more than makes up for in defense. But can he maintain a bWAR of 3.4, or better, to make him a more valuable contributor to a team?

Most teams aren’t in a position in which the Orioles are.

Currently, they have Gunnar Henderson, who was brought through the minors primarily as a shortstop, on the roster. Ramón Urías, who can also play short, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg are pushing on the door of the big league club as well.

Not to mention Jackson Holliday, who was drafted No. 1 overall last season and is a five-tool player, will be pushing quickly through the farm system.

This bears to mind: Does Jorge Mateo have the makeup and tools to become the Orioles’ long-term solution at the position?

Teams like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins, Braves, Diamondbacks and now the Giants are all in need of a shortstop and are believed to have inquired about Mateo, or maybe even one of the O’s top infield prospects.

Mateo has all the defensive make-ups of a star shortstop, but offensively, he fits in more as a utility player. That’s not to say a defensive savant can’t make it big.

Mike Bordick was a top defender during his career and offered little offensive production. He did have his moments, but he will forever be remembered as a defensive-first player.

The Orioles have a shortstop-rich history, with players like Luis Aparicio, Mark Belanger, Cal Ripken Jr., Miguel Tejada and JJ Hardy. Even Manny Machado had a season at the spot.

Mateo carries on a rich tradition in Baltimore, but his attributes don’t align with a mega-deal in the vicinity of $300 million dollars, which is where the market generally stands at this moment in time.

As much as Mateo has been an integral part of Orioles’ turnaround, he is nothing more than a placeholder and/or trade piece for a shortstop-needed team.

If Mateo can use his first full year as a jumping point and raise his average to a .250-.260 range, you have a gifted and talented athlete who could command a $20 million average annual value.

That’s a big if, but it’s one that is worth discovering, at least until the kids are ready to take over.

What do you think the future looks like for Jorge Mateo? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Stephen’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @SRJHeckman

6 thoughts on “Jorge Mateo: O’s placeholder or long-term solution?

    1. I hope so as well, at least until Jackson Holliday is ready. He has shown he can hit, but he needs to cut his strikeouts and raise his walks. He is dangerous on the basepaths and has game changing speed

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  1. The worst thing is very possible… his defense is almost as good but tinkering with the lineup leaves it a little shy of last year but still exceptional. His OBP goes up 25 points but SLG stagnates…. Now what?? Believe he’s going continue progressing…? How do you ever find out what the rest of the SSs can do? Fact is, defense is more important at SS – think Belanger & Wizard of Oz… but there gloves kept us in every game so the big bats can end it.

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    1. I think if his OBP does rise, we would also see a rise in his slugging. He hit 12 home runs last season, and 41% of his hits went for extra bases, so he does have some pop. Sriking out at the rate he does is what holds him back. I understand where you’re coming from, and that is a very plausible scenario. But I do also think playing full-time last season will benefit him on the offensive side this year. We have two shortstops knocking on the door and Jackson Holliday, who is the future of the position for us. So Mateo remaining there for another season or two won’t hurt, if his defense does manage to hold up. With Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg knocking at the door, Mateo can ill afford to slip in any catagory.

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  2. I love Mateo but I see him as a placeholder. He’s probably more valuable for trade at this time with so many quality shortstops in the pipeline.

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    1. I agree with you there. I think Mateo is an absolute freak of nature athlete, but his offense needs to be better in order to benefit us. We have more than enough quality in our pipeline that we would be able to find a suitable replacement, not to mention Gunnar Henderson, who rose through the ranks as a shortstop.

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