For the better part of the last decade there's been little to cheer about in Baltimore during baseball season. Things are finally starting to look up in the Charm City, though, and catching prospect Matt Wieters is a huge reason why. Drafted fifth overall in the 2007 Rule 4 Draft, Wieters has scorched through the minors and figures to be the Orioles' full-time catcher by the end of 2009.
Baltimore has decided to ease Wieters into the starer's role, but after trading incumbent Ramon Hernandez at the Winter Meetings, it still needed a veteran catcher to pair with the stud prospect as he gets comfortable in the big leagues.
Signing a guy like Zaun isn't likely to win over the many disgruntled fans in Baltimore, but it's actually a pretty good move. Zaun will turn 38 just after Opening Day, but unlike most catchers his age, his skills haven't deteriorated.
He gets on base at a good clip (.340 in 2008), he still has a bit of pop left in his bat, and, best of all, he's used to sharing a sizable amount of catching duties after platooning with Rod Barajas last year in Toronto.
If Wieters puts it all together as quickly as the talent evaluators think he will, then Zaun will step to the side and become one of the best backup catchers in baseball, or maybe even trade bait in July. If not, the Orioles can leave the pitching staff in the hands of a very capable veteran while Wieters goes through growing pains.
The Zaun signing might not excite Orioles fans, but it is another subtle sign that the team is finally in good hands under Andy MacPhail.