Razor Entertainment signed an exclusive autograph deal with top Baltimore Orioles prospect Matt Wieters on Wednesday that prevents other companies from producing cards and autographed cards until a year after he makes his debut on a major league (25-man) roster.
The move means that Baseball America’s 2008 Minor League Player of the Year will not have cards in future Bowman products as Topps signs players to individual contracts to appear on its cards.
And after Wieters makes his big-league debut, Topps and Upper Deck will be able to produce standard cards (if he is signed by Topps), but no autographed or memorabilia cards — unless they negotiate for his rights, which would be lucrative, through Razor.
“We took a shot and we are taking a shot that is unprecedented,” said Razor President Brian Gray. “This could basically change the whole game.”
Gray said the deal does not trump any pre-existing contracts – Wieters has signed to appear in the upcoming Donruss Elite Extra Edition – but is exclusive starting today.
Upper Deck and Donruss officials declined to comment. A message to Topps was not yet returned.
Gray said the move is a big deal — and a risk — for Razor but it’s also one that he says will help draw better deals for younger players down the line – and possibly help spark some innovation in the hobby.
“We are willing the sign the best players. … No one has ever tried this. It could blow up,” Gray said. “But we love Matt Wieters. He’s a monster prospect.”
Wieters, the No. 5 pick in the 2007 draft, hit a combined .355 with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs for the Frederick Keys (Advanced A) and the Bowie Baysox (AA) in 2008. The former Georgia Tech and USA Baseball standout currently is playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Surprise Rafters. He reached base in each of his first five games, hitting .500 with seven runs scored and three RBIs.
Razor’s first baseball product, 2008 Razor Signature, is set for a November release and includes autographs for 100 prospects, including 15 of the top 17 picks in the 2008 draft. Wieters’ addition is an added bonus to the lineup, which already will have prospect collectors’ interest piqued.
“I don’t think any company has entered this business with as much enthusiasm,” said Gray, who revealed a pair of surprises for the upcoming set.
Gray confirmed that Wieters will be autograph card No. 154 in the upcoming Razor Signature baseball set and that Wieters also will appear on a dual autographed card (No. 2) along with Florida Marlins catcher Kyle Skipworth. Previously released checklists listed these cards as a surprise to be announced at the time of the set’s release.
While the move affects the availability of new Wieters cardboard, collectors should keep in mind that the highly touted prospect – who could make his debut for Baltimore next season – does have several previously released cards. According to the Beckett Database, he has 119 cards, 68 of those autographed, split between USA Baseball, Donruss, TRISTAR and Just Minors sets.
His first cards came in the 2005-06 Upper Deck USA Baseball National Team set – his blue dual auto with former University of Florida slugger Matt LaPorta, now of the Cleveland Indians, is worth $150.
In addition to Matt Wieters, Razor has exclusive deals with 15 of the top 17 picks in the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft. Here they are.
Pick number, name, team
1. Tim Beckham, Tampa Bay Rays
2. Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals
4. Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles
6. Kyle Skipworth, Florida Marlins
7. Yonder Alonso, Cincinnati Reds
9. Aaron Crow, Washington Nationals
10. Jason Castro, Houston Astros
11. Justin Smoak, Texas Rangers
12. Jemile Weeks, Oakland A’s
13. Brett Wallace, St. Louis Cardinals
14. Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins
15. Ethan Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
16. Brett Lawrie , Milwaukee Brewers
17. David Cooper, Toronto Blue Jays
Chris Olds has collected sports cards and memorabilia since 1987. Before coming to Beckett Media, he wrote about the hobby for the Orlando Sentinel on his blog, SportsStuff, and for the San Antonio Express-News and The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News. Do you have a comment, question or idea? Send e-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.