Posted on November 1, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
At most, there are two more days until the start of the baseball offseason, and so teams need to start getting their plans in place, particularly with regard to free agents who may receive qualifying offers. Such is the case with the Baltimore Orioles and catcher Matt Wieters, who accepted the team’s qualifying offer last offseason. A year later, the Orioles are in the same position and appear to be on the fence over whether or not to offer Wieters $17.2 million to return in 2017 or let him explore his options in free agency.
On the one hand, the Orioles could certainly use an extra draft pick to help rebuild a fairly unimpressive farm system, and if Wieters were to decline the offer and sign somewhere else, Baltimore would get an additional pick. Of course, there’s a good chance the Orioles will get an extra pick, as they will make Mark Trumbo a qualifying offer, and he will almost certainly decline it and explore free agency after hitting 47 home runs in 2016. In that sense, the Orioles may not need get greedy in hopes of getting two extra compensatory draft picks next year.
Another angle to explore is the possibility of Wieters accepting the offer for the second straight year and taking the $17.2 million. Wieters has had back-to-back seasons in which his offensive numbers have declined considerably, and after posting an OPS of .711 in 2016, there’s no way he’s worth $17.2 million per year. From his perspective, a qualifying offer, even without a long-term commitment, could be hard to turn down, especially if it means staying with the organization he’s been with his entire career.
Of course, with Scott Boras being his agent, there’s every chance that Wieters will be nudged in the direction of declining the offer and exploring the open market. As a 30-year old catcher, this may be the best, and perhaps only, opportunity Wieters has to secure a long-term deal that can make him set for life financially, not that accepting a qualifying offer for a second straight year would hurt in that sense.
It’s also important to note that with Wilson Ramos getting hurt late in the season, and the Nationals themselves mulling a qualifying offer for him, there’s little doubt that Wieters would be the best catcher available if he hits the open market. With this being the case, Boras would likely push Wieters even more to make himself available to all 30 teams, regardless of how much he’s enjoyed his time in Baltimore.
There’s also the question of what the Orioles would do behind the plate if Wieters doesn’t return next season. Caleb Joseph and Francisco Pena are Baltimore’s two other catchers, but few would consider them for an every day job, and both are certainly a huge step down from Wieters. Prospect Chance Sisco could use a full year in triple-A to develop, and the Orioles would be wise not to rush him to the big leagues. This means the Orioles would be in the market for a catcher to replace Wieters and hold down the fort until Sisco is hopefully ready in 2018.
Finally, there’s the financial element. In addition to Wieters receiving a small raise, the Orioles have 10 arbitration eligible players, including several who are set to receive a significant raise, making it harder to afford the $17.2 million they would owe Wieters if he accepts a qualifying offer.
Taking all of this into consideration, it’s best for the Orioles to make Wieters a qualifying offer. If he accepts, they will owe him a considerable amount of money, but they do need a catcher on a short-term deal, so it might as well be Wieters. It would help keep the core of the team together, as Baltimore’s window to compete remains open after reaching the Wild Card game in 2016. Of course, with the offseason fast approaching, the Orioles remain on the fence about what to do with Wieters.