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Orioles face painful choice with Wieters


Orioles face painful choice with Wieters

Is Matt Wieters worth $15.8 million to the Orioles in 2016? That’s the dilemma the team is currently working through.

Wieters is one of six Orioles free agents, one of five who is eligible for a $15.8 million qualifying offer, and one of three who may be proffered one.

Should the Orioles offer him one? What would happen if he actually took it?

The qualifying offer, which has been reportedly set at $15.8 million, has never been accepted by a player in its first three years.

Will Wieters be the first to accept one?

Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Steve Pearce are all eligible for the qualifying offer, which is a one-year contract. If a team signs a player who’s been given a qualifying offer, they must forfeit their top remaining draft pick.

In Feb. 2014, the Orioles signed Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez whose markets had been negatively impacted because of the qualifying offer, and they didn’t have a pick in that June’s draft until the third round.

Teams who lose a player given a qualifying offer get a compensation pick in return, so it’s possible the Orioles could receive three additional draft choices if Chen, Davis and Wieters all receive qualifying offers, reject them and sign elsewhere.

Davis will receive a qualifying offer and reject it. So will Chen.

O’Day and Pearce won’t be given qualifying offers. Gerardo Parra, who was traded to the Orioles in July isn’t eligible for one because players dealt in their free agent season can’t be given one.

In the case of O’Day and Pearce, the Orioles run the risk that they’ll get nothing if both players sign elsewhere. In Parra’s instance, they traded a frontline prospect, pitcher Zach Davies to Milwaukee, and if he walks, they’re really left with nothing.

As for Wieters, it’s hard. The Orioles have invested eight years with Wieters, and after playing just 26 games in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, still paid him $8.3 million in 2015.

At the time he signed, the Orioles hoped for more than 75 games from him, and because of his slow rehab, he caught only 55 games.

Wieters hit .267, but struck out 67 times in 75 games, a much higher rate than he had in the past. He had eight home runs and 25 RBIs. Compare that with the previous year when he hit five homers and drove in 18 in about one-third the games.

He did end this season strongly, hitting .444 in eight games over the finali two weeks.

Interestingly, in his career, the switch hitter bats .278 hitter against left-handers and is a .250 hitter against right-handers, but this season, his numbers were much closer: .265 against righties and .268 against lefties.

His arm seemed to recover well from the surgery. He threw out 31 percent of runners who tried to steal, just a tick down from his lifetime 32 percent rate.

Because of his recovery, Wieters, who returned to the Orioles on June 4, caught on consecutive days just five times, but four of those came after Sept. 1.

While Wieters may never again catch more than 130 games a season as he did in 2012 and 2013, he could still catch 110-120 games.

Is that worth $15.8 million for the Orioles in 2016?

In 2014, playing largely without Wieters, the Orioles won the AL East. Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph did most of the catching.

With Joseph and an improved Steve Clevenger, can the Orioles withstand the loss of Wieters in 2016?

They’re a lot better equipped to make up for Wieters’ loss than they are for Chen and Davis’.

Besides Wieters, there aren’t any big names among prospective free agent catchers. Alex Avila, Chris Ianneta, Dionner Navarro, Jordan Pacheco, Brayan Pena, A.J. Pierzynski and Gevany Soto comprise MLBTradeRumors.com, list.

If Wieters goes, Joseph has little to fear for 2016, though at Monday’s press briefing, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette brought Chance Sisco’s name up.

The Orioles have high hopes for the 20-year-old Sisco, a second round pick in 2013. He batted .340 at Delmarva in 2014, and .308 at Frederick this year. In 20 games with the Baysox, Sisco hit .257.

If Wieters accepted a qualifying offer, he could try and pad his stats and make himself a more attractive free agent a year from now. And, the Orioles would have another year to wait on Sisco.

But, with so few quality catchers on the free agent market, Wieters’ agent Scott Boras is likely to advise him to reject a qualifying offer and cash in. Wieters is still likely to get several multiyear offers.

The guess here is that the Orioles decide to qualify Wieters, he rejects it, and signs a lucrative multiyear contract elsewhere.

[RELATED: Chris Davis voted Most Valuable Oriole for second time]

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."


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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm