Between now and late Friday night, the Orioles must make qualifying offers to free agents.
They’re expected to make offers to Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.
There’s really no reason not to.
While there’s been internal debate about Wieters, what do the Orioles have to lose in making him the offer?
Wieters has been a client of Scott Boras’ for even longer than he’s been with the Orioles. He’s certainly cherished his time with the Orioles, which is likely coming to an end, but he wouldn’t have stayed a Boras client if he didn’t trust his counsel.
Boras has been a vehement opponent of qualifying offers, and his clients, and all others, have rejected them.
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If the Orioles offer Wieters $15.8 million for 2016, he’ll reject it. Despite the hesitancies of some teams because of his 2014 Tommy John surgery, Wieters is by far the best catcher on the free agent market.
The Orioles value Wieters, and before the surgery did try to sign him to a long-term contract. Talks went nowhere.
In between then and now, Wieters had the surgery, and Caleb Joseph showed that he could be a creditable major league catcher.
In 2014, Joseph and Nick Hundley shared catching after Wieters’ surgery, and the Orioles handily won the AL East.
This is not to disparage Wieters. Not at all. After initially rehabbing at home, Wieters traveled with the Orioles in the final few months of 2014, offering counsel to the catchers and pitchers. He’s a terrific teammate.
He’ll be a great teammate somewhere else-whether it’s with the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers or another team.
A rejection of the qualifying offer doesn’t stop a player from signing with the team. David Ortiz rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox in 2012 and re-signed for two more years shortly afterward.
Qualifying offers are a defensive move, not an offensive one. The only reason the Orioles have debated the Wieters offer is that they don’t want to spend $15.8 million on him next year. It would prevent them from doing other things.
The offer also ensures the team gets at least a draft choice as compensation. A year ago in the early stages of free agency, the Orioles did not make a qualifying offer to Nick Markakis.
Later, when his medical issues became known to them, they passed on him, but in retrospect perhaps they regret not making that qualifying offer.
Markakis signed a four-year contract with the Braves, and the Orioles were left with nothing but fond memories.
In 2014, the Orioles and Boras agreed on a $7.7 million contract for Wieters, and even after the surgery limited him to 26 games, they still came to terms on an $8.3 million contract. Boras saves his hard negotiating for free agency, not when the club has control.
Wieters played in 75 games, and had an irregular catching schedule, preventing him from playing as well as he has in years past.
Despite that, if the Braves were willing to look past Markakis’ medical issues, and he underwent neck surgery shortly after he signed with them, they and other teams, will probably overlook misgivings about Wieters.
The Orioles will move on without Wieters, but there’s still a slight chance he’d return. If Boras is unable to find a suitor, and I think he will, Wieters could accept a short-term contract with the Orioles.
But, with the likes of Alex Avila, Dioner Navarro, A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia heading the other free agent catchers, the guess here is that Boras finds another team—or more—to meet his price.
And we’ll be left to argue whether Wieters was the greatest catcher in Orioles history.