This winter’s seemingly never ending drama over Chris Davis is not likely to be repeated by the Orioles—at least not next winter.
If you like the current makeup of the club, that’s good news. If you’re dissatisfied with it, that’s not good news at all.
Only four of the 40 players currently on the Orioles’ roster are entering their free agent year: Brian Matusz, Nolan Reimold, Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters.
That means that a year from now, the Orioles could maintain control over nearly all of their roster.
Matusz and Reimold won’t be headline grabbing free agents, but Trumbo and Wieters could.
It will be fascinating to watch Wieters this season. He’ll swat away questions about this contract status just as he did in 2015.
A few years ago, around the time that Buster Posey signed a long-term extension with the San Francisco Giants, there was chatter that the Orioles and Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, talked about an extension.
The year before Wieters’ free agent season, the catcher underwent Tommy John surgery, and because he didn’t catch often on consecutive days, his market wasn’t as strong as he’d hoped for.
Wieters quickly accepted the team’s qualifying offer, and he’s back for another year at $15.8 million.
There was much debate about whether to offer Wieters the money. Was he worth $15.8 million? If they hadn’t offered it, and he signed elsewhere, the Orioles would essentially have invested eight years in Wieters’ development and emerged with nothing.
Some thought that if Wieters took the money, the Orioles would have a hard time retaining Chris Davis and Darren O’Day. That turned out not to be the case.
The Orioles and Wieters were only in the position they were because in 2009, Dan Duquette’s predecessor, Andy MacPhail refused to call Wieters up from Norfolk until late May, giving the team another year of control.
It was obvious Wieters was better than Gregg Zaun and Chad Moeller the team’s two catchers, but MacPhail did what was best for the Orioles even though he was long gone by the time the move paid off.
The move turned out better for Wieters. If he had been a free agent after 2014, he would have been a giant unknown for other teams after Tommy John surgery. Instead, he a small raise to $8.3 million in 2015.
If he has a good year, Wieters, who turns 30 in May, will be one of the top free agents on the market, and the Orioles again will be faced with the decision on whether to proffer a qualifying offer.
Until November, no player accepted a qualifying offer. Wieters, the Dodgers’ Brett Anderson and Houston’s Colby Rasmus did this time around.
Had Wieters left, Caleb Joseph would likely have been the starting catcher. The Orioles would have tried to sign a veteran catcher, but when he returned, they were free to trade another catcher, Steve Clevenger to Seattle for Trumbo.
The Mariners were looking to reduce payroll, and they didn’t want to pay Trumbo the $9.15 million he got from the Orioles.
Trumbo hasn’t played with the Orioles, yet. He was acquired about 10 days before FanFest and he wasn’t able to attend. The team doesn’t know a lot about him.
He’ll probably be the primary designated hitter, but could get some time in right field, and perhaps even first base if manager Buck Showalter decides to give Davis a day off from the field.
From 2011-13, Trumbo averaged more than 30 home runs and 90 RBIs with the Los Angeles Angels. If he approaches those figures with the Orioles, he’ll be could be one of the most sought after hitters on the market.
The Orioles will again be faced with the question of whether to give him a qualifying offer.
With Davis’ return, the Orioles have six picks among the first 100 selections in the draft. Unless they suddenly sign one of the four remaining players who receive a qualifying offer, they’ll pick 14th in the first round.
One of those players, Ian Desmond, has recently been linked with Tampa Bay, and if he signs with the Rays, the Orioles would move up to 13th.
Dexter Fowler, Yovani Gallardo and Howie Kendrick are the others.
If the Orioles acquire any free agents during the season as they did in the past two seasons with Andrew Miller and Gerardo Parra, they would not subject to a qualifying offer.
The qualifying offer is likely to be a hot subject in the upcoming talks for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Talks will begin during spring training.
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