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Wieters' return to the Orioles is good for everyone


Wieters' return to the Orioles is good for everyone

Matt Wieters is certainly pragmatic. He proved that on Friday. Wieters shocked everyone by agreeing to accept the Orioles’ $15.8 million qualifying offer.

He’ll be back with the Orioles in 2016. But, who will be with him?

The team has four players signed for next year: Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Ubaldo Jimenez and Adam Jones. They account for $57.6 million.

Zach Britton, Miguel Gonzalez, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman will be the most expensive of the 11 arbitration-eligible players the team will sign for next year.

Some of the more expensive arb-eligibles, Brian Matusz and Vance Worley, could now conceivably be traded or non-tendered.

With those players and the younger ones, the Orioles’ 2016 payroll is already at about $100 million.

How much room does that leave for additional free agency? If the Orioles have increased payroll flexibility, it could mean another $35 million. (Last year, their payroll reached about $120 million).

That would enable them to sign Chris Davis, but probably not enable them to spend much more on outside free agents such as Alex Gordon or Scott Kazmir, players who could fill the holes the Orioles want filled.

All along, Dan Duquette has said that he thought the team could sign “a couple” of their free agents. While many fans think the club shouldn’t have offered so much money to a catcher who missed so much time in 2014 and 2015, well they’re wrong.

After spending so much time and energy on Wieters’ rehabilitation, they didn’t want to have nothing in case he walked, and it looked like he would have.

RELATED: Wieters' return pleases Duquette, Davis talks go on

Until this week, none of the previous 34 free agents accepted a qualifying offer in the first three years of the system. Wieters, Houston’s Colby Rasmus and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Brett Anderson all took the deal.

While Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras repeated his vehement opposition to the qualifying offer at this week’s General Managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., he never ruled out the catcher accepting it.

Boras surveyed the market, and couldn’t find any appetizing deals for Wieters.

As an agent, he’s gotten burned by the qualifying offer. Two years ago, Stephen Drew rejected Boston’s qualifying offer and then held out until May and lost several million dollars as a result.

Boras could have advised Wieters to wait. Teams always need catcher, and if a front-line catcher on a big money team got hurt in spring training, Wieters could potentially cash in.

But, like his manager, Buck Showalter, Wieters likes to be prepared. If he found an offer with a new team he liked, he could have spent a few months studying his new pitchers. Wieters wouldn’t want to join a club in March, and as astute and as quick a study as he is, he’d still have to cram and learn a new staff.

Even though it’s unlikely now that Wei-Yin Chen or Darren O’Day returns, Wieters will have many pitchers he knows, and he’ll be quick to make comfortable the new ones.

His signing enables Duquette, even if he fails to sign other free agents, and I think he will, to claim victory. The Orioles retained the best catcher on the free agent market.

If he has a good year, Wieters will probably go through this once again next year, and maybe then he’ll really leave.

When he says he’s comfortable in Baltimore, well, he is. Could he be comfortable in Atlanta, his adopted home town? Sure.

But, he has a manager who appreciates him even if the reaction from the fan base was decidedly mixed. Those who criticize him don’t see the work he puts in, the ability he has to coax Chris Tillman through a tough start or the hours he spent with Nick Hundley and Caleb Joseph in 2014 when he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Wieters never has become the superstar catcher many had hoped. He strikes out too much and runs too slowly. But, he has power and most important still has a good arm.

In 2015, he threw out 31 percent of runners trying to steal, just a tick below his lifetime average.

So, Wieters will be back, and so will Joseph, and most likely Steve Clevenger, too.

There won’t be an additional draft choice as compensation for Wieters leaving, but there will be something better.

The best catcher in the history of the Baltimore Orioles will be back for at least one more season.

MORE ORIOLES: Wieters says comfort level in Baltimore big factor

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

The Orioles have finally found their man.

After entering the Winter Meetings without having yet hired their new manager, a rarity in this era of baseball, the Orioles announced Friday that they had hired Brandon Hyde to fill the role.

Hyde joins the organization after spending half a decade in Chicago under Joe Maddon, and many years prior with the Marlins. He has a long background in player development, something that was important to new Orioles GM Mike Elias, which makes sense considering the state of the organization and their upcoming rebuilding process.

Hyde is 45, so he’ll have the opportunity to stick in Baltimore for a long time if he finds success, however, Elias defines it, in the next few seasons. Many times, the manager leading a team as it embarks on an organizational rebuild is not the same one who leads them back into contention, but the Orioles front office will certainly hope Hyde is up to both tasks.
“After conducting an intensive search, I believe that we have found the ideal leader for the next era of Orioles baseball,” said Mike Elias, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager, in a statement released Friday.

“Brandon’s deep background in player development and Major League coaching, most recently helping to shape the Cubs into a World Champion, has thoroughly prepared him for this job and distinguished him throughout our interview process. I look forward to introducing him to our fans next week and to working together with him to build the next great Orioles team.”

Elias was thought to have preferred someone with Major League experience, so as to avoid saddling an up-and-coming manager with multiple 90-plus loss seasons inevitably on the horizon in Baltimore. Hyde technically has experience coaching in the big leagues, though it comes in the form of a single game. The Marlins lost his one game as acting manager 2-1 to the Rays, and Jack McKeon was named interim manager the next day.

Maddon has developed a reputation as a stellar communicator and somebody open to analytics, and it stands to reason that Hyde would follow a similar style of leadership, especially considering how critical those traits are in the eyes of Elias.

Hyde replaces Buck Showalter, a beloved figure in Baltimore after his 8 ½ seasons at the helm brought winning baseball back to a city desperate for relevancy. Showalter’s contract was not renewed at the end of this past season, an understandable decision given his age and how long it will be until the franchise is ready to compete again.

Reports swirled about Hyde being named the 20th manager in franchise history as early as Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, though Elias and the front office were quick to emphasize that nothing was official at the time. In the end, Hyde does end up accepting the job, and he’ll be introduced at a press conference Monday.

Nationals bench coach Chip Hale was, along with Hyde, one of six finalists who interviewed for the position, so the Nats won’t be losing a valuable piece of their staff.

The Orioles are in the honeymoon phase of the rebuild, where hope springs eternal and the losses to come haven’t set in yet. Hyde checks all the boxes for what Elias was looking for, and despite his relative inexperience, he’s someone who should excite, if not necessarily inspire, the fanbase in Charm City.

Orioles fans won’t have many exciting acquisitions to cheer on in the near future, but they may have just made one of their most impactful. The O’s finally have their GM-Manager combination set for the foreseeable future, and they’ll hope to experience as much success and more as the previous regime.

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

Orioles new general manager Mike Elias is a busy man out in Las Vegas. Not only is he looking to add much needed talent to Baltimore's roster but he is also searching for a new manager. Elias interviewed six candidates, including Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, for the vacancy. On Monday, Elias said they were “pretty far along in the process.”

Then the reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Orioles had found their man. 

For a second straight year, Joe Maddon's bench coach has landed a managerial job (Davey Martinez). 

But, in the words of College Gameday's Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend!"

Does that mean Hyde is not the manager? Not necessarily. It likely means Elias wants the news to come out on his terms.