You think you know a baseball team and it turns out you don't know anything at all. Orioles manager Buck Showalter appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report on MASN on Thursday evening and completely upended what I've thought to be a commonly understood pillar of the Orioles offseason. Specifically, he did so when he said that the Orioles hope that catcher Matt Wieters accepts the qualifying offer to give the team a chance to work on a multi-year deal.
Taking Showalter at face value with this statement requires expanding the mind for someone, like me, who's been assuming for quite some time that not only would Wieters be sure to be gone on the first free agent plane out of town, but that the Orioles would be better off if he did so.
According to Wieters' agent, Scott Boras, Wieters is still weighing whether or not to accept the qualifying offer.
The simple fact is that if Wieters accepts the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer for the 2016 season, that's going to put a serious damper on the potential for the team to upgrade in other areas. It probably soaks up a third of their available money for the offseason. There'd be room for one other big acquisition and then it would be off to the bargain bin.
What's more, hoping that Wieters takes the qualifying offer in order to have the opportunity to work on a multi-year contract seems to be an overly optimistic outlook. Why would Wieters have any more incentive to take a multi-year contract now than he did before?
If Wieters takes the qualifying offer, you'd have to think it's because he believes he can better build up his value for next offseason. He might be right. He certainly didn't show the baseball world his best in the 2015 season. Though he's been projected to receive a four-year, $64 million contract by MLBTR, it could be that if he has a strong 2016, he'd end up with more money in his pocket by taking the QO and then getting another contract.
None of that would give him much reason to lock in an extension right now rather than potentially profit by a monster, or at least a better, 2016 season.
OK, so let's look at this from the other side. Why in the world would Showalter think Wieters taking the qualifying offer is a good thing? It certainly speaks to an idea from the Orioles camp that Wieters can do better than he did this year. And indeed, that is a possibility. The Orioles would know more than I would about what may or may not have been ailing Wieters this season after he returned. Perhaps they have a good reason to feel sunny about his prospects might be for next season.
It could also mean that they recognize their current catching options aren't what they want to set in stone. It's hard not to love Caleb Joseph as a fan, but for the team, looking at his performance over his two big league seasons gives the idea that he's not a player you want to rely on to catch 120-130 games.
A big part of the why for that can be found in his September/October splits. Over the last two seasons, he batted a combined .116/.168/.158 in those months. There could be more than one reason for this, but it does make you think that maybe he just wears down at the end of a season where he's been used more than ever before.
That being the case, you need somebody else to share half of the workload or more, and with all apologies to the Pride of Pigtown, nothing that Steve Clevenger has done has given the idea that he is that kind of player. Certainly the Orioles have done nothing with their treatment of Clevenger to show that they have any belief that he is or could become that kind of player.
Maybe having another year of Wieters, even at $16 million, seems like a better idea to them than rolling with that uncertainty. Maybe they know that even now, Wieters is busting himself to get back into the form that, to these eyes, he sure seemed to lack in his limited action this year. Maybe he'll be catching five days a week again and hitting decently enough that, while it's disappointing compared to his prospect hype, is still plenty fine for a guy who has a reputation of being an above-average catcher.
You might get the inkling from all those maybes that I'm not confident in those outcomes, but of course, they are the professionals and I am not. At any rate, we'll find out by 5pm Friday whether Wieters decides to take the QO. Not long after that, we'll find out what the Orioles are going to do about it.