The decision of whether or not the Orioles should extend a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters for the 2016 season is one that has loomed large over the O's for several months. With compelling reasons both in favor and against, it looked a lot like a roll of the dice that would come down to the wire. The knowledge that next year's payroll would be greatly impacted in the event that Wieters took the offer is something that could cause heartburn.
With the World Series over, that decision now has a deadline attached to it. Qualifying offers must be extended by teams five days after the official end of the baseball season. That's a five day window that also represents the exclusive negotiating window for teams to talk to their departing free agents before the rest of baseball is allowed to get involved. Though the deadline to extend the offer is not until Friday, the Orioles, according to ESPN's Buster Olney, have already made up their minds:
Orioles intend to extend a qualifying offer to Matt Wieters, not surprisingly. He'll be a one-of-a-kind item in a limited catching market.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 2, 2015
National baseball reporters on the level of Olney, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, and others have treated the idea of a Wieters qualifying offer as a no-brainer for much of the season, even while his performance for months on end looked nothing like a player on whom you should make a one year, $16 million bet, no matter who his agent happens to be.
Perhaps as Orioles fans we've just been too close to seeing all of his flaws to really step back and see what would also be his strengths. As Olney's tweet notes succinctly, whatever you think of Wieters as a player present and future, he still stands out as one of the better names on the list of free agent catchers this offseason.
Olney goes on to pick out at least one team that represents a good fit for Wieters. As my Camden Chat colleague Alex Conway has noted in the past, Wieters looks like he would slot in nicely with the Braves, given that he has ties to the area from attending Georgia Tech. Also, with the Braves in possession of a protected top 10 draft pick in next year's draft, they can sign Wieters without giving up their top pick.
Wieters was recently profiled on MLB Trade Rumors, who predicted that he would get a 4-year, $64 million contract. If that's really the market that's out there waiting for him, no wonder the Orioles will easily make him the qualifying offer. If it was me making that decision, I'd still be losing some sleep until he declines it, but if the Orioles are already settled on Monday about what they'll do on Friday, there probably won't be any lost sleep in the Warehouse over this.
There's risk involved, but there are exciting possibilities too. If Wieters is a definite QO, which the O's presumably would only offer thinking he'd decline it, then the O's could be in line for three extra picks at the end of the first round in next year's draft. That's the kind of thing that has the potential to really help re-stock a depleted farm system with the kind of talent that you can't just get every day.