A year ago, the Orioles had their minds made up about Matt Wieters before the World Series was even over. They were sure that they would extend him a qualifying offer for the 2016 season. They even hoped that he would take it, and sure enough, Wieters did, so here they are, right back where they started.
According to a rumor shared over the weekend by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Orioles don’t yet have their minds made up this time around about making the offer to Wieters. For 2017, the qualifying offer is $17.2 million. That’s a lot, possibly more than the O’s can absorb with their current payroll commitments. No wonder it’s a hard choice.
The deadline to make the qualifying offer, or not, is five days after the end of the World Series. With the Cubs beating the Indians on Sunday night, that means the end of the baseball season is pushed back until at least November 1 and the QO decision date to at least November 6.
Heyman indicated that the O’s decision about Wieters “may depend on the rules implemented.” That’s in reference to the fact that MLB and the players union are negotiating on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Changes to the qualifying offer system are a possibility as that process plays out.
With negotiations ongoing and the start of free agency set to begin a week from now, one possibility, says the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, is that the parties could agree to carry out the 2016-17 offseason according to the current CBA’s rules. That would mean the qualifying offer system would remain intact for this offseason whatever might be negotiated for the next contract.
All of which means that the Orioles are going to have to decide what to do in the near future. Whether they should or will want to keep Wieters at all is secondary to the question of whether they want to keep him at the qualifying offer price.
Is it worth the risk that Wieters might take the QO again? You’ve probably made up your mind already as to which outcome you’d prefer. One might imagine that so have many of the people whose opinions matter in the Warehouse. Whose voice Dan Duquette will be listening to when the time comes, well, I guess we will see.
There’s no question that the sorry Orioles farm system could use all the help that it can get. One way to do that would be if they can collect an extra draft pick if Wieters departs. Based on last year’s action, that pick would come in around #30 overall.
That’s a high enough number that it sounds exciting, and indeed, many drafts in the last decade-plus have had future great players available at the #30 pick in the draft, though the list of players actually picked at #30 is not incredibly inspiring over the last couple of decades. One of the two best #30 picks since 1996 was one of the most emblematic Orioles of the 14 consecutive losing seasons: Stumblin’ Jack Cust.
Another thing to keep in mind about the draft pick compensation is that the Orioles figure to be in line for one pick already, assuming they make a qualifying offer to Mark Trumbo and he declines it. This may not be what happens, because no one ever knows the future.
Still, it seems like a reasonable guess that the team makes the QO to the guy who just hit 47 homers, and that the guy who just hit 47 homers will want to test the open market. The #30 pick (or thereabouts) may well be a given. Now you’re talking about the value of a second pick.
Of course, having two picks right there would be better than having one, because that’s two chances to get a player of that caliber. At the same time, having one pick is better than none, and they seem pretty assured of the one.
The list of players picked in the last two decades at #31 is even worse, although there is one interesting prospect drafted there in 2014: lefty pitcher Justus Sheffield, traded from Cleveland to New York in the Andrew Miller deal. So what’s it worth to take the shot to try to get that extra pick?
I don’t have any idea, and it seems that right now, the Orioles don’t either. And it may be that the Orioles aren’t even concerned with the pick, with greater emphasis placed on the potential impact of Wieters on the 2017 O’s team, or with what they would have to do to make him fit into their budget while still hopefully attempting to meaningfully improve on their right field situation.
The difference between the Orioles and me is that they’re actually going to have to make that decision in a week’s time. Good luck to them. They’re going to need it.