The deadline for teams to make qualifying offers to free agents for the 2017 has come and gone and the Orioles ended up doing what everyone expected them to do. Home run masher Mark Trumbo received the $17.2 million offer from the Orioles for next year, while catcher Matt Wieters did not.
The New York Post’s Joel Sherman reported on the list of QO free agents before the O’s made their own announcement, and sure enough, Trumbo was on the list of ten players receiving offers while Wieters was not.
Trumbo will have one week to decide whether or not to accept the offer. If he did so, that would be a surprise. Assuming Trumbo declines the offer and goes on to sign with another MLB team before next June’s draft, the Orioles will collect a pick in the compensation round of the draft, which is the end of the first round.
The exact spot of where that pick would land will depend on how many other free agents end up on the market with declined QOs attached to them. The top 10 draft slots are protected from losing a pick if those teams sign one of the QO free agents, and a team that re-signs its own QO free agent will not have its first round pick forfeited.
Based on how things went with the 2016 offseason and draft, a Trumbo pick will come in around the #30 choice. That’s better than not getting anything at all.
For Wieters, after everything, the Orioles will in fact get nothing at all. The notion of possibly having him accept the qualifying offer for a second consecutive season seems to have just been too much of a risk for them to bear.
It’s an understandable decision, if perhaps regrettable for sentimental reasons. After all, Wieters was supposed to be the savior of the franchise who would hopefully stick around forever. Years ago there was angst about his inevitable departure on some big-money contract to either the Yankees or Red Sox.
Well, none of that ever happened, and it’s not any sure thing Wieters will get anything like a big-money contract after coming off a season where he batted just .243/.302/.409. You never really know what the free agent market might hold, but as the contract prediction complex winds up for this offseason, the first guess I’ve seen was from ESPN’s Keith Law, who offered this brutal assessment of Wieters (Insider required):
Wieters ... now heads back into free agency off the worst season of his career. ... The only teammate he outslugged was J.J. Hardy. His stock has also been hurt by the advent of catcher-framing statistics, which have revealed him to be among the worst every day catchers at pitch framing ... I don’t think he’s more than a two-year, $12-14 million signing to be a below-average but everyday catcher.
That’s just one person’s guess, of course - and Law is about as harsh on Trumbo, emphasizing that his .316 OBP was the lowest for any 45+ home run season in baseball history. Law said he wouldn’t go much higher than Trumbo’s $9 million 2016 salary, or perhaps $15 million over two years on the guy who just hit 47 home runs.
I’ll be surprised if that’s how Trumbo’s market plays out. If Trumbo’s camp reads that in the tea leaves, he’ll accept the Orioles qualifying offer.
As for Wieters, if the lack of a QO means that he goes on to sign elsewhere, the second-longest tenured Oriole at this moment will be moving along. Only Adam Jones has been with the big league club for longer.
That’s a bummer for sentimental reasons, but sometimes it’s just time to move on, and when you’re a catcher whose hitting is at best average and whose defense other than controlling the running game is poor, that time will come up sooner. That’s especially true when the only real position player prospect in the Orioles organization is catcher Chance Sisco, who just had a fine season at Double-A Bowie.
It’ll be up to other teams to decide what Wieters may be worth to them. If he departs, I’ll miss the idea of him, and I’ll miss the player Wieters never was, but I am hopeful that the Orioles can pick up his production for a fraction of the cost until Sisco is ready to take over.
Starting at midnight tonight (Tuesday, November 8,) the free agency period will have officially begun and any team can sign any player who’s out there on the market. This will likely have little impact on the Orioles as they have not been a strike first or strike fast team with free agents during the tenure of Dan Duquette.