With the Orioles only a game and a half out of the AL East lead and currently holding one of the wild card spots, it’s too early to spend too much time worrying about the offseason and what might happen. Plenty of time for that later, hopefully much later.
It’s worth thinking about some things especially when they come up elsewhere. Jon Heyman, writing for Today’s Knuckleball, drops a couple of interesting Orioles tidbits in his Friday column, including that the Orioles are not planning to extend another qualifying offer to Matt Wieters.
As news goes, this is interesting if not surprising. No one who has watched Wieters limp along to a .678 OPS while visibly lacking a step in blocking shouldn’t-be wild pitches would think that the O’s should take a chance in making the $17 million-ish offer to Wieters for 2017.
Then again, the picture wasn’t a whole lot different on Wieters at this point last season. Wieters entered September with just a .686 OPS and then went on a hot September run to bring his production up to at least league average for the year. That proved to be enough to entice the Orioles to extend him a qualifying offer.
One of Buck Showalter’s mantras is not to be fooled by September production, though it appears the Orioles may have done so in this case. Then again, with a complete lack of options on the farm, and not necessarily even expecting that a Scott Boras client would be one of the first to take a qualifying offer, maybe the Orioles didn’t really expect Wieters would do so.
Now they know better. Don’t try to get cute and squeeze out an extra draft pick. Wieters might take the offer. Unless he has another hot September, it shouldn’t really be something the Orioles ever seriously consider anyway. The O’s will need to use that money elsewhere.
Whether there’s an answer on the farm now is not any sure thing. Chance Sisco, the O’s top position player prospect, has proven more than capable of hitting at Double-A Bowie, batting over .300 with an on-base percentage over .400.
However, the nuts and bolts of catching are not as much of a certainty for Sisco. Scouts seem to think Sisco will be able to stick there. In time for Opening Day 2017, though? Maybe not so much. There may still be some more development to be done with him.
The biggest problem for Sisco is that it’s a track race against him sometimes. He’s caught 655 innings for Bowie and there have been 116 steal attempts. Sisco has only thrown out 29 runners, or 25%. It’s not hopeless, exactly, but it’s not ideal.
For a comparison, the league average for catchers at the MLB level is to throw out 29% of runners. Wieters, in a comparable number of innings as Sisco, has only had only 38 runners take off on him, and he has thrown out 37%, a very good number. This is the one aspect of Wieters’ game where he looks like his old self this year.
Just looking at some stat lines, it’s hard to say how much of that track race is even Sisco’s fault. Maybe Bowie’s pitchers aren’t very good at holding runners. There’s more than one reason why they’re pitching for Bowie and not Baltimore.
With how Caleb Joseph is hitting this season, it seems clear he would not be any kind of worthy replacement to Wieters for any length of time next season, either. The O’s can’t, or at least shouldn’t, tell themselves they could get by like that.
Will that be enough to convince them, when the time comes, to give Wieters a qualifying offer again? Unless something drastic changes, the answer seems to be no. And that’s the right answer.
Exactly how they will handle all of this is a question for November. Hopefully it’s November before O’s fans have to spend any time thinking about it at all.