Wieters accepts O's qualifying offer
BALTIMORE -- All-Star catcher Matt Wieters has accepted the Orioles' $15.8 million qualifying offer, forgoing free agency to remain in Baltimore for 2016. As expected, slugger Chris Davis and pitcher Wei-Yin Chen declined their qualifying offers, as they are both expected to get serious pay raises on the open market. The O's will get two compensatory Draft picks as a result.
"I prayed a lot," said Wieters of the decision, which became public Friday afternoon but has not been confirmed by the club. "One of the options that kept coming up was going back to Baltimore, where I can be comfortable with the [coaching] staff, with the pitching staff and the locker room, which has such a great feel, and the city. My wife and son, they both love Baltimore. … We decided to take a little bit of a different approach as far as not taking a multiyear deal [and entering free agency]."
Wieters is coming off a shortened season after he returned in June from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in May 2014. His agent, Scott Boras, said Wieters was still comtemplating the qualifying offer in the days leading up to Friday's 5 p.m. ET deadline.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter told the Mid-Atlantic Sports Report on Thursday that the hope was Wieters would accept the qualifying offer, and then the two sides could work toward a multiyear deal, though there was no word on that next step Friday. Wieters said he hadn't heard any talk of anything beyond a 2016 contact.
"I just made a decision to be a one-year deal, I don't know how all of that will play out," he said. "I didn't know what was quite going to happen going into last year, and one thing that made the decision easier is if it does end up a one-year deal, I'll know how that goes in Baltimore and all the range of emotions that goes through a year. And Baltimore is a great place to come back to."
In 75 games this season, Wieters posted a .267/.319/.422 line, including eight homers and 25 RBIs. The 29-year-old appeared in 55 games as catcher and was brought along cautiously as the O's tried to space out his starts behind the plate to keep him healthy. He played in 26 games in 2014 before undergoing season-ending surgery. In seven seasons in the Majors, Wieters owns a career .258/.320/.423 line.
With Wieters staying, adding another catcher becomes less of a priority for a Baltimore club that also has Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger .
As for Davis and Chen, the latter remains less likely to make a return to Baltimore. As Boras referenced earlier in the week, an in-season demotion to the Minor Leagues -- purely a move for roster management -- didn't sit well with Chen. The lefty is also one of the best starters in the second tier of available pitchers, and it is unlikely the O's would commit to that pay raise.
Davis, who led the Majors in home runs, is expected to get a substantial pay increase, but the Orioles are more open to shelling out cash to keep him. Boras, who intends to market Davis as both an infielder and an outfielder this offseason, is well-known for getting his clients record-breaking deals, and the 29-year-old Davis has some coveted power. Baltimore will have to likely step outside of its financial comfort zone to be a serious player for Davis.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
After appearing in 101 games across the past two seasons, Wieters will be a risky No. 1 catcher option in 2016 fantasy leagues. But by taking the O's qualifying offer, the 29-year-old may have enhanced his draft-day value in multiple ways. First, the one-year deal can be seen as a sign that Wieters is confident he can set himself up for a massive payday by being healthy and productive next season. Second, he will continue to play half his games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, which will give him an ample opportunity to compile 20 homers and 75 RBIs.