No qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to Wi­eters

Four-time All-Star catcher be­comes a free agent; Trumbo re­ceives an of­fer

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jon Me­oli

O’s closer Brit­ton not a Cy Young Award fi­nal­ist; Showal­ter up for Man­ager of the Year

A year af­ter catcher Matt Wi­eters sur­prised the Ori­oles by de­lay­ing his free agency for a year and tak­ing the rare step of ac­cept­ing a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to stay in Bal­ti­more, the team de­clined to give him an op­por­tu­nity to do so again.

The club did not ex­tend a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to Wi­eters, 30, their four-time All-Star catcher and 2007 first-round pick, mak­ing him a free agent. The Ori­oles will not gain a draft pick as com­pen­sa­tion should he leave for an­other team.

They did, how­ever, as­sign a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to right fielder-des­ig­nated hit­ter Mark Trumbo, also 30, who led the ma­jor leagues with 47 home runs this sea­son. If Trumbo ac­cepts, he’ll be paid $17.2 mil­lion on a one-year con­tract in 2017. If he de­clines and chooses to test free agency for the first time in his ca­reer, the Ori­oles will get a com­pen­satory pick at the end of the first round of the 2017 MLB draft.

The Ori­oles haven’t an­nounced either de­ci­sion, but in­dus­try sources con­firmed each one af­ter Mon­day’s 5 p.m. dead­line.

The moves, which come five days af­ter the end of the World Se­ries, be­gin an off­sea­son where the Ori­oles’ ma­jor pieces

of busi­ness come at the po­si­tions of the two play­ers most af­fected by the qual­i­fy­ing of­fer sys­tem.

Un­like past off­sea­sons, which have been de­fined by the team’s search for start­ing pitch­ing, this year’s pri­or­i­ties will be de­fined by whether Trumbo and Wi­eters re­turn or need to be re­placed.

De­spite not giv­ing Wi­eters a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer, the team can still re-sign him as a free agent. But the free-agent catch­ing mar­ket is thin this off­sea­son.

In­stead of mak­ing a tran­si­tion that would have given a larger role to backup Caleb Joseph af­ter the 2015 sea­son, the Ori­oles ex­tended a qual­i­fy­ing of­fer to Wi­eters, who at that point was still slowly re­build­ing his game and value af­ter Tommy John el­bow re­con­struc­tion surgery in 2014.

Wi­eters and Joseph split time in 2015, but with the mar­ket not as high as some thought it should be for a catcher of his tal­ent, Wi­eters de­cided to be­come one of three play­ers to ac­cept the qual­i­fy­ing of­fer for 2016 and re­main with his re­spec­tive club.

De­spite a spring train­ing scare, Wi­eters’ el­bow was never a prob­lem in 2016. He played 124 games this year, though he strug­gled at the plate. Wi­eters hit .243/ .302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs, and had sev­eral game-win­ning hits over the course of the sea­son, but posted an OPS+ of 87, the low­est for any sea­son in his ca­reer.

He joins a free-agent class of catch­ers that be­came thin­ner when the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als’ Wil­son Ramos tore his ACL on Sept. 26, and also in­cludes Chris Ianetta and Nick Hund­ley. The Ori­oles are left with Joseph, who en­dured a mis­er­able sea­son, plus Fran­cisco Pena, Audry Perez, and top prospect Chance Sisco as pos­si­ble re­place­ment op­tions in their or­ga­ni­za­tion.

With Trumbo, the ques­tion be­comes whether to ac­cept the qual­i­fy­ing of­fer for an­other year in a ball­park and club­house that he quickly grew com­fort­able in or test the free-agent land­scape. If he chooses the lat­ter, he’ll be go­ing to mar­ket on the heels of a ca­reer year dur­ing which he made his sec­ond All-Star team while post­ing a ca­reer high in home runs (47), RBIs (108), and OPS (.850).

His fu­ture is prob­a­bly at first base or as a DH, as a full sea­son in right field ex­posed some of his range lim­i­ta­tions, but with­out Pedro Al­varez as the pri­mary DH this sea­son the Ori­oles could stand to bring him back in a role that plays more to Trumbo’s strengths.

His de­ci­sion may not be a dif­fi­cult one. As one of the premier power hit­ters in free agency, Trumbo could get an of­fer some­where close to the $17.2 mil­lion fig­ure on a mul­ti­year con­tract from teams who can fit him onto their salary books and into their line­ups.

How­ever, as a player who was traded three times in two years by the time he joined the Ori­oles, Trumbo’s wish to stay in a place where he’s happy and suc­cess­ful could swing the bal­ance in their di­rec­tion.

In the ab­sence of either, the Ori­oles have a few reg­u­lar spots in the lineup that could be used to add a player with less swing-and-miss and more on-base ca­pa­bil­ity than the play­ers who are re­turn­ing from one of the league’s most pro­lific but volatile of­fenses.

Trumbo has a week to in­form the Ori­oles if he will ac­cept the qual­i­fy­ing of­fer. re­ceiver or Ben Roeth­lis­berger at quar­ter­back.

Their play­ers have smaller rep­u­ta­tions, but they’re ca­pa­ble of pulling off an up­set, as they al­most did against the Ravens in Week 2.

The big ques­tions about the Ravens are still cen­tered on their of­fense. They could muster only one of­fen­sive touch­down against the Steel­ers, who were ranked No. 27 in to­tal defense. The Browns are worse, but there is noth­ing to prove that the Ravens can take ad­van­tage.

We’ve seen matchups like this be­fore. The Wash­ing­ton Red­skins and Oak­land Raiders en­tered their games against the Ravens with sta­tis­ti­cally poor de­fenses, but both won at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

The Browns don’t have a quar­ter­back the cal­iber of the Red­skins’ Kirk Cousins or the Raiders’ Derek Carr, but the Ravens might want to take a look at his­tory. Nine years ago, Mi­ami was in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion as the Browns and the Ravens got squeezed by Lemon.

That loss left a sour taste in their mouths and be­came a ma­jor date in Ravens his­tory.

CAITLIN FAW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Catcher Matt Wi­eters came back for the 2016 sea­son af­ter un­der­go­ing Tommy John el­bow re­con­struc­tion surgery in 2014.

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