Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette stated today that there’s still enough payroll flexibility to retain first baseman Chris Davis despite committing $15.8 million to catcher Matt Wieters, who accepted the qualifying offer.
“I don’t think it impacts our desire or our ability to re-sign Chris Davis,” said Duquette, who’s in New York to watch third baseman Manny Machado receive his Gold Glove.
“I will say this, It’s the shortest and quickest negotiation I’ve ever had with Matt’s agent.”
Wieters became the first Scott Boras client to accept the qualifying offer, which came as a surprise to many people in the industry.
“There was a lot of speculation that Matt would receive a multi-year deal from another club and that would lead him to decline the offer from the O’s, but if you look at some of the things that Matt said, he believes that Baltimore is the right place for him at this stage of his career,” Duquette said. “And I think if you read between the lines there, he really likes the atmosphere we’ve established here in Baltimore of having a winning team year in and year out, and he likes being a part of that.
“He’s comfortable in the clubhouse, he’s got an excellent relationship with several players, and of course Buck Showalter. He enjoys playing for Buck. So Baltimore is a great place to play and Matt has recognized it by choosing to extend his career here and we think he’ll be a real good addition to the team.
“I think it solidifies our ballclub because we’re adding a catcher who knows our pitching staff. Offensive catchers are very difficult to find and we have a power hitter in Matt. With the surgery being two years removed when we start the season and Matt being 30 years old, I think Matt’s got a chance to have a really good year for our ballclub. As far as building the rest of the club, first of all I think it helps when you have a veteran like Wieters return to your club. I think that sends a good message to players who are considering Baltimore. And as far as the construction of our team, I think it helps us continue to assemble a competitive team for the coming year.
“The qualifying offer that Matt accepted, of course that will take up a good chunk of our money, but we still have some flexibility to go out and continue to build our ballclub with some players who are on the market.”
Duquette said Davis’ name didn’t come up today in talks with Boras.
“No, but I really enjoyed signing Matt,” he said. “It’s good that he could recognize his place in Baltimore and he recognized that it’s a good place to play. I think he recognized the atmosphere, the way the fans make he and his family feel welcome and the support that they’ve given him over the years. That’s all good for the Orioles.”
Duquette indicated that the Orioles no longer are searching for another catcher to improve their depth.
“The addition of Matt and the emergence of Caleb (Joseph) and Steve Clevenger gives us good depth at the catching position,” Duquette said. “We’ve got a couple of young catchers down below. Chance Sisco is getting an opportunity to play out in the Arizona Fall League, and Jonah Heim is coming along. And the kid from Calvert Hall, (Alex) Murphy, is coming along, so we have some pretty solid depth at catcher throughout the organization.”
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Duquette repeated that he’s searching for “a couple of outfielders, either in trades or free agency, and we’d like to bolster our pitching staff and we have a continuing interest in Chris Davis.” The priorities remain the same, no matter how many times he’s asked about them.
Pitching on the free agent market won’t come cheaply, and that includes the second-tier arms.
“Pitching is always expense,” Duquette said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a couple of young guys who can come up and help us this year. As well, we’re looking to sign some players on the market, but we’re going to need contributions from everywhere to have a good staff.”
Here’s more from Duquette’s conference call:
“The Orioles are happy to have Matt Wieters back. Any time you can add a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove catcher to your ballclub, that will make you stronger. Matt has the unique skill to be a power hitter from both sides of the plate and we’re happy that he accepted the qualifying offer that the club extended to him.
“Matt’s worked hard, finished the season strong and he’s worked hard to come back from injury. And we believe that he’s made steady progress in returning to the player that he’s capable of. Matt caught more innings than any other catcher over a three-year span, and we think with the rehab that he’s done, we’re expecting him to have a big year with the club. And as we continue to improve our pitching staff, Matt’s an important part of the process. And I like the club’s history with one-year deals. I think having a player on a one-year deal is always good motivation and I’m looking forward to Matt being a steadying influence on our ballclub in 2016.”
On how he felt about initial legwork at GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla.:
“Our contingent in Boca worked really hard gathering information. We did identify a couple of trade partners that we think we can do business with. We met with a number of agencies that represent a lot of players who are on the market this year. I think we made some headway.
“The good news today is we still have Matt Wieters on our ballclub and going into next season I think that gives us a stronger lineup and a stronger team overall. A little bit more depth today than we had yesterday.”
On outside interest in the Orioles’ prospects:
“We have some good interest in some of our prospect players and we’ll be able to keep some of those players, help us via trade or come up and help the club in ‘16. I was heartened by what I heard down in Boca from the other clubs. In fact, one club said, ‘We don’t concur with the national publications. We like a lot of your players in trades and we’d like to sit down and talk.’ That was good to hear.”