The Orioles made the predicted moves today regarding their six pending free agents, sending qualifying offers to first baseman Chris Davis, catcher Matt Wieters and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. They declined the offers to reliever Darren O’Day and infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra isn’t eligible because the Orioles acquired him in a trade during the season.
Davis and Chen most certainly will decline the offers, which are worth $15.8 million next season, and Wieters is expected to do the same. Agent Scott Boras represents all three players, who were pretty much assured of testing the market.
Players have seven days to accept or decline the offer, which increases in value each year. No one has accepted it.
The Orioles will receive a compensation pick in the 2016 First-Year Player Draft if either Davis, Chen or Wieters sign with another team. They want to retain all six of their free agents and have maintained a dialogue with a few, but there’s a chance that they could go 0-for-6.
Davis may command the biggest deal among position players after again leading the majors in home runs. The Orioles have held discussions with Boras, but they’re not close to reaching an agreement. Chen may be the most enticing among the second-tier free agent pitchers - the level below David Price, Zack Greinke and perhaps Jordan Zimmermann. O’Day may be able to field offers expanding to four years and some teams could view him as closer material.
Wieters’ case has been the most intriguing. Not everyone in the warehouse was in agreement on making the qualifying offer due to the risk of committing nearly $16 million to one player. However, as I’ve written, the Orioles also don’t want to risk losing him and getting nothing in return, which happened last winter when Nick Markakis signed a four-year deal with the Braves.
The vote eventually shifted in favor of making the offer to Wieters as a win-win proposition. Keep him for one more season or receive the draft pick.
Pearce ranks as the free agent most likely to re-sign with the Orioles unless a team is willing to hand over two guaranteed years at a cost deemed too steep. I’m reminded of Nate McLouth a few years ago. But Pearce is more versatile - playing the outfield corners, first base and second base - provides more power and is a favorite of manager Buck Showalter.
The free agent market officially opens for business this weekend, with the Orioles no longer holding exclusive negotiating rights with their six players. They didn’t figure to reach agreements early in the process, though they also have been speaking to agent Jeff Borris, who represents O’Day.
Note: The Orioles selected the contract of left-hander Chris Jones from Triple-A Norfolk. They now have 36 players on the 40-man roster.
Jones, 27, went 8-8 with a 2.94 ERA this season and was 8-7 with a 2.96 ERA as a starter. Over nine minor league seasons, Jones has gone 44-40 with a 3.35 ERA.
“Chris Jones has compiled two good years at Triple-A since becoming a starter and really improved his control in 2015,” said Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette. “By continuing to pitch well in the Dominican Republic this winter, he has earned his spot on the roster.”