Showalter on Wieters, O’Day and more

The Orioles will find out later today whether catcher Matt Wieters has accepted or declined the $15.8 million qualifying offer. It’s the only drama attached to the 5 p.m. deadline.

First baseman Chris Davis and left-hander Wei-Yin Chen will turn it down. They’re going to cash in big this winter and the Orioles are going to receive a compensatory draft pick if the duo signs with other clubs.

Davis is more likely to re-sign than Chen despite the monstrous contract that will be attached to him. I’ve rated Chen as the least likely of the six free agents to return, though ownership wants to bring him back.

Chen can’t be forced to accept their offer unless I missed that provision in the last collective bargaining agreement.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter indicated yesterday that they still don’t know if Wieters has made a decision. Showalter expressed hope during an interview on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN that Wieters will accept the offer.

Matt Wieters gray set sunglasses.jpg“We hope he does. That’s why we made it,” Showalter said. “The biggest problem we would have, the worst-case scenario, is he leaves, we don’t get a draft pick and we don’t even try, which we were not going to let happen from a long time ago. There was agreement on that.

“We like Matt. We hope he takes it and comes back for a year or gives us an opportunity to work out a multi-year contract, which I’m sure Dan’s working on. But if it doesn’t happen, we’re prepared for that, too. So we feel like we’re in a great spot with it right now. We’re waiting for tomorrow late afternoon to find out what direction we go now.

“I’m sure Caleb Joseph’s watching it, too, and Steve Clevenger is watching it.”

The Orioles still can sign Wieters if he declines the qualifying offer. If he accepts it, they can’t trade him before June 15.

Showalter also talked about the importance of leadership in the bullpen. Darren O’Day provided it, but he may not return with so many teams coveting him.

“That’s important and it’s something that analytics don’t show, and sabermetrics don’t evaluate that,” Showalter said. “That’s why there’s a need for guys like Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace. When players stake ownership in the responsibilities they have with the club, it’s a special thing to watch. Losing guys like Jimmy (Johnson) and Darren ... we’re hoping Darren’s back for us.

“Darren would be a tough loss for us. He took the mantle that Jimmy had and ran with it. We’re hoping that Darren comes back. He means a lot to our club on and off the field.”

Showalter asked the panel whether it would sign Johnson, bringing him back to Baltimore after a two-year absence. And if so, should Johnson be used in relief or returned to his original role as a starter?

That’s enough for me to say that the Orioles are discussing a reunion with Jim Johnson.

“I just want to throw that out there,” Showalter said. “Let you all bottom fish on that for a while.”

I’ve cast my line.

Johnson went 2-3 with a 2.25 ERA, nine saves and 1.229 WHIP in 49 appearances and 48 innings with the Braves last season and 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA and 2.036 WHIP in 23 appearances and 18 2/3 innings with the Dodgers, who left him off their postseason roster. He’s pitched for four teams since the Orioles traded him to the Athletics on Dec. 2, 2013 for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named later, who turned out to be catcher David Freitas.

The Orioles had interest in signing Johnson to a minor league deal before he chose the Tigers on Aug. 6, 2014.

Johnson was a starter in the minors. He was a closer with 101 saves over two seasons with the Orioles. He’s become a journeyman who might find his way back to the organization that drafted him.

As always, stay tuned.

Showalter also said he knows the Orioles will participate in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 10, the final order of business at the Winter Meetings.

The annual FanFest will be held two days later at the Convention Center, much earlier than in previous years.

“There’s probably a lot of pressure on us because they pushed up the FanFest to the middle of December,” Showalter said. “When we come back from the Winter Meetings and we’re at FanFest, we better not walk in there empty handed, huh guys? Or Dan’s going to be doing that thing by himself.

“No, we do it together and we’ll continue to do it, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”

Showalter met again Wednesday with managing partner Peter G. Angelos and also attended the Ravens’ practice.

“We’re ready to go and do the things it takes to stay competitive and try to win the division again,” Showalter said. “We’re waiting for a lot of the dominos to fall probably starting Friday, so we know where we’re going. I’m looking forward to the challenges. I know Dan is.”

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