Orioles still deciding on qualifying offer for Wieters

It comes as no surprise that the Orioles continue to ponder whether they should make a qualifying offer to catcher Matt Wieters. They’ve had internal debates since he accepted the last one.

I’ve heard that they’re weighing both sides and I sense that they may be leaning more toward not giving it to Wieters, who hit .243/.302/.409 with 17 doubles, 17 home runs and 66 RBIs this season in 124 games. But they’re far from solidifying a decision.

Wieters made $15.8 million after unexpectedly accepting the offer. His salary would jump to $17.2 million if he accepted it again.

There are members of the organization who view it as a win-win. They’d get Wieters for another season or the draft pick. The counter argument, of course, is that $17.2 million takes up too much of the budget while the Orioles brace for raises due their arbitration-eligible players, including third baseman Manny Machado, starter Chris Tillman, closer Zach Britton and reliever Brad Brach.

There’s also the matter of negotiating an extension for Tillman, who’s got one year left before entering free agency, and Machado, who’s under team control through 2018. They also could consider an extension for Britton.

Is Wieters worth $17.2 million? That’s the center of the debate.

Wieters-Tag-Play-at-Plate-Sidebar.jpgHe’d rate as the top catcher on the market and it’s hard to imagine agent Scott Boras being comfortable with Wieters again taking the offer. However, it’s ultimately Wieters’ call.

I don’t see Wieters taking it, so why let him walk without any sort of compensation?

Maybe that’s just the gambler in me.

Wieters posted the second-lowest average and on-base percentage of his career and he wasn’t named as a finalist for the Gold Glove, his defensive critics growing louder in 2016. But compare his production to other players at his position. He’s going to attract interest.

Losing Wieters could force the Orioles to rush Chance Sisco, who’s 21, has played only four games above Double-A and continues to work on improving his defense. His readiness is another debate within the organization.

The idea of “force-feeding” Sisco, as one person put it, raises some concerns. But he’s risen to top prospect status and could compete for a job in camp.

Caleb Joseph figures to remain on the 25-man roster and the Orioles could pair him with a short-term free-agent signing. Nick Hundley is back on the market and Showalter wanted him to stay in the winter of 2014, but the Rockies made a better offer by guaranteeing two years.

Another catcher of potential interest is former first-round pick Jason Castro, a career .232/.309/.390 hitter in six seasons with the Astros. He made the All-Star team in 2013 and batted .276/.350/.485 with 35 doubles and 18 home runs in 120 games.

Castro, who has some supporters in the Orioles organization, earned $5 million this season after losing his arbitration hearing. He threw out only 24 percent of runners attempting to steal, down from 36 percent the previous season.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are expected to make the qualifying offer to outfielder Mark Trumbo, who in turn is expected to turn it down and test the market after leading the majors with 47 home runs.

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