The Orioles will find out by 5 p.m. today whether three of their free agents – left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, first baseman Chris Davis and catcher Matt Wieters – will accept or decline the qualifying offers made to them last week.
The only question here involves Wieters. Chen and Davis will certainly decline the offers and test the free-agent market.
Wieters is also expected to decline it, but taking the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer could allow Wieters, who returned from Tommy John elbow reconstruction in June, to increase his value with a healthy 2016 season in search of a more lucrative multiyear deal this time next year.
Up until Thursday, no player had ever accepted a qualifying offer. Over the previous three seasons of the process, all 34 players made offers declined them. Twenty players received qualifying offers this year.
Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus bucked that trend Thursday, reportedly becoming the first player to accept a qualifying offer.
The Orioles hope that precedent provokes serious thought from Wieters about accepting their qualifying offer. But with his agent being Scott Boras – who represents Wieters, Chen and Davis – Wieters is still likely to test free agency.
If Wieters does accept the qualifying offer, not only does he remain with the Orioles for 2016, it also affords the club the ability to try to work out a long-term deal with the catcher. But that doesn't seem to be a thing Boras would go for, either.
Wieters heads a weak free-agent catching crop that has already shown some movement. Veteran A.J. Pierzynski re-signed with the Atlanta Braves on a one-year, $3 million deal. Atlanta seemed to be a likely destination for Wieters, especially since he lives there and went to college at Georgia Tech. That seems less likely now.
Another free agent, former Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, is reportedly close to signing with the Seattle Mariners.
The market might be tightening on Wieters already, but he's still the best overall free-agent catcher and he'll have plenty of suitors looking for upgrades.