Once the last pitch is thrown and the World Series is over, something besides an on-field celebration occurs.
And I’m not talking about free beers at Connolly’s Tap Room, either.
Once the October Classic officially ends, the floodgates open for baseball’s free agency, and the hundred-some eligible players come off their team’s rosters immediately. There’s a five-day exclusivity period following the World Series in which players can negotiate only with their most recent team. And then it truly becomes a free-for-all. (Though it’s anything but free.)
Unlike last year, when Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, Matt Wieters and Wei-Yin Chen immediately became free agents seeking multi-year deals, this year’s Orioles’ crop won’t be as coveted.
There are nine pending Orioles’ free agents this offseason; Paul Janish would have been the 10th, but he was taken off the 40-man roster and elected free agency already this offseason.
Of the nine, only two are guaranteed multi-year deals: Mark Trumbo, the majors’ home-run leader in 2016; and Matt Wieters, arguably the best catcher on the open market.
Designated hitter Pedro Alvarez may get a multi-year deal, and so could outfielder Michael Bourn, but the others – Steve Pearce, Tommy Hunter, Nolan Reimold, Brian Duensing and Drew Stubbs — are probably looking at one-year contracts.
Trumbo and Wieters are the most interesting cases this offseason for the Orioles. The team surely will make a qualifying offer – it’s $17.2 million this year – to Trumbo and, when he rejects it, will get a compensation draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
Wieters accepted the Orioles’ qualifying offer of $15.8 million last year, but that’s because he was coming off a season in which he needed to prove he could play every day. He did that in 2016, though it wasn’t his best campaign. Still, with Washington’s Wilson Ramos undergoing knee surgery in October, Wieters will be the No. 1 catching target for most teams that need backstop help.
The Orioles basically will have a $150 million payroll in 2017 if all they do is pay their arbitration-eligible players and those with existing contracts. So, they aren’t going to be opening the checkbook nearly as wide as they did last year.
Really, it’s a bit of a longshot that they retain Wieters or Trumbo – especially if they use any available budgetary resources on rotation or leadoff help.
Here’s my question, as we are about to kickoff free agency: If you could retain just one of Wieters or Trumbo, which would it be?
Both are great clubhouse guys. Wieters is established in Baltimore, but Trumbo quickly became a fan favorite. Trumbo had the much better offensive year and has the power component every team seeks. Wieters plays the premium position and has always come through with the big hits when needed. Trumbo likely will cost more, but that’s not a guarantee. An All-Star catcher in a weak market doesn’t come cheaply.
You can make a case for either. Hey, I’ll let you make a case for neither, if you like. But the question is a simple one. If you have to choose between a long-term deal with Wieters or Trumbo, which would you choose?
Tap-In Question: If you have to sign just one to a multi-year deal, would it be Trumbo or Wieters?