Wieters accepts Orioles' qualifying offer to return in '16

BALTIMORE (AP) Matt Wieters thought long and hard about being a free agent. Ultimately, the catcher's comfort-level with his current situation was more important that striving for a bigger payday.

Wieters on Friday accepted the Baltimore Orioles' $15.8 million qualifying offer, saying he arrived at the decision after praying and talking at length with his family.

''Free agency is something you earn by playing a long time, but when it came down to it, I'm more than excited to return to Baltimore,'' Wieters said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Wieters joined Houston's Colby Rasmus as the first players in the four-year history of the compensation system to accept a qualifying offer over remaining a free agent.

''For a one-year deal, there's no place more comfortable than playing baseball for the Orioles,'' said the 29-year-old Wieters.

Wieters is a former first-round draft pick who has spent his entire seven-year career in Baltimore. He is a .258 hitter, with 100 home runs and 371 RBIs.

Wieters played in 75 games last season after undergoing elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2014. He batted .267 with eight homers and 25 RBIs.

However, his main contribution was his work with the pitching staff, and he is unquestionably one of the leaders in the clubhouse.

Asked if his family tried to talk him out of nixing free agency, Wieters said, ''They know that I'm stubborn. When I make a decision, that's it.''

One advantage to accepting the $15.8 million offer is that he won't have to worry about salary haggling before the 2016 season.

''This might be the earliest I've ever known about my contract for next season,'' Wieters said.

Baltimore still has several free agents , including slugger Chris Davis and setup-man Darren O'Day.

''I hope all the guys are back, but one of the main factors in my decision is that I think this team can be competitive regardless of what happens this offseason,'' Wieters said. ''I know the preparation and work that goes into a (manager) Buck Showalter spring training camp. So no matter whether we have the most expensive team or not, every night we have a chance to win.''