Finishing 16 games out of first place is not Earl Weaver's idea of a successful season, but yesterday the Baltimore Orioles made it official that he will return next year as manager of the club.

Weaver signed a one-year contract, no terms announced. Reportedly he will earn something approaching $500,000, which would easily maintain his status as the highest-paid manager in baseball.

"As far as I'm concerned, this one is for a lifetime," Weaver said yesterday. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm not going to manage any place else."

Weaver said he was happy to be back in baseball after the Orioles hired him last June to replace Joe Altobelli, but not happy with the way the season turned out -- a record of 52-50 under him. "After Aug. 10 to Sept. 15-20, we played over .600," he said. "I had the good feeling. But then the season ended on a sour note," as the Orioles fluttered to fourth place.

To get season-long consistency, Weaver says the Orioles "have the talent" already. "All we need is four more wins and four less losses out of the starters. That's not asking too much." Hitting? "We hope it continues." Defense? "We're going to have to get programmed again, as far as doing things right on the field. But we have the players who can do it."

This is not to say the Orioles won't make trades or sign free agents. General Manager Hank Peters will be talking with other clubs, Weaver added. Peters himself yesterday called the 1985 Orioles "a disappointing club." Its pitching staff had an earned run average of 4.38, worst in club history, but Peters said, "We have a lot of confidence in the pitchers who had bad years that they can come back."

Peters said he would be shopping for "utility strength," noting that the contracts of both Rich Dauer and Lenn Sakata have expired and that "they won't be back." As for pitching, this year's major disappointment, "There are probably a couple of moves we might like to make there."

"We'll always look and always listen," Peters said. "If somebody proposed a blockbuster, we sure as heck would consider it. But we're not going out there expecting a blockbuster."