As the winter meetings start in Orlando on Monday, there are five things that could be on a mythical Orioles shopping list.
1) Get another starting pitcher
If the season started today, and it won’t, the Orioles rotation could include Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and perhaps Kevin Gausman.
Chen will be a key for the team next season. He’s recovering from knee surgery, and the Orioles say he will be ready for spring training.
In his first two seasons, Chen was less effective near the end of the season, and that has to change for the Orioles to compete.
The Orioles didn’t want to pay Scott Feldman $30 million over three years. They’ll need to replace him.
There are still some good free agent pitchers available: Bronson Arroyo, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana top the list. Arroyo and Garza wouldn’t cost the team a draft choice, but the team might not want to lock them up for three or four years.
To get a frontline starter, the Orioles will have to offer at least three and possibly four years.
2) Get a closer
Tommy Hunter would be the closer if the Orioles don’t acquire one. Joaquin Benoit, Chris Perez and Fernando Rodney are possibilities according to former Orioles front office executive Jim Duquette.
After the trade of Jim Johnson, the Orioles took a hit with the fans. Never mind that many of the fans decrying the move are the same ones who called for manager Buck Showalter to use someone else when Johnson struggled during the season.
Signing one of the big name closers for two years shouldn’t be a deterrent.
If the Orioles can sign a frontline closer, preferably this week, then their bullpen looks set and could be a strength.
3) Solve the left field and DH riddle
Nate McLouth is gone, and for now, the Orioles have the newly signed Francisco Peguero along with holdovers Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold and Henry Urrutia.
If Reimold is healthy, and he hasn’t been the last two years, he could be part of the solution. So could Urrutia if his play in left has improved.
It would take a major sea change for the Orioles to find the money to sign Shin-Soo Choo to play left. He’s the biggest name free agent out there. Unlike some others, he might be worth the cost of a draft choice.
Kendrys Morales, whose name was linked with the Orioles early in the free agent process, also remains unsigned. Morales would cost a draft choice, and that along with the perception that he’s primarily a designated hitter, has kept the market for him tepid.
4) Sign Brian Roberts
There hasn’t been any word on if the Orioles will re-sign Roberts. The team does need a second baseman, and while they’ve added two candidates, Cord Phelps and Jemile Weeks, Roberts would be preferable.
He wants to stay with the Orioles, and there hasn’t been any chatter linking him with another team. The Yankees who lost Robinson Cano as a free agent, haven’t been linked with Roberts.
Mark Ellis and Omar Infante are more attractive second base options for New York. They could be for the Orioles, too.
After the public relations hit the club took with the trade of Johnson, re-signing Roberts, one of the more popular players in recent years, would be a positive.
All Roberts has to do is take a massive pay cut from $10 million to perhaps $3 million with incentives. The Orioles must want him, too.
5) Get the fans excited
Even though the Orioles hadn’t raised prices on tickets for five years, it wasn’t the best week to send out season ticket invoices. Many season tickets have risen less than five percent.
McLouth was a popular Oriole. So was Johnson. Scott Feldman wasn’t here long enough to really bond with the fans. The team needs to show the fans that there is something to be excited about.
Extensions with Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters could be coming, but not this week.
Another Rule 5 draft pick will probably be added to the roster. It’s hard enough to contend in the American League East, but to add a Rule 5 player to the mix makes it harder.
In the past two years, the Orioles drafted two credible players, Ryan Flaherty and T.J. McFarland, and they were able to keep them during the season.
The Orioles still have Davis, Hardy, Wieters, Tillman, Adam Jones and Manny Machado. They really need just a few pieces to get back to October.