While Dan Duquette is busy at the general managers’ meetings planting seeds for, what he hopes are future trades and free agent signings, there’s another list that I’m sure he’s scouring.
Teams must offer their own players contracts by Dec. 2, and if they’re not tendered one, they become free agents.
Last year, after the Atlanta Braves didn’t tender a contract to onetime All-Star Jair Jurrjens, the Orioles signed him to a minor league contract. The signing didn’t occur until spring training actually started, and Jurrjens was a non-factor in two appearances for the Orioles. Jurrjens is currently a minor league free agent.
MLBTradeRumors.com has put together a list of players they think could be non-tendered. One Oriole, Nolan Reimold, is on the list, but even if he’s non-tendered, he could still re-sign with the Orioles well below the $1 million he made in 2013.
A year ago, the Orioles didn’t pick up Mark Reynolds’ hefty option and ended up not offering him a contract.
There are some names on the list that could intrigue the Orioles.
Darwin Barney has been the Cubs’ second baseman for the past three years, and in 2013, he made just $562,000. On Baseballreference.com’s similarity meter, he’s considered akin to Alexi Casilla, who the Orioles refused at $3 million option.
Barney’s average has come down from .276 in 2011 to .254 and finally to .208 last year. He’s had 14 home runs and 85 RBIs the last two seasons, and if the Orioles are looking for another infielder, he could be an option especially since he’s made just six errors in the last two seasons.
Tony Abreu (San Francisco) and Paul Janish (Atlanta) are other possible second base candidates, but neither could play regularly.
If the Orioles don’t re-sign Nate McLouth, they will be looking for another left fielder. Oakland’s Seth Smith, like McLouth, a left-handed hitting left fielder is another non-tender candidate.
He earned $3.675 million and has a lifetime .265 average and .342 on-base percentage. He also has some power. For a one-year contract, Smith may be an option.
Miami’s Justin Ruggiano had 18 home runs last year. Though he strikes out a lot, Ruggiano does draw his share of walks. While he only hit .212 last year, he batted .313 for the Marlins in 91 games the year before.
Perhaps the most intriguing option on the position player list is Garrett Jones. The Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates reportedly discussed him last year, but nothing came of it. Jones’ 2013 numbers (15 home runs, 51 RBIs and a .233 batting average) were far off his 2012 season (27 homers, 86 RBIs and .271).
The Orioles will need a left-handed hitting designated hitter, and Jones, whose positions are first base and right field, could help at DH.
Jones made $4.5 million from the Pirates, and with a rising payroll, may not want to pay much more for him.
Philadelphia’s John Mayberry, Jr., who’s also played left field and shown some power, is also on the list.
If the Orioles want a new backup catcher, several are on the possible non-tender list. Chicago’s Tyler Flowers, Pittsburgh’s Michael McKenry and the Yankees’ Chris Stewart are all on the list. I’d like McKenry because he has an ultracool Twitter handle that would work well in Baltimore: @theFortMcKenry.
A few starting pitchers could end being non-tendered. Jeff Niemann, who the Orioles have seen many times with Tampa Bay, is a possibility. Niemann is a back of the rotation candidate-type, but he gives up just 1.1 home runs per nine innings and has a career WHIP of 1.286.
Niemann has a 5.97 ERA in six games at Oriole Park, and overall he’s 5-3 with a 4.61 ERA.
Another name to look at is Tommy Hanson. He earned $3.725 million with the Angels after four years with the Braves. New pitching coach Dave Wallace and his bullpen coach, Dom Chiti, are familiar with Hanson from his time in Atlanta.
He went 45-32 with a 3.61 ERA from 2009-2012 with the Braves, and won his first major league game in Baltimore. Hanson is just 27, but had a difficult year in Los Angeles.
Many of the other non-tender candidates also have injury histories, but another eye-catching name is John Axford. He had 105 saves from 2010-12 with Milwaukee. After he pitched poorly for the Brewers, Axford was dealt to St. Louis, where he finished strongly.
If the Cardinals don’t want to pay Axford’s price, perhaps the Orioles would to. He made $5 million last year, and if the Orioles do bring back Jim Johnson as they say they will, there’s probably not enough financial room in the bullpen for the two of them.