Orioles left scrambling for available free agents

Orioles left scrambling for available free agents
December 15, 2013, 11:15 am

About three-quarters of the top-ranked free agents are committed now. That leaves about 15 of the top 50 unsigned, and while the Orioles have been mentioned with some of them—Bronson Arroyo, A.J. Burnett, Kendrys Morales, there are many decent players unsigned.

Leaving out closers since those candidates seemingly have been thoroughly vetted, here are a few in each category who could be useful to the Orioles and maybe available on one-year contracts.

Starting Pitchers

Chris Capuano has been discussed by the Orioles. He’s spent his entire career in the National League, won 18 games in 2005. A year away from leading the NL in starts, Capuano was just 4-7 with a 4.26 ERA with the Dodgers last year.

Capuano earned $6 million in 2013, so he’s going to have to take a pay cut to sign. He’s from Springfield, Mass, so Dan Duquette is obviously familiar with him.

Chad Gaudin was linked with the Orioles during the winter meetings. Gaudin is a serviceable starter or long reliever. He’s been with nine clubs, and he’s still just 30.

Gaudin has a 45-44 lifetime record. He’s nothing to get excited about, but could be a cheap, useful addition. He made just $750,000 and is coming off a season where he went 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 40 games.

Joe Saunders was 11-16 with Seattle in 2013. Orioles fans remember him well as the winner in 2012’s Wild Card game.

The Orioles didn’t make him an offer after 2012, and he signed with the Mariners for $6.5 million.

Like Capuano, Saunders would have to take a big pay cut to sign with the Orioles.

Other recognizable names still available include Tommy Hanson, Jeremy Hefner, Jeff Karstens, Jeff Niemann and Jerome Williams.

Second baseman

Early in free agent season, Mark Ellis’ name was prominent in Orioles mentions. Ellis has also been linked with other teams in need of a second baseman.

The New York Yankees have been listed as one of Ellis’ primary suitors. Ellis is 36, but he’s continued to have solid seasons. His last one with the Dodgers featured a .270 average and just six errors in 119 games at second.

Ellis made $5.25 million, and at this point, it’s hard to see him signing with the Orioles. A healthy Brian Roberts would probably be just as good, if not better, and probably cheaper. But, Ellis has yet to sign, and if the Orioles decide Ryan Flaherty isn’t the answer, maybe they’ll think again.

Besides Ellis and Roberts, the list of available second basemen, which includes Alexi Casilla, Jamey Carroll, Chris Getz, Paul Janish, Alberto Gonzalez, Ramon Santiago and Jordany Valdespin, isn’t terribly inspiring.

Left fielders

The list of available left fielders isn’t even as good as the second basemen still out there.

Jason Bay is supposedly on his way to Japan, the Orioles don’t have interest in Raul Ibanez, and have passed on Delmon Young twice within the last year.

Others are flawed. Jeff Baker, while versatile, is a right-handed hitter and may not be better than Steve Pearce.

Chris Coghlan is a left-handed hitter and was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2009, but hasn’t approached his numbers that year since.
Coghlan has little power, some speed and a creditable on-base percentage.

Tampa Bay’s Sam Fuld is also a left-handed hitter, but batted just .199 last season. He also has no power and some speed.

Another left-handed hitter is Xavier Paul, who was nontendered by Cincinnati. Paul batted .244 with a .339 on-base percentage. Paul’s switch-hitting teammate, Derrick Robinson, who was also nontendered by the Reds, had just eight RBIs in 102 games.

Chris Dickerson, who played for the Orioles last year is also on the available list, but he proved to be injury prone.

In comparison with some of these names, Julio Borbon doesn’t look like such a bad idea.

Designated hitters

Ibanez, Morales and Young head this list. Luke Scott and Michael Young are also here as are Lance Berkman, Shelley Duncan and Travis Hafner.

There was some mention at the winter meetings of Adam Dunn being available, but the White Sox would have to eat such a large part of his $15 million salary for 2014 that it seems unlikely they’ll find a taker.

Dunn’s power would be a great addition for the Orioles, but he can only play first base and DH. Manager Buck Showalter has a fine first baseman in Chris Davis and doesn’t like a pure DH.

After a frightful 2011, Dunn, who has always been respected by his teammates, rebounded to hit 75 home runs and 192 RBIs the last two years.