BALTIMORE – With 35 games left, the Orioles will soon begin planning for 2014. Last year, the team made relatively few changes from 2012. It’s likely that they’ll make more this off-season.
It’s not only performance that may drive executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette to make some moves. Financial motives are there, too.
Here are five Orioles who may not be back in 2014.
1) Jim Johnson
The rationale for Johnson’s possible departure was explained over the weekend. http://www.csnbaltimore.com/blog/orioles-talk/last-six-weeks-may-decide-...
Johnson’s becoming very costly, and the Orioles probably don’t want to spend that much for a closer.
Had he not stumbled recently, his return still may have been questionable. In recent years, the shelf life for top Orioles relievers has been about as long as Johnson’s.
After seven seasons, B.J. Ryan, who had 36 saves in his last one, left the Orioles in 2006 for a four-year, $35 million contract with Toronto. That was far too pricey for the Orioles even then.
They don’t want to be paying much more for a more accomplished closer in Johnson.
Francisco Rodriguez, who was acquired last month, also will command a nice payday, and he’s not likely to re-sign here.
2) Nate McLouth
McLouth’s one-year, $2 million contract was a bargain, and the Orioles would be wise to extend him. There has already been talk about extending McLouth, perhaps signing him for two years at a reasonable cost.
They should do it.
With the trade of L.J. Hoes to Houston for Bud Norris, the Orioles don’t have a promising outfielder in the higher minor leagues. Henry Urrutia is unproven as an outfielder, and Nolan Reimold’s Orioles future is in doubt.
McLouth hits well, has speed and plays a nice left field. Last year, manager Buck Showalter called McLouth to entice him to return. It worked as McLouth chose the Orioles over Tampa Bay.
Showalter would love to have McLouth back, but the Orioles shouldn’t let him reach the open market.
3) Jason Hammel
Hammel was the Orioles’ Opening Day starter, and because of ineffectiveness and injury hasn’t won a game since Memorial Day. This was setting up to be a big year in free agency for Hammel.
He’s making $6.75 million this year, and while he may not equal that next season, the Orioles aren’t likely to get into any sort of bidding war for Hammel.
A year ago, they didn’t make an effort to re-sign Joe Saunders, who pitched nobly late last season and was the winner in the Wild Card game.
It would be surprising if the Orioles made even a token effort to bring Hammel back.
4) Scott Feldman
Feldman is a more interesting case than Hammel. Long a favorite of Showalter, Feldman has pitched creditably since his acquisition, but the Orioles’ starting staff could comprise Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton next season.
Duquette likes veteran pitchers, though, and while he probably won’t want Hammel back, he could want Feldman.
Last year, the Orioles discussed Feldman, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
If Feldman doesn’t get a multi-year offer elsewhere, maybe he’s back. The betting is that in a relatively thin market for starting pitching, he’ll get a better offer elsewhere.
5) Brian Roberts
Two months ago, it looked like a sure thing that Roberts wouldn’t be back. He had 3 ½ years full of injury and the $10 million he’s earned for each of the past four years could be spent on others.
In the two months since he’s returned from a right hamstring injury, Roberts has played his best since 2009 and presented a credible case for coming back.
The Orioles may take a look at Norfolk second baseman Jonathan Schoop next month, but could use a 36-year-old Roberts as a bridge for the unproven next year.
He’s still extremely popular in Baltimore, and has enjoyed playing a subordinate role on a more talented club than ones he starred on in the past.
Roberts wants to play again next year, and perhaps for a year and $3 million, could return.
ALSO OF NOTE: Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla
Teagarden has been Matt Wieters’ backup for the past two years. Injuries have limited him to 43 games and a .167 average.
Being Wieters’ caddy may not be attractive to some catchers since they’ll rarely catch more than once a week, but the Orioles might like to look for an upgrade.
Casilla was claimed on waivers from Minnesota and didn’t often play second even when Roberts was hurt. Since Roberts has returned, Casilla has played even less. He’s batting .228 in 53 games.
One of the attractions to Casilla was his speed, but he’s only tried to steal nine times, succeeding seven.