In the early stages of free agency, there’s lots of speculation about who the top free agents are, and where they might land. MLBTradeRumors.com has predicted the signing teams for each of their top 50 free agents.
Of their top 50, they predict that two of the Orioles’ own, Scott Feldman and Nate McLouth will re-sign with the team.
If Feldman re-signs, they may not pursue another starting pitcher. If he doesn’t, who are some likely targets?
Nearly one-third of the top 50 are starting pitchers.
Masahiro Tanaka, who should soon be posted by his Japanese League team, is listed as the top-ranking pitcher. The Orioles are probably not going to be in on the bidding.
They may bid on the next, Kansas City’s Ervin Santana. Signing Santana would cost a draft choice, and the Orioles seem loath to do that.
Santana will be 31 next month, and has been consistently solid in his eight years with the Angels and one with the Royals. He’s won 17 games once and 16 twice. Last year, he was 9-10, but had a 3.24 ERA.
Oriole Park hasn’t been Santana’s favorite place to pitch. In seven starts, he has a 6.38 ERA.
If MLBTradeRumors is correct and Santana commands a five-year, $75 million deal, it won’t come from the Orioles.
Matt Garza, who is ranked just behind Santana, has a 9-1 record against the Orioles, his most against any team. He likes pitching in Baltimore. He’s 6-0, but hasn’t pitched at Oriole Park since 2010 when he was with Tampa Bay.
Garza, soon to be 30, could intrigue them, but his price is probably too high for them, too.
A year or two of 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda is far too great a price for a draft choice, and even though the Orioles had interest in A.J. Burnett, who lives in Monkton, Md., in the past, they won’t pursue him now. It also seems unlikely the Orioles would give up a draft choice to sign Ubaldo Jimenez.
The next group of pitchers, Scott Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco and Bartolo Colon, don’t seem to fit with the Orioles, though Kazmir may be intriguing.
A once promising pitcher, Kazmir’s career was reborn last year. He won his first games since 2010 with Cleveland. In seven Baltimore starts, Kazmir is 2-3 with a 4.86 ERA.
With the two-year deal that MLBTradeRumors projects, maybe Kazmir is an Orioles’ fit.
The Reds didn’t give Bronson Arroyo a qualifying offer. Even though Arroyo will be 37 just after spring training begins, he may be worth a look.
He’s extremely durable, has won 10 or more games eight times and pitched in the postseason five times.
For a two-year deal, Arroyo might not be a bad choice, either.
Perhaps the player on the list who intrigues the Orioles the most is Jason Vargas. The left-hander turns 31 at the beginning of next year, and his most recent three seasons have been his best. While his career record is under .500 (51-58), he has a 1.94 ERA in eight starts against the Orioles.
Paul Maholm is also in their top 50. He’s never pitched in the American League and has spent most of his career pitching for bad Pirates teams. Maholm has most recently pitched for Atlanta, and is far below .500 (76-95) for the past two years.
New Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace is familiar with him, and perhaps that could be an attraction.
Many of these starters may not excite fans, but if the Orioles are going to spend big money on a player, it’s probably going to be one of their own.
A four or five-year contract for Santana, Garza or Nolasco just doesn’t seem to make sense here.
Probably the best strategy is to aggressively court Feldman, and if doesn’t sign relatively quickly, pursue Arroyo, Kazmir or Vargas with Maholm in reserve.
The Orioles have only Wei-Yin Chen as a left-handed starter, and signing Kazmir, Vargas or Maholm could give them a second.
Interestingly, MLBTraderumors has Jason Hammel ranked as the 48th player overall. Unless there is no market for Hammel, he’ll go elsewhere.
In the first two months of the season, it looked as if Hammel was setting himself up for a nice payday, but them ineffectiveness and injuries set him back.
Another pitcher who has long interested the Orioles is Gavin Floyd. Manager Buck Showalter once threw his name out during a discussion of players from the Baltimore area. Floyd underwent elbow surgery last May, and probably won’t be ready to pitch until at least midseason, but perhaps early next year, he’ll be an option.
Floyd grew up in Anne Arundel County and currently lives in Palm Harbor, Fla., not far from the Orioles’ spring training and rehab center in Sarasota.