Are the Orioles really going to pursue some bigger names? Are they going to be more aggressive in courting free agents?
According to a report by Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi, the Orioles are active in their pursuit of outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz as well as pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.
Choo, Cruz and Jimenez all received qualifying offers from their 2013 teams. All declined the offers as did the 10 others who received them.
Just two of the 13 players, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury, have chosen their next team. Both signed with the Yankees.
It would be fascinating if the Orioles actually surrendered their 2014 first round pick to sign Choo, Cruz or Jimenez. First of course, they would have to come to an agreement.
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Choo, who is represented by Scott Boras, is the second ranked available free agent by MLBTradeRumors.com. Ellsbury was originally second.
He’s 31, and last year hit 21 home runs and 54 RBIs with Cincinnati. He batted .285, but had a phenomenal on-base percentage of .423 thanks to 112 walks.
Choo played his first three games in left field last year since 2008. He’s primarily a center fielder, but the Orioles have that position filled with Adam Jones.
He is a left-handed hitter, which the Orioles would like, but he hit only .215 against lefties last year.
Boras often likes to wait out the market, and Dan Duquette is a patient man.
Cruz is the most interesting case. After a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, Cruz is on the market. Without the suspension, Cruz surely would have set career highs for home runs and RBIs. He hit 27 and 76 in 109 games. He’s 33 and has had five straight strong years for Texas, and he’s hit decently for average, too: .268 in his career.
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Cruz doesn’t have a great reputation defensively, and has played just a smattering of left field—none last year.
If the Orioles want to take a shot at Jimenez, they’ll have to adjust their philosophy on contract length, and there are indications they have.
Jimenez will be 30 next month, and had a 13-9 record with a 3.30 ERA with Cleveland. His lifetime record is 82-75 with a 3.92 ERA. He is wild, averaging four walks per nine innings, but despite pitching most of his career in home run friendly Coors Field, he has given up fewer than a home run per nine innings.
He’ll probably require a four-year contract to sign, and it will be interesting to see if in this new environment, Duquette will be willing to go the extra year.
A three-year contract will probably now be required to sign Scott Feldman, who the Orioles would like to re-up. A report surfaced on Wednesday that an unnamed team had offered Feldman a third year.