Will the Orioles write a big free agent check?

Will the Orioles write a big free agent check?
December 14, 2012, 9:15 am
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The prices for free agents are astronomical. Josh Hamilton, five years, $125 million. Zack Greinke, six years, $147 million. The remaining top free agent pitcher, Anibal Sanchez is reportedly choosing between the Cubs and Tigers. His terms: five years, $75 million.

Fifteen million a year for a pitcher with a lifetime record of 48-51?

No wonder Dan Duquette is keeping his stable of young and for the moment affordable pitchers together.

A year from now, Jason Hammel will be eligible for free agency, and if he builds on a successful 2012, he’ll have a nice payday, but probably not in Baltimore. Hammel’s lifetime record is 42-51. If he was a free agent this year, he’d be highly coveted, to use one of Buck Showalter’s favorite terms.

Duquette’s idea of a cost-efficient free agent was re-signing Nate McLouth. One year, $2 million with $500,000 worth of incentives. It wasn’t Jonny Gomes’ two years at $10 million.

Last year, one of Duquette’s aides said that when the time came to write a big check, Duquette would do it. He followed through last May with the re-signing of Adam Jones. In a year or so, he may try to do it again with Matt Wieters.

In a market the size of Baltimore, the Orioles are probably not going to be in the top 10 in salaries, and they’ll not chase the boldface names.

This year’s free agent market has certainly moved along, and in contrast to last year when Prince Fielder was unsigned until late January, most of the big names are gone.

Adam LaRoche, Cody Ross and Nick Swisher intrigue the Orioles, but not at these prices.

Once 2013 begins and the list is pared down further, Duquette can look to see if anything remains.

One intriguing name is Kelly Johnson, of who little has been heard this off-season. Last year’s second baseman on Toronto, Johnson hit 16 home runs and stole 14 bases in 16 tries. While he hit just .225 last season, his on-base percentage was .313. He made $6.375 million in 2012.

While Duquette professes to be satisfied with his choices of Brian Roberts, Alexi Casilla, Ryan Flaherty and Yamaico Navarro, perhaps Johnson would be a nice addition at second and designated hitter.