The Orioles haven’t signed a big-name free agent for nearly a decade. Will this be the year they return to the big money game?
The betting here is no. I think they’ll sign several free agents, and maybe get in the bidding for a few of the higher-ranked pitchers in Hardball Talk’s top 150 free agents.
HBT ranks Robinson Cano as the top free agent, and mentions the Orioles. “It’d be nice to see the Orioles flex some muscle and make a big bid, but it’s not their style,” Matthew Pouliot writes.
Right you are.
Cano will go elsewhere, and the Orioles will concentrate on re-signing Scott Feldman, Nate McLouth and Brian Roberts from the HBT 150 and look for players who could fit their plans from the rest of the list.
The Orioles will probably kick the tires on Matt Garza and, Ervin Santana, HBT’s two top-ranked pitchers. If Garza or Santana command four or five-year contracts, well that’s not the Oriole way.
They’ve long coveted Jason Vargas, the Angels’ 30-year-old lefty. HBT ranks him as the 21st best player. If he gets three years and $30 million as they predict, that might be too rich for the Orioles, but a two-year deal may work.
Some have linked Carlos Beltran, HBT’s ninth best free agent with the Orioles. Beltran has had a splendid career, hits for power and gets on base. His career on-base percentage of .359 would fit nicely with the Orioles, but he’s played center and right field, not left. The Orioles need a left fielder.
Maybe Chris Young? The 30-year-old is in the top 40. He hit only .200 for Oakland last year, but if the Orioles can’t re-sign McLouth, Young could be a stopgap answer.
Young’s .315 on-base percentage is a full 80 points higher than his lifetime batting average. If he has to take a one-year deal as HBT forecasts, maybe it’s in Baltimore.
Another short-term solution in left field could be David Murphy, who like Young slumped badly last season. Murphy fell from .304 to .220, but his lifetime OBP of .337 would be a decent fit.
The well-traveled David DeJesus is ranked 57th, and could also be a short-term solution in left. His lifetime .353 OBP could be attractive to the Orioles, too.
The Orioles will look to beef up their bullpen, and there are a number of suspects on the 150 who could interest them.
Jesse Crain, Chris Perez, Javier Lopez, J.P. Howell, Scott Downs, Oliver Perez, Matt Belisle and LaTroy Hawkins are all on the list, and perhaps the Orioles could sign one or two.
They’ll also need a left-handed hitting DH to complement Danny Valencia, who is penciled in as their right-handed DH. If they re-sign Roberts, perhaps he could help.
Former Oriole Luke Scott is on the HBT list, but even though he averaged 25 home runs in his first three seasons in Baltimore, injuries have plagued him for the last three. It’s unlikely that Scott, who hit nine home runs in 91 games for Tampa Bay, returns here.