The Baltimore Orioles finished the 2013 season with a decent 85-77 record and tied with the Yankees for third place in the AL East. And, like the Yankees, the O’s were in the running for a spot in MLB’s postseason tournament until the second-to-last weekend of the season when Tampa swept them in a four game series to end their playoff pretentions. Using the word pretentions is not an error on my part because, just like the Yankees, I think they were somewhat lucky to even be in the running for a playoff spot that late in the season.
Are they a vastly improved team over their abysmal also-ran seasons of their recent past of not being very good? Yes. After all, for the first time since 1996-1967 they have now finished over .500 two years running.
But, are they really a credible every season playoff contender? Borderline… in my opinion they ain’t there yet. But they are getting very close. The fact is that winning baseball has returned to Baltimore.
In 2012 the Orioles had a lot of breaks go their way as indicated by their 2012 record in one run games (29-9, .763) and extra innings (16-2, .889) versus their record in both categories respectively in 2013 (20-31, .385 and 8-7, .533). Many folks, myself included, said that there was no way the O’s would be as good in 2013 in those categories as they were in 2012 but I doubt many folks, myself included, thought they would be as bad as they were in those one run games as they actually were in 2014. So, the fact that they were in contention until the final weeks of the season, especially with the extreme turnabout in those one run and extra-inning games, caught many of us naysayers a little by surprise… it wasn’t a total shock but, yes, it did indicate that the Orioles
might actually be a team who can compete in the AL East and consistently be in the playoff mix.
And, what that means is that they are a team with a good base, with center fielder Adam Jones, first baseman Chris Davis and starter Chris Tillman, which needs some help to take the next step. The question is: Will GM Dan Duquette be allowed to take the initiative to make some offseason moves that he didn’t do in last year’s offseason.
So, what are their areas of concern? One, or more, starters, a bat who can hit for average/high OBP, some bench help and depending on what they do with free agents/arbitration-eligible players maybe a second basemen and/or a DH.
Financially they have six guaranteed contracts in outfielders Adam Jones ($13 million) and Nick Markakis ($15 million); shortstop J. J. Hardy ($7 million); starting pitchers Wei-Yin Chen ($4.45 million), Dylan Bundy ($1.245 million) and relief pitcher Darren O’Day ($3.6 million) for a total of $44.295 million.
They also have a slew of arbitration eligible players that they need to make decisions on that will ultimately decide how much they will have to spend on free agents. The list, (2013 player salaries in millions unless indicated otherwise), is as follows: Jim Johnson, RH-RP ($5.16); Chris Davis, 1B ($4.05); MAtt Wieters, C ($4.13); Bud Norris, RH-SP ($4.07); Tommy Hunter, RH-RP ($4.1million); Brian Matuaz, LH-RP ($3.15 million); Nolan Reimold, OF ($4); Troy Patton, LH-RP; ($3.15); Danny Valencia 3B/DH ($515,000 estimated), Steve Pearce, OF/1B ($4.12); Chris Dickerson, OF ($3.13).
In addition the Birds have another mini-slew of players eligible for free agency in one form or another and will need to decide whether they are worth offering a tender offer/picking up their option or not: Brian Roberts, 2B ($10.0); Nate McLouth, OF ($2.0); Michael Morse, OF/1B ($7.0); Francisco Rodriguez, RH-RP ($4.0); Chris Snyder, C ($750,000); Scott Feldman, RH-SP ($6.0); Jason Hammel, RH-SP ($6.75).
That totals up to about $79.225 that could potentially be of the books. Realistically, not all of that salary commitment will be gone, however.
The Orioles did not make qualifying offers to Roberts, McLouth and Hammel. That is a total of $18.75 million off the books.
Savings total now stands at now at $18.75 million.
The team also has contract Options on Alexi Casilla, 2B ($3.0 team option with a $200,000 buyout clause); Tsuyoshi Wada, LH-SP ($5.0 team option); Dan Johnson, 1B ($3.17/$800,000 team option).
The Orioles have declined the $3 million option on Casilla. That frees up another $3.0 million towards the O’s 2014 salary commitments and the total of monies now available toward filling Oriole roster needs for 2014 is now at $21.75.
In addition. the Orioles have assigned Chris Dickerson and Dan Johnson to their minor league affiliate, Norfolk (IL) and then selected Chris Jones to be added to the O’s 40-man roster. Jones will now join the competition for a bullpen spot next spring. That’s minus $6.3 million and Jones will probably add just the major league minimum to the team’s salary commitments. So, with the deduction of the added MLB minimum that’s about another $5.9 million off the 2014 salary commitment.
Total savings now equals about $27.65 million.
If Roberts and McLouth were to return to the Orioles it would only be at a team friendly cost.
Roberts’ best days offensively are far behind him. From 2010 through 2013 he has only been on the field for as few as 17 games (2012) and only as many as 77 (2013). The 2009 season was his last year in which he played anywhere near the reason he was originally a 1999 first round draft choice when he was the 50th player taken. If he is resigned by Baltimore it would need to be at their price which would be nowhere near his 2013 $10 million price tag and more than likely for no more than $2 or $3 million with incentives. But, realistically, he probably will be playing elsewhere if at all in 2014.
In 2013 McLouth only earned $2 million, but, he is nowhere near the numbers player he was during his career year 2008 season when he hit 46 doubles, 26 HRs, drove in 94 with a .276 batting average. His next best year since then was when he had 27 doubles, 20 HRs, with 76 RBIs and a .256 batting average. And, that was in 2009.
He has had only one season since then when he was on the field for as many as 145 games which co-incidentally was 2013. But he only produced 31 doubles, 12 HRs, with 36 RBIs and a .258 batting average. In my opinion, he is not worth what some rumors have said is $10 million for the two year deal that is most often associated with his name. I doubt the Orioles will even consider offering him anything near that figure. So, unless he is willing to take the same deal the O’s might give Roberts, McLouth is gone.
Morse will not be offered a contract after a season where he went 3-for-29 with no extra base hits. That frees up about $7.0 million.
Assuming all three are gone, the total is another $19 million off the books and savings now equals about $46.65 million.
Chris Davis and Matt Wieters are no-brainers, and will be given raises in all likelihood with the chance that both could be signed long term.
Wieters will be given a raise and it remains to be seen if the Orioles also try to get him under contract for more than just his two arb years left with the team. I think they will try to work something out for a deal of 3 to 5 years and decent money. He earned $5.5 million in 2013. Even without a long-term deal with him this winter, he’ll still get between $7-9 million. Call it $8.5 if the Orioles only sign him for a one year deal.
Davis also has two arb years left with the Orioles and like Wieters, I think they try and sign him to at least a 3 to 5 year deal. But, if the choice comes down to one player or the other being signed long term this winter then it will be Davis.
Davis finished batting .286 with 53 homers, a club record, and 138 RBIs and he more than established himself as a very good glove man at first. He gives the club a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to build around. The only questions are how much of a raise will he get for 2014 and can the Orioles get him committed for a long term deal. Pencil him in for at least $9 million for 2014 and probably closer to $10 million. So let’s go high and call it $10 million with the very good chance it can go higher if he does sign long term with Os.
Danny Valencia had a break-out “year” in August and September, and be in the mix for 2014. He made about the league minimum. Valencia was reportedly listed among those at the now-closed Biogenesis clinic, but he was not suspended and has been cleared by Major League Baseball. That should not be an issue going forward. Valencia can go to arbitration but will probably settle and be given a raise to about $1 million a year.
Nolan Reimold will be let go after three frustrating, injury-plagued seasons. That frees up $4.0 million.
Steve Pearce probably gets an offer of a slight raise to maybe $5.0 million over his present salary of $4.12 million. And, Chris Snyder probably get s bumped to about $1.5 million from $750,000.
And the grand summation of all that finagling is about $6.9 million in salary increase. That puts the savings at around $39.75 million
Hammel and Feldman were both part of Baltimore’s rotating cast of starters in 2013. The former wasn’t nearly as effective as in 2012, posting a 4.97 ERA and yielding 1.4 homers per nine in 139 1/3 innings while missing five weeks due to an elbow strain.
The latter player, who was acquired from the Cubs in early July, put up a 3.86 ERA and 6.5 strikeouts per nine in 181 2/3 innings between the two teams, and rates as the higher priority of the two when it comes to being retained. I will deal with how this plays out financially for the Orioles later. But, color Hammel and his $6.75 million off the Orioles’ books.
Bud Norris, Tommy Hunter, Brain Matusz and Troy Patton likely are all on the fence whether they will be tendered contracts or not. Rumors indicate Norris might not get a tender offer while Hunter, Matusz and Patton probably will. I doubt any of these players, if they are with the Orioles in 2014 will make a lot more than their 2013 salaries. Token raises at best, in my opinion. I think Norris is gone, and, if so, then that saves $4.07 million. I also think Hunter, Matusz and Patton stay and get nominal raises of $1.0 million to about $2.0 million apiece max. So, middle the raises and make their added cost an average of $1.5 million. That means the Orioles add $4.5 million to 2014 player payroll commitment.
Francisco Rodriguez spent half a season with the team following a trade from Milwaukee and he turned out to be a poor fit for Baltimore. The fact that he gave up four home runs in his first four innings with the O’ s pretty much sealed his fate with manager Buck Showalter as the trust in tight situations never seemed to be there. The Orioles will not re-sign reliever Francisco Rodriguez. That frees up another $4.0 million.
Jim Johnson made $5.16 million in 2013. Johnson was an All-Star closer in 2012 and he put together 40-plus saves again in
2013. He finished 2014 with a 3-8 record, a 2.86 ERA in 69.1 innings, and 9 blown saves all of which contributed largely to the Orioles bad numbers in tight ball games in 2013. However, Orioles’ vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette says Johnson will be back in 2014. Figure that if Johnson goes to arbitration he will get a sizable raise so the Orioles will probably make him a reasonable offer of about a $5 million raise to put him around $10 million a year.
The freed up money for payroll now stands at $45.07 million.
According to Cots Baseball Contracts, the Orioles opening day player payroll was $92,238,333 million. Many so-called experts are saying the Orioles probably won’t extend that payroll much higher than that number but I think they may believe the time is right to improve their lineup for a run at the top spot in the East as long as the cost is not too extravagant. I give them another $15 to $20 million for their 2013 payroll. That means they have about $60 million to $65 million to spend on payroll.
Hot Stove strategy:
Pitching: Starting Five: In 2013, the Orioles’ starting pitching ranked 27th in the majors with a 4.57 ERA, which simply isn’t good enough for a team looking to make it to the postseason.
Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman presently give the Orioles four starters under team control with Zach Britton waiting in the wings.
Chris Tillman had a decent 2013 season; made just over $500,000, and he’s not arbitration eligible. He is a cost-efficient keeper for the Orioles and the best guess is that he makes $750,000 to $1.0 million in 2014.
Chen is capable of being an average pitcher who is a decent back end of the rotation pitcher. However, right in the middle of May the dreaded strained oblique injury struck and he was out of commission for about six weeks. Chen’s injury led to Gausman being brought up to the majors and his results were not pretty… more on Gausman in a bit.
Chen made 23 starts in 2013 and during those starts he was slightly better than the league average. Most teams in baseball would have liked to have Chen’s results over what they actually got from their 4th and 5th starters.
Chen has value to the Orioles, especially for a team-friendly salary of $3.75 million. He will make about $4.1 million in 2014, with a $4.75 million team option for 2015 and then two arb years. Chen’s biggest problem is by the time batters come up for the third time they seem to have figured out his strategy and he gives up runs. Chen had a 10.57 ERA in the seventh inning in 2013. If the Orioles coaches can help Chen with some late inning adjustments he could take a step forward as a pitcher.
Gonzalez doesn’t strike out a ton of guys or dial his fastball up to 99, but he now, after a late MLB debut at 28, has about two years of solid baseball under his belt at the major league level. Gonzalez isn’t arbitration eligible until 2015, so he will either be a contributor for the Orioles for years to come, or, a solid trade piece at some point. Right now, he is one of three definite starting pitchers for the Orioles to start 2014.
Gausman throws a fastball that can reach 99 on the radar gun, plus a very good change-up. Gausman could be the kind of frontline pitcher the O’s are missing. He still needs work.
He has a tendency to give up the long ball and the feeling is that he needs to work on his off-speed offerings. He is probably being considered for the rotation but depending on how his spring goes he may start the year off in Triple A to get some seasoning. Early in the year there are more off days than later and he has options left. So, it just might be that the Orioles brain trust thinks it may be best if he spends a month in the minor leagues.
Britton might be considered as a starter while Gausman gets some experience in the minors. However, in the chances the Orioles have afforded him, he has never fared very well but he is still relatively young (26 by opening day) and maybe a change of scenery might suit him best. He may be more trading fodder than starting rotation option.
Given that thought, it seems the Orioles will target Feldman with an offer of a two-year deal, which would give Gausman more time to work his way into the rotation. In 2013, Feldman posted a 3.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 132/56 K/BB ratio in 181 2/3 innings this season between the Cubs and Orioles. However, Feldman was just 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 15 starts for the Orioles but there is “mutual interest” in the pitcher remaining in Baltimore. Feldman has a very slow fastball and is unable to overpower opponents, and that has led to some inconsistency on his part over the past few years.
Feldman will be 31 years old in 2014 and has been pretty much your league average pitcher in his 234 career games. Feldman will get at least two years in his next contract, but if the price goes up to $17 million or some team gives a third year the Orioles may say goodbye and look for other alternatives. However, Feldman is a not a number one or even a two starter and may be the perfect pitcher for the O’s to use as a fourth or fifth starter.
Seeing a trend here for the Orioles? They have a lot of back end rotation guys and none really who can be called an ace, a near ace or maybe even a number two right now.
They have pitchers in the minors… Dylan Bundy, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, was the #2-ranked prospect by Baseball America prior to 2013, but he didn’t have his surgery until the end of June. That means he won’t be an immediate option and who knows what he may have, or not have, when he does start pitching with any regularity. There is also Mike Wright, a third-round pick out of East Carolina in the 2011 draft, who made 26 starts in Double A ball with a 3.26 ERA and 136 strikeouts in 143.2 innings pitched. And, Eduardo Rodriguez, a Venezuelan lefty, will only turn 21 in April and was recently ranked in the top 100 prospects by ESPN. He dominated the Carolina League (Single A) with a 2.85 ERA in 85.1 innings before being promoted to Bowie (Double A). But that’s Single A and Double A ball success and hitters turn on fastballs and wait on curves a lot better in the majors than in the minors. They need time to develop.
If the Orioles hope to get a better rotation from within in the short-term, their only hope is for Gausman to improve significantly. Or, they will need to go to free agency or make a trade to get what they need to succeed.
Potential targets: Orioles executive VP Dan Duquette has gone on record that the team wants to improve its pitching without trading top prospects or spending too much in free agency, so Duquette will need to be creative to make a significant rotation upgrade. That means a frontline starter is probably out of the considerations.
The free-agency market for starting pitching is not really loaded with talent, but there are a few pitchers who could help the Orioles rotation.
Ervin Santana is maybe most highly touted free agent this offseason. In 2013, he had a career year where he pitched to a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. The Kansas City Royals made Santana a one-year qualifying offer, the 30-year-old will test the market. He would cost the Orioles a draft pick if they signed him but I see him getting no less than three years and more dollars than Duquette wants to spend. He is not going to the Orioles.
Maryland native A.J. Burnett could be a target and is sort of a workhorse type of guy. He has made at least 30 starts in six consecutive seasons, but may cost more than what Baltimore is willing to spend. And, he could work in Baltimore but I would be very careful going after Burnett. Although his numbers in 2013 as Pirate look decent he was still an under .500 pitcher. With the Orioles lineup sometimes struggling to score runs that could be a problem for Burnett and unless their ability to score is enhanced he could be a poor fit.
Ricky Nolasco is durable and could be a much better fit but, again, his asking price might be too high for the O’s. Probably. Nolasco
has a fastball that averages 90.4 mph and hit 94.9 mph at its peak and a nasty slider that he threw more than any other pitch this season. After getting traded from the Marlins to the Dodgers in July, Nolasco finished the year going 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA. Duquette might consider opening the purse strings for Nolasco if his price tag, plus years, doesn’t go to high. But… I think it will… However, according to at least one source, Nolasco was in the three-year/$36MM contract range but considering that Nolasco sort of fell apart in late September and made just one postseason start for L.A his cost, or years, could drop. Nolasco, who the Orioles had tried to trade for in 2013, could be back on the Orioles’ radar and Duquette might open up the purse strings.
Josh Johnson gets hurt a lot but he’s a good pitcher. He’s coming off of a terrible season with the Blue Jays and, at 30 years old, will probably end up with a one-year contract to try to build up his value for the future. Johnson might not seem to be a reliable option for the rotation, but if he stays healthy and goes back to his pre-2013 form he could give the Orioles a lot of value in 2014 without much commitment or a crazy salary. He could be a strong possibility.
Bronson Arroyo will turn 37 this offseason, but he’s made at least 30 starts in each of the last 10 seasons. In 2013 he had 32 starts with a 14-12 record, 3.79 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He is 37 and did give up a lot of homeruns, actually led the NL. He will not get the same $16 million he made in 2013 despite his decent numbers. A reasonable offer… maybe at $10 to $12 million might get him in Maryland.
Another alternative would be Tim Hudson. He is 38 but he threw 131 1/3 innings with a 3.97 ERA for the Braves before an ankle injury shut him down in late July. I see him staying in Atlanta but who knows… I think he’s a decent pitcher and if Duquette makes an offer at just the right time with the right number he could be an option that falls through the free agent cracks.
Bullpen: I think the bullpen is set with Johnson, Hunter (21 holds), Matusz and Patton. The O’s can solidify their bullpen with some of the aforementioned young starting candidates mentioned earlier. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Duquette add a cost friendly extra arm, however.
Position Players: The Orioles actually have a very strong defensive nucleus proven by the fact that six Orioles, Manny Machado 3B),
Nick Markakis (RF), Adam Jones (CF), Chris Davis (1B), J.J. Hardy (SS), and Matt Wieters (C), made the cut as finalists for a Gold Glove award, with three of those players winning Gold Gloves: JJ Hardy(SS), Adam Jones (CF) and Manny Machado (3B). All of those players are either very good, or at least capably competent, offensively. So, that would indicate that only second base and left field will need some upgrading for 2014.
Before continuing, the Orioles, although decent on offense, still need to improve, especially in the area of their OBP. Six of the eight O’s regulars had an OBP in 2013 that was under their career mark heading into the season. And, while it was true their .313 OBP, which in 2013 was behind the league average of .320, was an improvement over 2012… it was just barely an improvement. In 2012 their OBP was .311. The Orioles were fourth in the league in runs scored, but 10th in OBP and, moving forward, that needs to improve. Without men on base, the team’s big boppers can’t drive in all the runs their HRs should be driving in. They hit 212 HRs as a team; had four players with 20 or more (led by Chris Davis’ 53) and a total of seven starting lineup players who at least 10 with one bench player adding another 10.
Potential targets: Now, moving on to the Orioles biggest needs: In my opinion, since I believe Brian Roberts is gone, the Orioles need to address their need for a second baseman. And, internally, the Orioles have an excellent player in Ryan Flaherty who has a plus arm, turns a nice double play and won’t hurt you at several other infield positions. The several infield positions stuff could, at the minimum, cement him on the roster as a bench/role player and he could play an integral part at third, at least early in the 2014 season… more on that in a bit.
However, unless a player is the next coming of former Oriole Mark Belanger, very good defense alone won’t keep a player on the field for very long. Especially, since one of the Orioles’ problems in 2013 was poor OBP. Flaherty improved offensively in 2013 but still only produced a .224/.293/.390 batting line.
But, he does have some power as indicated as being the only so-called nonstarter who hit double figures in HRs, 10 HRs in 238 at-bats. (Flaherty was the bench player who hit 10 HRs.) To his benefit he is well liked by Buck Showalter and the other players. But, as the saying goes that don’t feed the bulldog. He simply does not, right now, provide the Orioles with a strong bat at second.
Jonathan Schoop is another internally possibility. He has the tools but at 21 is still raw and a work in progress. Most experts say that he has real power but a long swing. The end result being he won’t be ready to start the 2014 season in the majors even as a bench player.
The free agent market at second does have Robinson Cano, but realistically if Cano is not a New York Yankee in 2014, he won’t be an Oriole, either.
The free agent market beyond Cano is somewhat weak. The best free agents may be Kelly Johnson or Omar Infante.
Johnson has power, 16 HRs in 2013 and in 2012 and is a capable second basemen but that is not what the Orioles need right now. They need and improvement in BA and OBP. And Johnson has, for the last two years, a .229 BA and a .313 OBP. They have plenty of that already.
Johnson, however, could be a fit as a super-utility role capable that can play the corner outfield spots, first base, second base and third base. And he probably won’t be expensive to add. Maybe, about $5 million for two years.
Omar Infante isn’t Cano and he isn’t quite on par with Brandon Phillips but he ain’t that far off from Phillips, either. Phillips hit .261 with a.310 OBP in 2013; lifetime his numbers are .271/.320.
In 2013, Infante hit .318 with a .345 OBP; lifetime he is .274/.319.
So, while Phillips may have better overall numbers, it appears the two numbers the Orioles might consider more important make Infante better than Phillips.
Infante is very likely to sign a multiyear contract for $10 million per season, maybe more because right now rumors say the Tigers (his previous team that declined to offer him a $14.5 million free agent qualifying offer contract) and the Yankees are the early leading contenders for Infante’s services.
Infante is 32 but he could probably be gotten, especially if the O’s promise regular playing time, at about the $18 – $21million range for two years.
Or, they could take care of the position for the next two years by trying to trade for the Angels’ Howie Kendrick, who has been mentioned as a possible trade target for Baltimore. Kendrick is owed a reasonable $18.85MM through 2015 and could be a very solid bridge until Schoop is ready. The Angels need pitching and the Orioles could offer some promising pieces such as Matusz and Britton as part of a package for Kendrick.
In 2013, Kendrick hit .297 with a .335 OBP; lifetime he is .292/.329. And, he is, actually, the best fit for the Orioles.
Third baseman Manny Machado was a first time Gold Glove winner and he has been selected by a fan vote and SABR to be the recipient of the American League’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Machado, a shortstop by trade, was called up by the Orioles in 2012 and asked to play third base and proved to be an exceptional choice.
Machado’s 2013 season ended during the Orioles’ last visit to Tampa Bay when he tore the medial patellofemoral ligament in his left knee trying to run out a grounder. He is currently listed on the 60-day DL and is expected to return to action in early April. However, he may not be ready by that time and, in my opinion, should not be rushed back to play if he is not totally sure of himself and ready to play, physically and mentally, without hesitation.
Third may take care of itself internally, as Danny Valencia and Ryan Flaherty could platoon there in a holding pattern if Machado doesn’t return as expected in April. But, if the Orioles can get Johnson at that suggested $5 million for two years then they essentially solve any potential problems at third with both Valencia and Flaherty as backup options off the bench. Plus when Machado is ready, be it April or May, Johnson can be the best option as the first guy off the bench in case of injuries, for pinch hitting duties or as a late inning replacement player. Jonathan Schoop could also potentially play at third on an emergency basis if need be. He does have experience at third as well as at second.
The last area of concern for the Orioles is DH and maybe left field. But, it should be noted as far as the Orioles acquiring a fulltime DH that Showalter likes to use the DH spot as a revolving door to rest players as well as “play” other players who aren’t on the field for that given game but he thinks matches well against the opponent’s pitcher. So, considering Showalter’s tendency on how to use the DH, it is then likely that the Orioles might acquire a DH who can also be employed on the field and preferably as an outfielder.
In 2012 the Orioles signed 25 year old Cuban Outfielder Henry Urrutia for a bonus of $778,500. One scouting report on Urrutia said that he had “Surprising pop, more of a doubles or gap hitter, but can display some average power due to smooth swing and quick bat. Hits some easy home runs, does not look like a batter that is swinging for the fences. Think of power in terms of Nick Markakis, but less overall tools as a hitter.”
Given that report it should also be noted this is only his second year in American ball and he is at best a part time player only if he even stays on the 2014 roster. But, Henry Urrutia is, right now, the only left field option on the roster, so expect the O’s to acquire either an everyday left fielder or designated hitter, with Urrutia serving as a possible platoon player at either position.
Danny Valencia hit well as a DH in 2013 and could be that righty bat. In 52 games/161 at bats, Valencia put up a slash line of .302/.335/.553. He was DH in 42 of those 52 games.
Marlon Byrd (OF/DH) is a right-handed bat and would not be a DH-only roster spot as he proved he could still play the game in 2013. Marlon Byrd, 35, hit 24 homers for the Mets and Pirates while hitting .291/.336/.511. Byrd is able to hit for average and with a good OBP and has a lifetime .280/.336/.425 batting line. Even if he can’t repeat the surprising power that he showed in 2013, there’s plenty of reason to still expect helpful contributions in terms of batting average and OBP. Because he was traded midseason, Byrd is unable to receive a qualifying offer (not that the Pirates would’ve extended one anyhow). He will not be tied to draft pick compensation. He can probably be had for between $16 to $18 million for two years.
Other options could be signing a veteran slugger like Kendrys Morales or Corey Hart.
Morales (DH/1B), another right hander, hit .277, with 80 RBI, and 57 extra base hits with a .357 OBP. However, Morales spent 122 games at the designated hitter position and was limited to a mere 31 games at first base. Simply put although his numbers match well with the Orioles’ needs his skills on the field do not. The Orioles have Chris Davis at first and plenty of other options if Davis needs a break.
Plus, Morales was given a qualifying offer worth $14.1 million from the Mariners, which means any team wanting Morales’ services would have to forfeit a first-round selection. At 30 Morales probably is not worth losing a first round draft pick over.
Hart missed the entire 2013 season due to injury but in 2012 his numbers read: .270 BA/.334 OBP/.507 SLG/30 HR/83 RBI. He can be a multi-dimensional threat on offense who has strong power numbers but is often seen batting leadoff because of his high OBP. A knee injury late in 2012 forced him to sit out the entire 2013 season. It is dangerous taking a chance on a player coming back from injury but he could very well be a low cost option for exactly what the Orioles need as far as OBP improvement and as well as an option for the outfield.
The Brewers opted not to make a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to Hart, so, if he is signed by the Orioles they would not lose a draft pick.
In my opinon, if the Orioles can come close to making even half of these moves they can do so and stay well within budget.
So, that’s it. One outlook for what the Baltimore Orioles need to do for 2014. Essentially, they have a good team that just needs some tweaking here and here and, they could very well be headed to the playoffs in 2014. And, then, who knows, as I have often heard that the playoffs are a crapshoot and the hot hand usually wins the trophy.
Tiny URL for this post: