Baltimore Orioles and the Top 50 Free Agent Market


Aug 9, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) is congratulated by Chris Davis (19) after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

The great baseball web site has printed their annual list of the top 50 free agents with predicted final locations. There is even a prediction contest that you can enter. The winner last year (out of 4,000+ entrants) selected 13 correctly, so it is immediately obvious that this is highly speculative with a lot of moving parts.

So let’s take a look at their list and where they project Baltimore Orioles free agents to land ultimately, and where the Orioles are mentioned as potential suitors for free agents formerly playing for other teams.

Orioles Free Agents from the 2014 Season

There are actually only three Orioles that made it onto the Top 50 List: Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller, and Nick Markakis. Delmon Young did not make the listing. And no, neither did Alexi Casilla.

Nelson Cruz – Listed at #9, Cruz is projected as returning to the Baltimore Orioles.

It may seem to be a bit shocking to Orioles fans to see the beloved Cruz placed at only #9 on the list, until one considers who all are listed ahead of him. The first three are the trio of top free agents starters: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields. Next comes the list of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Victor Martinez, Melky Cabrera, and Russell Martin. The last of these – Martin – may be a bit curious, other than he is the only top-drawer catcher on the list. And Martinez is a year older, though he did hit .335 along with 32 home runs.

Here is the full write-up on Cruz …

"Cruz led all of MLB with 40 home runs this year, and he socked two more in the ALDS.  His type of power is extremely difficult to find these days, and a qualifying offer won’t crush his market like it did a year ago.  At that time, Cruz was coming off a PED suspension.  His age, 34, is another deterrent, and he’s limited defensively as well.  A four-year deal in the $60-70MM range is possible this time.  The Orioles will attempt to re-sign him, while the Mariners could be more convinced this time around after coming close to signing him last winter."

Those numbers would seem to be beyond the Orioles’ budget or mode of operation. However, it could conceivably come down to a late offseason situation again where the big boys have spent their dollars on the names like those ahead of Cruz on this list. Maybe then the Orioles could get a two to three-year deal that is more manageable.

Andrew Miller – Listed at #17, Miller is projected as going to the Detroit Tigers

If there was anything obvious in the American League playoffs, it was that teams with lock-down bullpens ended up in the championship game. And the team with the worst bullpen saw their relievers throw the game away – that team being the Tigers.

And so it is not surprising that Detroit is listed as the top possibility for Miller. Of course the question with Miller, as it is with most relievers, is if he is a one-year wonder or if he can repeat 2014 for a number of consecutive seasons. The article said of Miller …

"Miller’s stock rose dramatically after a dominant 2014 campaign. … He could be the first non-closing reliever to snag a four-year deal since 2007, and it’s easy to name a dozen potential suitors who would love to plug him into the eighth or ninth inning."

As I have written previously, I would rather see the Cruz dollars go to Miller. But the chances of that are not considered very high. Maybe someone from the National League will take him, as I don’t want to see the Orioles have to face him over and over for the next four or five years.

Nick Markakis – Listed at #24 on the list, Markakis is projected as returning to the Orioles.

There is no news in this, as it is expected to be the most likely scenario. Late news seems to be that the sides are closing in on perhaps a four-year deal. The MLBTR article says of Markakis…

"Markakis has settled in as a durable right fielder with a solid OBP.  Without a qualifying offer, that might be enough for a four-year deal.  The Orioles are the only team he’s ever known, but if they are unable to re-sign him, the Blue Jays, White Sox, Twins, Rangers, Mets, Reds, and Giants could be fits."

The Orioles Mentioned as Targets for Other Free Agents

Beyond targeting Baltimore as the place for Cruz and Markakis, there is only one other name listed. You’ll be excited to know that it is their #50 name on the list: Jung-ho Kang!

Jung-ho Kang – This Korean infielder hit 38 home runs in the KBO in 2014, and MLBTR is speculating that he could be the first position player to make the jump from Korea. I suppose they see Duquette as particularly active in the international market?

The word on Kang is that he is not a plus defender, so, don’t look for Buck to be very interested in that regard. Scouts project him as a possible 2B or 3B, or more likely a utility infielder, saying …

"He doesn’t possess any plus tools, and may profile as a utility guy with good instincts and a little bit of pop.  That still has value."

I thought the Baltimore Orioles already have a guy like this … named Ryan Flaherty. In any event, I can’t see this one happening.

Other mentions of the O’s as targets – Surprisingly, the Orioles are mentioned more than a few times as a potential landing spot for quite a number of free agents. One would almost think the O’s are a big mover-shaker organization in such a market; though I suppose this could be argued after the Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez signings at the end of the past offseason.

More from Baltimore Orioles

Among the top names on the list with potential O’s interest are Victor Martinez and Melky Cabrera. With Martinez, again, it would only be if Cruz was signed elsewhere, and even then only likely at the last moment. Cabrera is more intriguing. Projecting him at $70-million for five years, that could be more interesting and a better investment.

The Orioles are mentioned with quite a number of the other names on the list. It should be a fascinating offseason to see where these varied players end up. It would seem that several of these should end up in Baltimore, and that is quite a shift in expectation from just three to four years ago. There has been a cultural sea change, and this bodes well for 2015 and beyond.