What a difference a year can make for a baseball team like the Baltimore Orioles. At this time in 2014 we were reflecting on the playoffs and a 96-win season. This year it took a winning streak in the final five games to just get to .500.
Even so, in other ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking back at our topics a year ago as October turned into November, we were thinking about and writing about many of the same things as now — particularly about Orioles free agents and where they would end up.
In early November, MLB Trade Rumors.com posts their top 50 tracking guide with predictions. A year ago they predicted both Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz to return to the Orioles, while writing that Andrew Miller was most likely destined for the Detroit Tigers. Delmon Young was not on their top 50 list.
On this site, we were as certain as most everyone else that Markakis would return, talking about how the word around town was that it would be soon done. We were skeptical, however, that Cruz would return, believing that his desire for a longer deal than the Orioles would give could well be met by someone else. And it was. Though MLBTR did not mention the Yankees at all as a contending possible location for Miller, here on The Baltimore Wire we were fearful of that very thing — promoting also that Cruz should be let go but that Miller should be signed. And we believed that Young would end up again with the Orioles.
Now in 2015, the Orioles have six free agents; and fans are once again fearful that most (or all) of them could slip away. Can lightning strike twice in the same place? Yes, not only can it do so, in this case it is even more likely to hit.
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An interesting listing of free agents is one that has been posted on FanGraphs.com — players being listed in order of their WAR value. Actually it is four lists: position players, starters, right-handed relievers, and left-handed relievers. The expensive nature of the Orioles’ free agents is immediately obvious.
Of the position players, Chris Davis is #3 with a WAR of 5.6. He trails only Yoenis Cespedes and Jason Heyward. That is worth a lot of money. Matt Wieters is all of the way down at #26 with a WAR of just 1.0. Colby Rasmus is #6 on the list. And Alejandro De Aza is ahead of Wieters at #21. He ended up hitting .262 on the season.
Wei-Yin Chen is #7 on the starting pitchers list with a WAR of 2.8. Of course David Price is in the top position. Looking at this list may give Orioles fans a better sense of who is out there who could help the rotation.
And it is no surprise to see Darren O’Day listed as the top right-handed reliever with a WAR number of 1.8 — excellent for a relief pitcher. Familiar former Oriole names include Tommy Hunter at 13th, Jim Johnson at 15th and Ryan Webb at 19th … although none of them have impressive statistics whatsoever.
Having these charts is sort of like looking at the grocery shopping lists of general managers. And when considering the likely values of the names near the top, one understand pretty quickly the challenging task that is ahead for the Orioles in this offseason.