Baltimore Orioles: Evaluating Jon Heyman’s Top 50 Free Agents


The trend now among some nationally-known baseball writers and sites is to publish a Top 50 Free Agents list of predictions as to how these players will rank in dollars accumulated, stating also the probable teams particularly interested. The Baltimore Orioles have many holes to fill and simply have to be active in this process this year, being also able to spend more money than is typically the case.

Of interest also for Orioles fans is to see where the six former Orioles players will sign, with hopes also to see one or more of them return to Baltimore. Chris Davis would of course be the big prize. A very strong case could be made that Darren O’Day is the best expenditure of resources. Arguments could be made for Gerardo Parra and Wei-Yin Chen, with Steve Pearce also seen as a cheaper value. Probably the only way Matt Wieters remains is if he accepts the qualifying offer.

As we have written before, the scope of the challenge for the Orioles is seen in this simply-stated fact: Baltimore could not even afford to return the exact team that went 81-81 in 2015. So how do they improve? The six former O’s who are free agents are predicted by MLB Trade Rumors to collectively pull down a total of $77.5 million (annualized for next year). The Jon Heyman list we look at today predicts these six to get $78.33 million.

The Baltimore Orioles’ budget — when calculating their current contracts, salary increases for arb-eligibles, pre-arbs, etc. — allows for about $40-$45 million space in a probable total payroll. So, for any scenario that proves successful in 2016, it is going to take players who perform better than their most recent historical past. But that is imaginable. More than a couple of Orioles did not live up to hopes or expectations in 2015, especially starting pitchers.

There is no easy solution, and this is why there are national writers out there who are predicting a return to the dark days for the Baltimore Orioles. In such articles, they often speak of the farm system as in total disarray. This is, of course, an overstatement; though it is true that the farm is lacking in high-level, high-expectation talent, and what does exist is struggling with injury.

Here on The Baltimore Wire last week, we evaluated the MLBTR’s Top 50 list of free agents. These guys are pretty good at predicting such things and hitting salary numbers fairly accurately. And today, we look at the same from Jon Heyman of CBSSports. He does not give specific predictions as to where each free agent will land, but rather just talks generally of the top teams presumed to have interest.

Charting the comparison of Heyman’s picks with MLBTR’s top 50, here is where each of the six former Orioles ranked in terms of total dollar contract, giving the number of years / millions …

Davis5th – 6/1442nd – 7/184
Chen13th – 5/8012th – 5/80
Wieters15th – 4/6422nd – 3/42
Parra32nd – 3/2726th – 3/33
O’Day33rd – 3/22.532nd – 3/25
Pearce43rd – 2/1442nd – 2/10

So Heyman sees Chris Davis as getting an extra year, along with the annual value of all years as $2 million more than did MLBTR. There have been more surprising things happen with free agents, but I would think the lower amount is more likely on this occasion. Of the Orioles, Haymen said …

"… the Orioles, which just won a big-buck lawsuit, probably need to do what they can to keep him. One caveat: If he stays, he probably still gets less."

The two prognosticators agree on Chen, both thinking he gets five years at $16 million per season. That won’t be in Baltimore.

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I like Heyman’s lower number for Wieters, given the recent elbow issue, his rather poor pitch framing, and his lower than expected performance from the beginning of his career.

Both have Parra listed at numbers beyond what I would expect the Orioles to put out for this guy. He is not as bad as he played in Baltimore, but neither is he as good as he did with the Brewers. I would not like to see the Orioles pay this much for him, but to use the money elsewhere.

And finally, I agree with Heyman’s higher number for O’Day (and think it could end up even higher than that), and I also agree with the lower number for Pearce — whom I’m expecting to be back with the Orioles.

Next: Is Saltalamacchia a fit for the Orioles?

Looking at Heyman’s comments beyond the six Orioles free agents, he only lists the Orioles as being one of many teams interested in Alex Gordon — projecting him at $100 million for five years. Heyman does not give the details of predicted landing spots as did MLBTR. He has Scott Kazmir at three years for $39 million, whereas MLBTR had the Orioles buying him for four at $52 million. Do it.

A lot of people are going to make a lot of money.