Baltimore Orioles: Evaluating Jim Bowden’s Top 50 Free Agents


Jul 31, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (32) and starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (16) speak on the pitching mound during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In recent days we have looked at several of the national baseball writers and their listings of the top 50 free agents, noting particularly the six Baltimore Orioles free agents, as well as who these writers believe the O’s might be interested in acquiring.

We have evaluated the rankings and comments of the MLB Trade Rumors site, as well as looking at what Jon Heyman of CBSSports had to say.

So let’s add a third listing today by looking at ESPN writer Jim Bowden’s Top 50 list. His ranking is just a bit different, as he puts them in order of prorated annual values rather than total contract. But comparing it quickly with the previous two, here it is … giving the number of years / millions …

Davis5th – 6/1442nd – 7/1848th – 6/120
Chen13th – 5/8012th – 5/8019th – 4/56
Wieters15th – 4/6422nd – 3/4210th – 4/64
Parra32nd – 3/2726th – 3/3337th – 3/25.5
O’Day33rd – 3/22.532nd – 3/2529th – 3/21
Pearce43rd – 2/1442nd – 2/10not listed

Clearly, this is a different sort of list, again, affected by annualizing the ranking versus the total contract. But even so, some of the amounts are a good bit different.

With Chris Davis projected here for $120 million for six years rather than a much larger amount as predicted by the others, this really does put the Orioles more in play for his services. And in fact, Bowden lists Baltimore first as a possible place Davis might end up. Here is what is guiding his thinking …

"The problem for Davis: There aren’t many teams looking for a first baseman; and some that are, such as the Pirates and Indians, aren’t willing to pay big to get one."

Scott Boras of course is aware of this, and it explains why he has commented on promoting Davis as much more than a first baseman, but as an outfielder as well. It is a fair and honest selling point.

Bowden certainly sees a bigger market for Matt Wieters than do the others. I don’t see it. But Bowden picks the Angels as a best spot, so there is likely some money there. He says …

"Wieters could end up being one of the best free-agent signings of this offseason … he’s a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove award winner who has hit at least 20 home runs three different times. The Angels would be the best fit for him both short term and the long term."

Bowden does not see Wei-Yin Chen in nearly the bright light as do the others. In fact, he lists Scott Kazmir well ahead of him, getting $66 million for four years instead of the $13 million a year predicted by the other two. Of Chen he says …

"Chen has been about as consistent as any lefty starter in baseball over the past two years, posting a solid 3.44 ERA in 62 starts. He’s very savvy on the mound … Contending teams looking to improve the back end of their rotation should be all over him this winter."

Bowden picks the Dodgers, Cubs, and Giants as the top three potential locations for Chen.

I cannot understand why any of these writers have Gerardo Parra as high as they do, nor Darren O’Day as low as their projections. I especially think O’Day is going to do better, and the recent reports are that almost every team is after him. Bowden has O’Day with the Yankees and Parra with the Nationals. Beyond that, Steve Pearce did not break into his top 50 list.

More from Baltimore Orioles

Who might the Orioles be most interested in?

Bowden has some unusual ideas that are different than that written by most Orioles observers near and far.

He lists the Orioles as a fifth possible choice for Jason Heyward after the Cardinals, Mariners, Yankees and Angels. Predicting a salary of nine years for $207 million … well … it makes Chris Davis look like a relative bargain. This paragraph was probably not worth writing!

Showing that he really believes the Orioles will be active in looking for a corner outfielder or two, Bowden calls for the O’s to be the second-best fit for Justin Upton, after the Giants. This would be for seven years at $161 million. Heck, let’s have the O’s do all three: Davis, Heyward, and Upton! Of the latter he says …

Upton, a three-time All-Star, has hit at least 25 home runs each of the past three years, can play either outfield corner and is still in the prime of his career at age 28. His right-handed power will be sought after by several teams this offseason…

Continuing the outfield theme, Bowden has the Orioles as the #3 choice for Yeonis Cespedes, the #5 possible place for Alex Gordon, #3 for Parra, and #6 for Nori Aoki.

Next: Matt Wieters qualifying offer perspectives

The only pitcher that this writer sees the Orioles interested in primarily is Doug Fister.

Bowden has quite a great baseball resume, but these rankings really do not seem to be in line with conventional wisdom about the most likely offseason plans for the Orioles.