Baltimore Orioles and Free Agent Targets

Aug 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Ian Desmond (20) hits an RBI ground out in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 4, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Texas Rangers outfielder Ian Desmond (20) hits an RBI ground out in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

With the end of the 2016 baseball season, the Baltimore Orioles and the rest of Major League Baseball have launched into free agency.

For the Baltimore Orioles, the team is coming off what many experts deem a ‘surprise’ wild card berth. They have established players (who will be getting nice arbitration raises) at many positions, so this year may look a little different for the Birds.

In my mind, there are two different routes the team can take. I don’t expect the team to spend $50 million in free agency, although fans will wonder why not.

Well, here’s why: The Baltimore Orioles currently have nine players under contract for $95,568,762, according to Sportrac. Their projected arbitration numbers, according to MLBTradeRumors, is another $50.1 million, putting their payroll at approximately $145 million. Last year’s salary was just over $150 million.

So, I could see the team adding about $20 million in contracts, but that is it. Sure, some of the players eligible for arbitration, such as T.J. McFarland and Vance Worley may get released, and others may get less.

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So, here are the two options I think are most likely and I would like to see for the Orioles this offseason, as far as major moves.

1 – Sign Ian Desmond, Steve Pearce

2 – Sign Mark Trumbo, Steve Pearce

I’m not going to do a deep number dive on this, because there will be more time for that later, and I am in number overkill with my year end positional review columns. Let’s look at this as to how the Baltimore Orioles could use the players.

With Ian Desmond, a player the team has already expressed interest in according to Jon Morosi, the Orioles would get a versatile outfielder who is a solid leadoff candidate. He can play the corner outfield, and also has speed. He has been a member of the 20 HRs, 20 SBs club four of the last five seasons. He’s also a guy who will work the count and get on-base, something the Orioles covet.

In making Desmond a regular starter (likely in right field), that would enable Hyun-Soo Kim to likely be the left fielder.

I also think the addition of Desmond, and Steve Pearce, would shore up the utility position that Ryan Flaherty has held. Desmond can fill in at SS (as can Manny Machado, of course) and Pearce can play first, second or third enough to finish a game.

Chris Davis could also move across the diamond if absolutely necessary. And with Desmond, Pearce, Kim and Joey Rickard all likely on the roster, Rickard would be a backup CF (a role Desmond can fill) and fourth outfielder/speed and defense guy off the bench.

Why Steve Pearce? Well, he is generating a lot of buzz as a guy who crushes lefties. The Orioles of course have expressed interest in keeping Pearce, and he is a favorite of both Buck Showalter and fans.

Plus, Pearce has the versatility the Orioles need as they eliminate waste on the roster (Flaherty), allowing the team to potentially keep 13 pitchers. Pearce also is a guy who may wear down playing the field every day, but would be useful in a DH situation (or platoon) with his power.

The second option, re-signing Mark Trumbo, would show that the team is looking to bring back the power. Trumbo, of course, led the majors in home runs in 2016 while a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

In bringing back Trumbo, it would be a sign that the team is looking to have both Kim and Rickard start in the outfield (or a platoon with Pearce, possibly for Rickard) and I am 100 percent fine with this. As long as Trumbo is your masher at DH, I am fine with Joey Rickard working through a full season in the outfield.

To be honest, I am a big fan of either of these situations. Signing Desmond may require around $15-17.5 million a year for probably 3-4 years, while Trumbo will probably be the upper end of that and will probably require a four-year deal. Pearce is a deal that could be made for 3-5 million, and could focus on incentives such as plate appearances.

Unless a major trade happens, the other major hole this leaves is catcher. I think the team will likely try to bring in a veteran, like Jason Castro or Nick Hundley, but perhaps not at their price. If it is going to be too much money, I think that Caleb Joseph will be the starting catcher, and I am fine with that. Even if a veteran is brought in, I still want Caleb catching.

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I know last year was ugly for Caleb (in more ways than just at the plate), but I think he deserves the starting job. He works well with the pitchers, and has always been regarded as a good hitter. I think with regular at-bats, like in 2015, he would be able to show that that is the case.

As for the pitching staff, I think there could be a few minor moves, like bringing back Tommy Hunter, but nothing earth-shattering. I would love a low-risk, high-reward deal for Greg Holland to help make the back-end of the Orioles’ bullpen even better, but I think he will be too expensive.

To be honest, if the O’s swing either of the above two scenarios, I don’t see them having more than $5 million left for other free agents.

Next: Assessing The Ravens Midseason

Let the free agent period begin. And remember, don’t believe a player is coming to Baltimore until it actually happens. Yes, I’m looking at you Dexter Fowler (who is also a free agent, but I’m not sure the FA would want to do that again).