Going into the 2012-13 offseason, the Baltimore Orioles have a few items on their shopping list.
Priority No. 1: a big, middle-of-the-order bat.
The biggest name—and arguably the best all-around player available—on the free-agent market this season is outfielder Josh Hamilton. But Hamilton wants a long-term, $100 million-plus contract, and despite his incredible natural ability, he comes with some baggage, forcing many teams to look toward other options.
The Orioles have already been linked to Hamilton (naturally), but many are unsure of the O's true interest in the slugger due to his price tag and his past. However, the team is in dire need of a bat, and they may be desperate to make something happen.
As always, there are other options than the biggest name in the free-agent market, and for the O's, those options might be smarter for them than Hamilton.
Let's take a look at some of the players the O's could target as opposed to Hamilton.
Giancarlo Stanton, formerly known as Mike Stanton, is a young star on the rise. After turning 23 almost a week ago, the young slugger already has 93 career homers along with a career OBP of .350.
However, it's not very likely, either, being that Stanton is affordable, under team control for a while and a bona-fide slugger.
The Marlins would be stupid to give away Stanton for next to nothing like they did in the salary dump with the Jays, and they would almost certainly demand pitching prospects Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman in any deal with the O's. The Orioles would probably not be willing to deal either of those two, though, and that would obviously hinder any trade talks concerning the O's and Stanton.
Stanton would be a perfect acquisition for the Orioles and could slot into left field, but it would take a lot of things to go right in order for the team to acquire the budding star.
It seems like the Orioles and Adam LaRoche have been linked for the last decade.
Again, the powerful lefty will hit the open market looking for a multi-year deal, and again, the O's are linked to LaRoche.
The O's undoubtedly have LaRoche on their radar, but they seem to want to bring back Mark Reynolds because of his late-season offensive surge as well as his outstanding defense after his move across the diamond.
LaRoche received his first Gold Glove award this season, so he's no slouch in the field, and his batting line of .271, 33 HR and 100 RBI would look nice in the middle of the Orioles lineup.
What's more, LaRoche would be a lot cheaper and on a shorter deal than Hamilton would sign on to. Should the O's not bring back Reynolds, expect them to make a push for LaRoche.
Like Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Willingham could be the perfect right-handed bat to compliment Adam Jones and Chris Davis in the middle of the Baltimore lineup.
Willingham is your classic right-handed power bat. He belted 35 homers, drove in 110 runs and hit .260 while getting on base at an impressive .366 clip last season.
He isn't a great fielder, but he could get the job done out in left field while spelling Chris Davis at DH on occasion. And with his great on-base ability, he would be exactly what Orioles GM Dan Duquette is looking for when he says he wants to make the team's OBP better.
Since Willingham isn't a huge name and has probably peaked (unlike how Stanton is a young budding talent), the Minnesota Twins probably wouldn't want as much for him in a trade as the Miami Marlins would for Stanton. But you don't get that kind of production for free, so the O's would definitely have to give up something of value in return.
Even still, Willingham may be the one of the best power options for the Orioles this offseason if they're serious and willing to bring that bat to Camden Yards.
The Orioles have coveted Billy Butler for years. Every offseason, they're linked to him in trade rumors, and every offseason, the Kansas City Royals don't trade him.
The reason they're not very willing to let him go is pretty obvious. In 161 games in 2012, Butler hit .313 with 29 homers and 107 RBI. Throw in his 32 doubles and an amazing .373 OBP over 614 at-bats, and he's easily one of the best all-around right-handed bats in baseball.
Butler will be 27 early on in the 2013 season, so he's still relatively young. It would take a lot to pry him from the Royals, much like Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins, so it's questionable as to how interested the Birds would be if talks between the two teams were to initiate.
The only downside to Butler's game is his poor fielding ability, so he'd pretty much have to be a full-time DH, pushing Chris Davis to the field if the O's were to acquire him. But to slot his bat between Adam Jones and Davis could be worth the negative defensive effect.
Butler could be the best all-around hitter for the Orioles to get this offseason. And besides, the man's nickname is "Country Breakfast." Isn't that reason enough to put him on your team?