Predicting Decisions the Baltimore Orioles Will Make on Soon-to-Be FA's
With their average age only being 28, most of the players on the Orioles roster are still arbitration-eligible. While others, like Adam Jones, have already worked out a long-term deal.
However, there are a few notable Orioles in the last year of their contract that the O's could lose at the end of the year. So let's speculate what the organization will do with these players on the verge of free agency.
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2013 Salary: $6.75M
The Orioles avoided arbitration with Jason Hammel in the offseason, but he is slated to become a free agent at the conclusion of this season.
The 30-year-old righty was the Orioles' Opening Day starter and has already picked up seven wins on the year. However, his win total doesn't tell the whole story. For the most part, Hammel has underperformed, and there is plenty of room for improvement.
At 5.24, Hammel's ERA is the highest it's been since his 2007 season with Tampa. The biggest reason for this has been the home run ball. He's allowed 13 homers in 80.2 IP this year, compared to the just nine in 118.0 innings last year.
Despite the wins, a turnaround is likely needed if Hammel is to remain an Oriole in 2014. But even if he does turn it around, the organization has younger, cheaper and perhaps better options for their rotation of the future.
Financially, it would also be more beneficial to Hammel if he tested free agency, as starting pitching is seemingly always an overpaid commodity. Unless they can convince him otherwise and get him for a discount, the Orioles may not re-sign Hammel.
Final Decision: Orioles let him walk.
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2013 Salary: $10M
Oh, B-Rob. Yet another injury has derailed a season full of high hopes and dreams.
It's true that there's still more than half the season remaining, but does anyone really expect Roberts to come back and stay healthy? I mean, I guess it could happen, however unlikely it may be.
According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, the veteran second baseman could go on a rehab assignment shortly, which means Roberts could be back with the Orioles by the beginning of July. And with Ryan Flaherty's performance being anything but convincing, he would likely be inserted into the lineup immediately.
At 35, Roberts' best years are probably behind him, but you never know. Maybe he'll come back and be the B-Rob of old, helping the O's make another playoff run.
Regardless, the odds of the Orioles retaining Roberts is unlikely. His history of injuries will probably scare other teams away also. Truth is, no one would be shocked if Roberts decided to hang 'em up. But if he wants to continue his baseball career, he would need to take a huge salary cut.
Final Decision: Not re-signed. Possibly retirement.
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2013 Salary: $1.7M (2014: $3M Team Option, $200k buyout)
Alexi Casilla has been average so far this year for the O's. Mostly playing at second base against left-handed starting pitchers, Casilla is only hitting .211 on the season, but plays a solid second base and is a good baserunner, despite his gaffe against the Red Sox.
Is he worth $3 million dollars? Eh, it depends.
It was originally thought that when the Orioles claimed Casilla off waivers from the Twins that he was merely an insurance policy to start at second base in case Roberts got injured.
Lo and behold, Roberts got hurt, but it's been Ryan Flaherty that's getting the majority of the starts. And even when Flaherty was optioned to Triple-A, it was Yamaico Navarro getting the time at second base. The 28-year-old Casilla has been more of an unused utility man than anything.
With Brian Roberts unlikely to return in 2014, Casilla, Flaherty and perhaps prospect Jonathan Schoop would likely be competing for the starting second base job. While Casilla is unlikely to win that job, he could remain as the Orioles' utility infielder, regardless if the Orioles decide to look elsewhere for a starting second baseman.
Final Decision: Option exercised.
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2013 Salary: $1.75M (2014: $3.2M Vesting Option)
To obtain his 2014 option, which requires 700 plate appearances over 2012 and 2013 combined, Wilson Betemit would need 324 PAs over the remainder of the season. Since Betemit has been on the DL the entirety of the season thus far and isn't slated to return until at least mid-July, reaching that milestone is extremely unlikely.
The 31-year-old switch-hitter has, somewhat surprisingly, been missed by the Orioles, as one of the team' biggest weaknesses has been the play of their designated hitter. And while Betemit struggles batting from the right side (career .228 average), as a lefty, he's a very solid contributor (career .281 average).
When he returns, Betemit will likely share DH duties with either Steve Pearce or Danny Valencia. That being said, it's questionable whether or not the Orioles will re-sign Betemit at the end of the year.
While he does bring a decent bat, Betemit is largely useless in the field. Because if this, along with the fact that the Orioles could go after another hitter for a DH role at either the trade deadline or the offseason, suggests that the re-signing of Betemit will not be a priority, and may not happen at all.
Final Decision: Orioles do not re-sign.
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2013 Salary: $2M
Looking back on it, the Orioles best move of the offseason was likely the re-signing of Nate McLouth to a one-year, $2 million deal.
Batting leadoff, the 31-year-old veteran outfielder has produced more than originally expected. His power numbers may be slightly down, but McLouth's averaging .288, he's scored 44 runs and he's second in the AL in stolen bases with a career-high 24, all while playing a very good left field.
And while prospects L.J. Hoes, Xavier Avery and Henry Urrutia are all waiting for a call-up, McLouth's job is in no immediate danger.
The biggest issue facing the Orioles in re-signing McLouth could easily be the price tag. He'll likely ask for a long-term deal, along with a hefty price increase over his current $2 million salary. And while the Orioles should have the money to afford him, it's the extra years that could scare them away.
However, unless another team offers him a huge deal, the Orioles and McLouth should be able to come up with a reasonable compromise to keep the veteran in Baltimore.
Final Decision: Re-signed, 3 yr/$19M