Now that the Baltimore Orioles have officially been eliminated from playoff contention, it's time to look forward to next season.
Last offseason, the Orioles laid low. They chose not to re-sign 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, but made no major changes to a team that made a surprise playoff appearance other than that.
This year could be different.
After falling short of the playoffs despite repeated attempts to improve the team through midseason trades, Orioles general manager Dan Duquette may decide to make a bigger splash in the free-agent market this offseason.
Now, by no means is the following list previewing which players the Orioles will pursue or sign in free agency. It is simply a list of a few players the Orioles should pursue or could perhaps sign.
Whether you agree or disagree with the players chosen, please add to the discussion in the comments below.
Here are the free-agent names the Orioles should be chasing this offseason.
The Orioles have a few of their own players who could be testing free agency this year. While a few of those players should be re-signed before they reach that stage, others should be allowed to test the free-agent waters.
Nate McLouth, OF
Although his production diminished as the season wore on, Nate McLouth still fits in well with the Orioles. He brings speed to a slow team, makes for a solid left fielder/fourth outfielder and remains a fan favorite.
Francisco Rodriguez, RP
K-Rod hasn't been exceptional in his time in Baltimore. However, he is still a good relief pitcher who the O's would be happy to have next season. Unless he demands an absurd amount of money, the Birds should try to keep the four-time All-Star.
Scott Feldman, SP
After a rocky start to his career with the Orioles, Scott Feldman has been one of the better starters over the last couple of months for the O's. As with K-Rod, if the price is reasonable, the O's should keep Feldman around.
Alexi Casilla, 2B
The Orioles have a $3 million team option on the utility infielder for next season. While that seems slightly expensive for a backup infielder, Casilla provides a good glove and could start a decent quantity of games next season if he returns.
Brian Roberts, 2B
B-Rob played more games this year (73) than he did in any of the previous three seasons. Still, 73 isn't necessarily a lot. The 35-year-old has come up with a few key hits and has driven in 38 RBI this year in limited time, but he's only hitting .242 and it's time for the Orioles to move on to younger options—such as Jonathan Schoop—at second base.
Jason Hammel, SP
After a good 2012, Hammel was declared the Orioles' "ace" for the 2013 season. Sadly, injuries, inconsistency and the home run ball ruined any chance of a repeat performance from Hammel. While the O's could give him one more shot, it wouldn't be shocking at all if they let Hammel walk.
Michael Morse, OF/DH
Morse has been extremely disappointing since the Orioles acquired him back in August. He's 3-29 with three singles in his time with the O's. While that's not bad for a pitcher, it's pretty awful for a so-called power hitter.
2013 Stats: 23 GS, 9-7, 4.01 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 105/44 K/BB
2013 Salary: $8.5 million
The Orioles seem to be always connected to a starting pitcher or two in the offseason. This year will likely be no different.
Jason Vargas is a solid veteran pitcher who has pitched well over the last few years for both the Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Angels. In his last start on Tuesday night, Vargas threw a four-hit shutout against the Oakland A's.
The 30-year-old lefty shouldn't be overly expensive, making him a viable target for the Orioles.
2013 Stats: None
2013 Salary: $10 million
Brewers outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart missed the entire 2013 season dealing with knee injuries. His days of roaming the outfield and stealing a few bases are likely over.
That being said, he could fit with the Orioles very nicely as their designated hitter.
Hart is a career .276 hitter who has hit 20-plus homers in five of his last six seasons, excluding this season. He could also come at a slightly discounted price, considering that he hasn't played a game since the 2012 season.
2013 Stats: 156 G, .314 AVG, 27 HR, 105 RBI, 80 R
2013 Salary: $15 million
This one may be slightly—or perhaps extremely—unrealistic. However, the free-agent market isn't overloaded with talent this offseason. Therefore, unless the Orioles can get someone like Robbie Cano to play second base, they are better off giving Jonathan Schoop or Ryan Flaherty a shot at the everyday second-base job.
Cano is a superstar, there's no doubt about it. The likelihood of the Orioles dishing out the money that he's going to demand isn't very high. Still, the O's have a weakness at second base and there isn't any other second baseman worth pursuing.
In his nine seasons with the New York Yankees, Cano has made five All-Star teams, won four Silver Slugger and two Gold Glove awards, while hitting .300-plus in all but two seasons. He'd fit in any team's lineup, including the Orioles.