The 2013 postseason is about halfway over, and for those baseball fans who are eagerly awaiting the start of the winter hot stove season, that's good news.
With the free-agent market fast approaching, every team will look to improve their squad for the 2013 campaign.
The Baltimore Orioles figure to be one of the more aggressive players after an extremely quiet winter last offseason, as well as a winning season viewed as somewhat of a failure after an inability to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Overall, the Orioles have a fairly strong offense, but are lacking in a couple statistical categories. They will be looking to fill holes at second base, left field and DH this offseason. The team led all of baseball in homers in 2013, with first baseman Chris Davis and center fielder Adam Jones being the key contributors there, so they won't be looking to add a ton of power.
Some players on the free-agent market would fit in perfectly with the O's. Let's take a look at who the O's should target this offseason.
Many Orioles fans would love to see Kendrys Morales in an Orioles uniform.
The switch-hitter had a fantastic season with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009, when he hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBI. The following two seasons were unfortunate and injury-plagued, however.
He bounced back in 2012 with a solid season in Los Angeles and was traded to the Seattle Mariners prior to the 2013 season. He hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBI while tacking on 34 doubles, as an M.
Morales would be a fantastic fit at DH for the O's, hitting fifth or sixth in the lineup behind Jones and Davis, providing great lineup protection for the big bats. And with catcher Matt Wieters and shortstop J.J. Hardy likely hitting around or behind him, Morales could find some serious success in the powerful Baltimore lineup.
Most notably, though, would be the addition of Morales' solid career OBP of .333, a department that the O's need help in as they finished 2013 with a team .313 OBP, which was 19th in baseball.
It's no wonder that the two teams currently battling it out in the ALCS, the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, finished number one and two in baseball, respectively, in team OBP. The St. Louis Cardinals, currently leading the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, finished third in said category.
What's more, Morales could play some first base on occasion to give Davis a break and keep him fresh all season, as it appeared the O's as a whole were worn down during the end of August and September.
While he wouldn't come cheap, Morales wouldn't totally break the bank, either. He would be the kind of notable signing that the O's should pursue to boost their lineup.
Even though Shin-Soo Choo was a right fielder primarily during his career with the Cleveland Indians, the Cincinnati Reds used him as a center fielder in 2013. And if the O's were to sign him, they'd likely envision him as the every day left fielder.
Choo's defense isn't anything to write home about, but his bat is a serious, all-around weapon. His 162-game average for homers and RBI sits at 20 and 81, respectively, and his career .288 batting average is great.
He hit 34 doubles in 2013, averaging 37 a season. He also has a season average of 20 stolen bases.
Oh yeah, and that's over a nine-year career, the first three of which lacked much playing time at all.
Choo would be a fantastic fit in the leadoff or two-hole of the O's lineup. With his career OBP of .389, the O's would likely have an easier time scoring some runs than they did at the end of the 2013 season with Choo getting counts to work in front of the O's big boppers.
However, with abilities like Choo's comes a high price to pay, and the O's likely wouldn't want to get in that bidding war. I see Choo's arrival to Baltimore as a long shot, but boy would it be nice to have an OBP like that atop the O's order.
Nate McLouth is a fan favorite in Birdland, and rightfully so: He's a gamer and a solid player overall.
However, McLouth was likely overused in 2013, as he appeared in 146 games, received 593 plate appearances and seemed to wear down at the end of the year with a September slump.
One of the areas of improvement for the O's is their bench. McLouth would be the perfect kind of player for a part-time role, by either pairing him up with a right-handed hitter as part of a platoon for left field or having him rotate between all three outfield positions and DH. This would give the regulars some rest, getting Mclouth anywhere from 2-4 games a week.
With a rotating bench role, McLouth would provide some much-needed rest for Jones and Nick Markakis, with the goal of keeping them healthy and rested deep into the season so they can stay strong for a playoff run.
If McLouth is asking too much, the O's would be wise to let him go. But considering that he was able to rip 31 doubles, belt 12 homers, steal 30 bases and get on base at a .329 clip, he certainly provides value if used properly. The two parties would be wise to reunite under fair terms.
Carlos Beltran is one heck of a player.
The switch-hitter is now 36 years old, so his career is likely winding down. But according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Beltran is hoping to continue to play for three or four more years. With that desire, Beltran likely would want at least a two- or three-year contract, something the O's may not be willing to offer to a player his age.
Beltran has a lot in his favor, though. With three straight healthy seasons of 142 games or more, Beltran has more than proven that his injury-plagued days with the New York Met are behind him.
In 2013, Beltran hit .296 with a .339 OBP along with 30 two-baggers, 24 homers and 84 RBI. The season before that he mashed 32 dingers with 97 RBI and had on OBP of .346, but his batting average was lower at a .269 clip. He's obviously still capable of getting on base, driving in runs and hitting the long ball.
Most notably, Beltran is a serious postseason performer, with a career postseason batting average of .327 and a ridiculous OBP of .443, and he's knocked 16 homers in 194 plate appearances.
Beltran would fit in either at left field or DH for the O's and could hit anywhere from second to sixth in the lineup—not to mention he would bring veteran leadership and experience to the team.
I would guess that Beltran would cost too much for the Orioles' liking, considering his age. But the talent and production is obviously still there. It may not be a bad move to pursue him as long as the money isn't completely outrageous.
After all, you have to pay for talent to get talent. And Beltran certainly is talent.
Brian Roberts is an interesting case.
The lifelong Oriole is a fan favorite. He's had horrible luck with injuries the last four seasons, but finally was able to string together some healthy months during the season's second half appearing in 74 games after starting the season's first three games and injuring himself in the third game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Roberts proved capable in the field, but hit only .249 during 2013, a very low number for a guy who usually hit anywhere from .280-.300 during his career.
The strange thing, though, is how Roberts appeared to hit for more power after returning from his injury: eight homers and 39 RBI in just 77 games this year, over 265 at-bats. His career high of 18 homers came in 2005, but since then he remained in the 9-16 range until he became injured in 2010. It could possibly be because Roberts mostly hit towards the bottom of the order in 2013 as opposed to the leadoff spot, which was his home for most of his career prior to injury.
Roberts presents value in veteran leadership and a bit of pop, which is why he'll likely seek out a one-year deal with big incentives. Honestly, I see him and the Orioles agreeing on such a deal to keep Roberts in Baltimore and progress towards keeping him a career O.
A Roberts return wouldn't be bad for the team. Manager Buck Showalter would just have to be smart about how he uses the veteran second baseman.
Mike Napoli would be exactly the same kind of addition that Morales would be: a high OBP power bat who can DH most of the time and rotate into first to give Davis a break every once in a while.
A right-handed bat, Napoli could hit anywhere from third to sixth in the O's order given the opposing pitcher and who's playing that day for the Birds. He hit 23 homers from the Boston Red Sox in 2013 to go along with 92 RBI in 498 at-bats, and while his batting average of .259 appears a bit low, he had an OBP of .360.
Napoli does strike out a ton, whiffing 187 times in 2013, but that's easy to overlook when he drives in runs, not to mention that his 2013 OBP would rank second on the O's after Davis' .370 mark.
Granted, Napoli does have his flaws, but so does every hitter not named Miguel Cabrera. Overall, I believe he would improve the O's lineup, not hurt it.
The thing is, Napoli likely won't come cheap, and if my thinking is correct, he won't come at all. I see Napoli re-upping with the Red Sox.
He and the Sox had agreed upon a multi-year contract last winter, but scrapped that after the Sox had concerns with his health. They settled on a one-year deal, but now that Napoli has proven to be healthy and capable, the Sox will bring him back and they won't let anyone out-bid them for his services. After all, he is a fan favorite in Boston.
Napoli would be a great fit in the O's lineup, but the team would probably be better served pursuing other targets (e.g. Morales, Beltran) than wasting their time on a futile negotiation with Napoli.