The O's will have to make some tough decisions regarding their own pending free agents.
Of the players heading for free agency, there are three key guys the O's and their fan base would like to see return to the team:
Left fielder Nate McLouth (pictured, left), second baseman Brian Roberts (pictured, right), and starting pitcher Scott Feldman.
McLouth began his Orioles career last summer, and quickly became a mainstay in the O's lineup and a fan favorite after struggling big time with the Atlanta Braves and then the Pittsburgh Pirates. He signed a one-year, $2 million deal to return to the O's last offseason and further proved he's a player who has been reborn, and a fairly strong season atop the O's lineup where he hit .258 with 12 homers, 36 RBI, and 30 steals may have priced him out of the Orioles future plans, depending on where the club wants to go and what other teams will offer the speedy outfielder.
Roberts, on the other hand, has been an Oriole forever. The longest-tenured current Oriole has 13 seasons under his belt, but the last four have been so riddled with injuries that it's a miracle he strung together 74 healthy games to finish out the 2013 season. Roberts has obviously lost a little in his bat and might not be the best option as a leadoff hitter anymore, he still provides some value as a solid defender with a little pop at the bottom of the order, as he hit eight homers in 265 at-bats in 2013.
A mid-season acquisition, Feldman did exactly what the O's wanted him to do: give the team a chance to win every time out with a solid ERA and eat some innings. He threw 90.2 innings in 15 starts in Baltimore, going 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA, and pitching the team's only complete game of the year, the first shutout of his career. Feldman is one of manager Buck Showalter's favorites, making his return to Baltimore all the more likely.
If McLouth will sign for a reasonable amount of money, he'll be back in Baltimore next year. He's a solid player, but likely would benefit from a platoon role as opposed to a full-time starting role. Other teams could offer him deals that will price him out of Baltimore, but only time will tell in that regard. If the money is right, McLouth will be back.
Roberts, on the flip side, will almost certainly return. He loves the O's, the O's love him, and the fans love B-Rob as well. A reunion is almost certain, as Roberts understand he's not worth the money he used to be, and likely will take a short-term deal with a low-base salary loaded with playing time and performance incentives. Roberts will provide solid depth for the O's infield.
Feldman is a bit trickier of a situation. As I said, Showalter loves him and he provides value as a back-end starter who eats innings with a solid ERA. But he could be worth more than what the O's are willing to pay him. As always, it all depends on the market around him. He could be priced out of Baltimore, or he could be priced right back into the O's Opening Day rotation.
I believe all three would provide value to the O's, but the team definitely shouldn't over pay for any of them. The only one I fully believe will be back is Roberts, but I believe the odds for McLouth and Feldman are good. It will be interesting to see how it unfolds, and the O's would be smart to pursue them.