Baltimore Orioles Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free-Agency News
After ending a 15-year playoff drought in 2012, Baltimore headed into the 2013 with high expectations.
While the team was successful, putting together its second consecutive winning season (85-77) for the first time since 1996 and 1997, the Orioles fell short, finishing 6.5 games out of a wild-card berth and 12 games behind Boston for the division lead.
Adding to the starting rotation remains a priority, but with the potential departures of left fielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Brian Roberts as free agents, plugging those holes could take precedence over the rotation's issues as the offseason progresses.
Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Orioles, along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click to the next slide to see the latest from the rumor mill as the O's put together their roster for 2014.
Baltimore's Free Agents
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Baltimore this winter, including the status of the team's free agents.
Orioles Free Agents
IF Alexi Casilla (Nov. 4: Team declined $4 million option)
LHP Scott Feldman
RHP Eddie Gamboa (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
RHP Jason Hammel
LF Nate McLouth
1B/DH Michael Morse
OF Jason Pridie (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
2B Brian Roberts
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
C Chris Snyder
LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (Nov. 2: Team declined $5 million option)
Nov. 18: Signed LHP Kelvin De La Cruz to a one-year deal
Nov. 20: Signed RHP Edgmer Escalona to a one-year deal
Nov. 25: Acquired RHP Brad Bach from San Diego in exchange for RHP Devin Jones
Nov. 25: Claimed INF Cord Phelps off waivers from Cleveland
Joel Hanrahan: Free Agent, Orioles Interested in Former All-Star
Thursday, Dec. 5 at 3:09 p.m. ET
Two-time National League All-Star Joel Hanrahan is being discussed by Orioles brass as a potential replacement for Jim Johnson as the team's closer, according to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko.
Hanrahan, 32, would be a low-cost signing, but one that may not pay dividends right away as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery this past May. Hanrahan struggled during his short time in Boston before the injury, converting 4-of-6 saves but allowing eight earned runs and 10 hits over only 7.1 innings.
From 2011 to 2012, Hanrahan was a stud for the Pirates, going 76-for-84 in save chances while pitching to a 2.24 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
John Axford: Free Agent Baltimore's Top Choice to Replace Johnson?
Thursday, Dec. 5 at 3:00 p.m. ET
MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko says that Axford is "rising up" Baltimore's wish list as a relatively low-cost replacement for Jim Johnson as the team's closer.
He goes on to note that Axford, who has spent his entire career in the National League and never pitched at Camden Yards, isn't a perfect fit—but he may be better than the team's in-house options.
--End of Update--
Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 11:57 a.m. ET
Former Brewers closer John Axford is among the relievers that the Orioles are considering as replacements for Jim Johnson at the back-end of the bullpen, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Axford, non-tendered by St. Louis, finished the 2013 season with the Cardinals after wearing out his welcome in Milwaukee, pitching to a 1.74 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 10.1 innings of work.
It was only three years ago that Axford took the baseball world by storm, pitching to a 1.95 ERA and 1.14 WHIP while leading the National League with 46 saves, numbers that earned him a ninth-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award race and 17th place in the NL MVP vote.
While Axford is perhaps more risky of an option than some of the other free agent relievers with closing experience, he's also going to come at a significantly lower cost than more established options like Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Orioles Eying Free Agent to Bolster Rotation
Wednesday, Dec.4 at 11:51 p.m. ET
Baltimore has targeted Ubaldo Jimenez as a potential addition to the rotation and are said to be in active talks with the free agent hurler, according to a report from Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Jimenez, who celebrates his 30th birthday before Opening Day, had a terrific season for Cleveland, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 194 strikeouts in 182.2 innings of work. He was especially strong down the stretch, posting an ERA of 1.82 over his last 13 starts.
While he still walks nearly four batters per game, Jimenez is the type of innings-eating power arm that the Orioles need to add to what is a rather bland, mediocre, rotation.
Nelson Cruz: Disgraced Outfielder on Baltimore's Radar
Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 11:45 p.m. ET
A source characterizes the Orioles as being in "active talks" with free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to a report by Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Cruz, 33, hit .266 with 27 home runs, 76 RBI and an .833 OPS over 109 games for the Rangers in 2013, and has slugged at least 22 home runs and driven in at least 76 runs in each of the past five seasons. In 21 career games at Camden Yards, Cruz has posted a .333/.368/.481 slash line with two home runs and nine RBI.
Shin-Soo Choo: Orioles Have Interest in Free Agent Outfielder
Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 11:40 p.m. ET
The Orioles are active in talks with free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, sources tell Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Choo, 31, is an on-base machine (a career .389 mark) with the ability to put together a 20-20 season, but a defensive liability, even in a corner outfield spot.
He's spent all but one year of his nine-year major league career in the American League, primarily with the Indians. Over 65 career plate appearances at Camden Yards, Choo boasts a career .368 batting average with two home runs, nine RBI and a .972 OPS.
Carlos Beltran: Orioles Interested in Free Agent Slugger
Update: Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 2:05 p.m. ET
Beltran has received a three-year, $48 million deal from an unknown team, according to ESPN's Buster Olney.
The Mariners have been speculated as the mystery team, but, with the Orioles having freed up roughly $10 million in salary with the Jim Johnson trade, could they have extended the offer?
--End of Update--
Update: Friday, Nov. 22 at 11:43 p.m. ET
Officials from two different teams say that Beltran has yet to request a three-year deal from anyone, according to the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.
--End of Update--
Update: Friday, Nov. 22 at 9:50 p.m. ET
A source tells CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the Orioles are "not really" in the Beltran sweepstakes.
Given his desire for a three-or-four-year deal and the salary he's expected to command, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
--End of Update--
Update: Friday, Nov. 15 at 1:09 p.m. ET
Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Orioles have real interest in signing Beltran, but that the team's chances of doing so may hinge on being able to move C Matt Wieters or another high-salaried player in a trade.
Aside from Wieters, who is arbitration eligible, other Orioles making significant money in 2014 include CF Adam Jones ($13 million), RF Nick Markakis ($15 million) and SS J.J. Hardy ($7 million).
--End of Update--
George A. King III of the New York Post reports that the Orioles are one of three teams that are interested in free agent switch-hitter Carlos Beltran, though he notes that the Red Sox are pursuing him far more aggressively than either the Orioles or Yankees, the third team connected to him, seem to be at this point.
Yet, as Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun points out, the Orioles aren't likely to be willing to spend the money that it will take to get Beltran signed, nor would they want to surrender the first-round draft pick that any team that signs him would have to give up, thanks to St. Louis extending him a qualifying offer.
So while adding Beltran to the mix remains a possibility, that possibility has a very low probability of actually taking place.
Dec. 2: Acquired 2B Jemile Weeks
2013 Stats (Triple-A): .271/.376/.369, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 17-for-19 SB
Contract Status: Under team control through 2017, becomes arbitration eligible in 2015
The Orioles were ready to move on from Jim Johnson as their closer, and they used him to obtain Jemile Weeks, who they hope will be the long-term solution to the gaping hole that has been left at second base by the oft-injured Brian Roberts, who remains a free agent.
Weeks appeared in only eight games for the A's in 2013, going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts, spending most of the season with Triple-A Sacramento in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he continued to flash some of the defensive inefficiencies that drive fans and coaches insane.
Since hitting .303 with a .761 OPS and 22 stolen bases over 97 games for the A's in 2011, Weeks has struggled to equal that production. A change of scenery and a chance to win the everyday job in spring training may be all the speedy switch-hitter needs to get things back on track.
While he may be something of a reclamation project, Weeks still has significant upside and could allow the team to shift some of the money they had budgeted at second base to the starting rotation. As for who will close in Baltimore, ESPN's Jim Bowden says that the team will look outside the organization for that player.
Michael Young: Free Agent Reached out to Orioles
Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Peter Gammons says that the Orioles see free agent infielder Michael Young, who reached out to both Baltimore and Boston, as "interesting."
A seven-time All-Star, the 37-year-old Young split the 2013 season with the Phillies and Dodgers, hitting a combined .279 with eight home runs, 46 RBI and a .730 OPS.
Noted for his versatility and tremendous clubhouse presence, Young could fill the void Baltimore currently has at second base. Or, should Brian Roberts return for another season at the position, Young could fill in for the injured Manny Machado at third base (if he's not ready for Opening Day) while providing insurance for the oft-injured Roberts.
Gavin Floyd: Free Agent, Orioles Interested
Baltimore has some interest in free agent Gavin Floyd, according to the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly.
Floyd, 30, has spent the past six seasons with the White Sox, pitching to a 4.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP while averaging 26 starts a year. Five times a double-digit winner, he was limited to only four starts in 2013 before undergoing Tommy John surgery, at which time he also had a torn flexor tendon repaired.
While there's certainly some risk in signing a pitcher that is coming off of major surgery, Floyd profiles as a classic low risk, high reward signing, someone who can not only help the Orioles in 2014, but in years to come.
An incentive-laden one-year deal, with a team option for a second season, might be the best way to go for Baltimore, protecting against Floyd re-establishing his value and bolting as a free agent after the season.
A Maryland native, Connolly notes that the Orioles have liked Floyd since he was a prep standout at Mt. St. Joseph's High School.
Bronson Arroyo: Free Agent, Orioles Interested
Monday, Nov. 18 at 4:10 p.m. ET
Bronson Arroyo, who will celebrate his 37th birthday before Opening Day 2014, told Sirius/XM's Jim Bowden that the Orioles have contacted him, though they've yet to extend him an offer.
The veteran has been one of the more reliable starters in baseball over the past nine years, tossing at least 200 innings in all but one season—2011, when he finished one shy of the mark with 199.
He's coming off of a solid campaign for Cincinnati that saw him go 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, his second consecutive season with a sub-4.00 ERA. While allows too many home runs, leading baseball for the second time in three years with 32 long balls hit off of him, some of that can be attributed to him making half of his starts in Great American Ballpark, one of the more hitter-friendly venues in the game.
Not extended a qualifying offer by the Reds, the Orioles would not have to surrender a draft pick if they did wind up signing him.
Nate McLouth: Free Agent, Not Extended Qualifying Offer
Update: Saturday, Nov. 16 at 12:01 a.m. ET
The Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly says that Baltimore has been in touch with McLouth's representatives, but reiterates that a one-year deal, which is the Orioles preference, isn't something that the veteran outfielder is interested in.
The market for McLouth hasn't materialized yet, though Tampa Bay, one of his suitors a year ago, no longer seems like a fit with the Rays re-signing of David DeJesus. That said, we may need to see if Baltimore can shed some salary to fit a bigger name in (Carlos Beltran) before they seriously try and work out a new deal with him.
--End of Update--
Baltimore chose to not extend a qualifying offer to 32-year-old Nate McLouth, the team's starting left fielder, acording to Masnsports.com's Roch Kubatko.
That McLouth wasn't tendered a qualifying offer of $14.1 million isn't much of a surprise. While he was a serviceable player for the Orioles, hitting .258 with 12 home runs, 36 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 2013, McLouth is certainly not a $14 million player.
While the Orioles will try and bring McLouth back into the fold for 2014 and beyond, it's going to cost Baltimore far more than the $2 million that it paid the veteran last year to get a deal done.
Depending on his asking price, McLouth could find himself on the outside looking in as the Orioles go in a different direction in left field, perhaps with the oft-injured Nolan Reimold, who is expected to be ready for spring training.
Matt Wieters: Catcher on the Block?
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 1:36 p.m. ET
The Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina says that while the Orioles don't dispute that Wieters is potentially available, the team is not shopping him and has not officially put him on the trading block.
--End of Update--
Having made no progress on a contract extension for two-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles are willing to trade the 27-year-old, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Wieters, under team control through the 2015 season, is represented by Scott Boras, who has a reputation for making sure that his clients hit the free agent market.
One of the premier defensive catchers in the game, the switch-hitting Wieters has struggled at the plate, hitting only .235/.287/.417 in 2013, though he did chip in with 22 home runs and 79 RBI, his third consecutive season with at least 20 home runs.
Shelby Miller: Orioles Tried to Acquire NL Rookie of the Year Finalist
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 12:01 p.m. ET
--End of Update--
According to a report from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Orioles approached the Cardinals about a trade that would have sent All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy to St. Louis in exchange for right-handed starter Shelby Miller—but were rebuffed by the National League champs, who told the O's that there was no deal to be made.
That the Orioles are being aggressive in trying to bolster the rotation shouldn't come as much of a surprise; adding to what was one of the most ineffective rotations in baseball last season has been a priority for the team since before the offseason began.
But that the team is willing to deal Hardy is a bit of a surprise. While, as Heyman notes, his value is as high as its ever been as he won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove while hitting 25 home runs in 2013, the Orioles don't have an obvious replacement for him on the roster or in the minor leagues.
Jonathan Schoop, the team's best infield prospect, is the likely starter at second base in 2014, and while there are a pair of quality shortstops available in free agency—Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta—the Orioles haven't been linked to either thus far and both are likely to command far more than Baltimore is willing to spend.
Brian Roberts: Free Agent, Not Extended Qualifying Offer
In what comes as a surprise to nobody, long-time Orioles 2B Brian Roberts was not extended a qualifying offer by the club, according to Roch Kubatko of Masnsports.com.
A two-time All-Star who has spent his entire 13-year major league career in Baltimore, Roberts has played in a total of 192 games over the past four years due to a myriad of injuries, hitting only .246 with a .669 OPS over that time.
That said, manager Buck Showalter expects Roberts to be the team's starting 2B in 2014, as he explained to Kubatko's colleague, Steve Melewski, earlier in November. Given his injury history, I'd be shocked if any other team offered Roberts anything besides an incentive-laden one-year deal.
Given his history with the franchise and his place as a fan favorite, I fully expect Roberts to re-sign with Baltimore for one more year.
Offseason Outlook: Baltimore Will Not Spend Big to Bolster the Rotation
According to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, that's the stance that Dan Duquette, Baltimore's executive vice president and de-facto GM, is taking when it comes to improving the team's starting rotation.
As a group, Baltimore's starters pitched to a 4.57 ERA in 2013, the 27th-highest mark in baseball. Yet Kubatko says that Duquette will not spend lavishly on the free-agent market—or move any of the team's top prospects—to improve the rotation.
Orioles fans that were dreaming of seeing Ervin Santana or Matt Garza under the Christmas tree in December might want to lower their expectations to the likes of Scott Feldman or Joe Saunders, both of whom were underwhelming after joining the Orioles during last season.