7 Dream Free-Agent Pickups for the Baltimore O's
The postseason is over, qualifying offers to free agents have been made and the market has opened.
Let the offseason begin.
Guys will be traded for a package of prospects, and big-name guys will get their big-dollar deals.
For the Baltimore Orioles, it's a bit trickier than just adding and/or subtracting pieces. They're a good team who just missed out on the playoffs in 2013. With a few smart and calculated moves, they could be pushed over the edge and into world-beater mode.
But with a few misguided moves, they could potentially set up failure either in the 2014 season or in future years.
The O's will look at the free-agent market as a way to add to their already solid roster. While the free-agent market isn't exactly full of talent, there are a few players who would be fantastic additions to the team.
These guys would be dream pickups for the Orioles.
Kendrys Morales, DH/ First Baseman
I realize that this is probably the third time I've brought up Kendrys Morales' name in pieces about which players would be good additions to the O's, and that's because I firmly believe Morales is the best available option for the Orioles on the market this offseason.
Primarily a DH at this point, Morales can also play some first base. Were he to sign with Baltimore, the O's could rotate him into the field once or twice a week and insert first baseman Chris Davis into the DH role, with the goal of keeping Davis fresh and healthy all season.
A switch-hitter, Morales hits for power and gets on base better than most of the O's players did in 2013, and OBP is the area where the team needs the biggest improvement. Morales hit .277 with 23 homers and 80 RBI in 2013, and his .336 OBP would be second on the 2013 O's roster, behind none other than Davis. Morales also roped 34 doubles this past season.
Picture an Orioles lineup that would have Morales hitting behind Davis and Adam Jones and in front of J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Not only would Morales help the lineup depth in Baltimore, but having star hitters in front of him and some serious protection behind him would only help his numbers, as well. It would be a fantastic fit for both sides.
The O's need to make a serious run at Morales, as he's likely to be their best option to improve their offensive game without costing them an arm and a leg. A deal similar to Hardy's three-year, $22.25 million extension he signed in 2011 would be a good place to start, give or take.
Grant Balfour, Closer
Grant Balfour is a veteran bullpen leader, he's passionate, and he's intense.
But best of all, he's good.
The O's need bullpen help. Another good late-inning arm would be a big boost to the team. In my opinion, Balfour is the best option out there.
Of the last six seasons, only once has Balfour had an ERA above 2.59, and that was in 2009 when he pitched to a 4.81 mark. He's saved 62 games the last two seasons with the Oakland Athletics. And he's thrown 55.1 innings or more in each of the last six seasons.
Balfour would be a fantastic setup option for O's closer Jim Johnson, or to take over the closer role should Johnson struggle in 2014 like he did in 2013.
The only problem is that as Balfour will be 36 this December, he may not want to sign with a team that can't guarantee him the closer's job. Keep in mind, that's my own speculation, but seeing as how intense of a character Balfour is, he may really enjoy the closer's role, and as his career is winding down, may not want to give up on a chance to keep on pitching in the ninth inning with the game on the line.
If he is open to being a setup guy and a spot-closer, then the O's need to make a move to bring him into their bullpen. As an aging reliever, Balfour probably could be had on a two- or three-year deal at $6-7 million per season.
Should he ask for much more than that, the O's would be wise to forget about it and spend their money elsewhere. But if the money makes sense, there are few better and more consistent relievers in the game than Balfour.
Shin-Soo Choo, Outfielder
The Orioles need a left fielder. Shin-Soo Choo needs a job.
The Orioles need help at OBP. All Choo does is get on base. He had a .423 OBP last season and has a .389 number overall.
See where I'm going with this?
Unfortunately, it probably won't be that easy. While Choo would be a perfect fit for the O's in their lineup, there are some complications in regards to the team pursuing him.
First off, Choo is a Scott Boras client. The O's aren't fans of dealing with Boras (but to be fair, no team really is), and due to Choo being a Boras client, he'll likely receive more than he's worth, which is more than the O's would be willing to give him. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Choo will get more than Hunter Pence got from the San Francisco Giants (five years, $90 million), with a legitimate shot at reaching the $100 million mark.
Secondly, any team signing Choo will forfeit its first overall draft pick. And we all know that wouldn't be smart for the O's as they need to do everything they can to help build up their farm system.
Due to these reasons, Choo almost surely won't be coming to Baltimore any time soon. But his bat and on-base ability would be a welcomed addition to the O's lineup.
Scott Feldman, Starting Pitcher
The Orioles really love Scott Feldman. Manager Buck Showalter wants the big right-hander to come back, and Feldman wants the opportunity to return as well.
The O's will likely be all-in on Feldman as they'd love to have his consistent and quality innings in the back of their rotation just like they did during the second half of the 2013 season after dealing pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Chicago Cubs for Feldman.
To Feldman's credit, he provided innings, 90.2 to be exact, with a quality 4.27 ERA over 15 starts. He also pitched the O's only complete game of the 2013 season, which happened to be Feldman's first career shutout.
Feldman will be 31 going into next season, so age is on his side as well. And he wouldn't break the bank, which would mean adding talent to the team while still having some money left over for other improvements.
As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors has predicted, Feldman is likely in line for a two- or three-year deal, with Jeremy Guthrie's three-year, $25 million contract that he signed last offseason being Feldman's comparable ceiling. The O's might be more hesitant if Feldman insists on that third year, but the sides may be able to agree upon a two-year deal with an option for a third season.
Of all the O's players hitting free agency, Feldman may be the most likely to return. Don't be surprised if you see him in an O's uniform when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in 2014.
Mike Napoli, First Baseman/ DH
Right-handed hitter Mike Napoli would be a very similar addition to the O's as would Kendrys Morales: A first baseman who is better suited at DH but could rotate into the field to give Chris Davis a break every so often.
Napoli is a power threat, hitting 23 homers and driving in a career-high 92 runs in 2013, with a .259 batting average and a .360 OBP. Numbers like those would fit perfectly anywhere from the No. 3 to No. 6 spots in the Orioles lineup, depending on the opposing pitcher that night, who needs a game off, etc.
But like Shin-Soo Choo, Napoli will likely be too costly between overall money and forfeiting a draft pick for the O's to seriously consider signing him.
Napoli wouldn't even come close to what Choo is projected to get since Choo is a more versatile hitter and Napoli has a history of injuries even with his healthy 2013. But something like two or three years with an average annual salary of $13-15 million would definitely be a possibility, and if the Boston Red Sox want Napoli to return badly enough, they would have no problem with driving up the price against another team like Baltimore who is bidding for his services.
Napoli would be a dream fit in the O's lineup, but it likely won't happen.
Bronson Arroyo, Starting Pitcher
Bronson Arroyo is exactly the type of starter the O's would like to target. He isn't an ace, but he's durable, healthy, and he pitches quality innings.
Arroyo is the only pitcher to have made 32 starts or more in each of the last nine seasons, ranging from 2005-13. During that span, he reached 200 innings pitched or more eight times, with 2001 being the only season where he failed to hit the benchmark (he was one inning shy).
Though he'll be 37 by the time Opening Day 2014 rolls around, Arroyo has obviously proven his quality and durability. Due to his age, he likely would come on a two-year deal for the right price.
But what would make him most attractive to the O's would be that he's a quality arm who isn't tied down by draft pick compensation. In other words, it wouldn't cost the O's a pick to sign the durable right-hander.
Arroyo wouldn't be cheap, though, as I believe he could easily get two or three years at an average of $9 million per season, but it could get even higher.
Should the bidding for Arroyo reach $10-12 million per season, expect the O's to be out of the market on him. But the O's could decide to make a serious push for him should he linger on the market and the team misses out on bringing back Scott Feldman.
Arroyo is the kind of pitcher the O's want: durable, quality and a guy who wouldn't require a commitment past two or three years. The price may not be right, but anything could happen should no team sign him going into January or February.
Carlos Beltran, Outfielder
The O's have a hole at left field and DH. Carlos Beltran could do his part to fill both.
A veteran player, Beltran is a dangerous bat and a team leader with postseason experience. He'll be 37 in late April, so his days of regular field time are winding down. Since he'll likely be seeking a multi-year contract, the O's would be smart to platoon him between left field and DH if they were to sign him.
Beltran would fill a hole in the lineup by adding a power and run-producing threat while also being a fantastic on-base guy, as his career OBP is currently at .359. He could effectively bat anywhere from No. 2 to No. 6 in the order while rotating between the field and DH slot.
What will likely turn the O's off to Beltran, though, is a combination of the money he would command combined with the fact that draft compensation is tied to him. The O's don't want to lose a pick, and they also don't want to spend a ton of money on one guy, and an aging guy at that.
Still, Beltran would be a serious addition to the O's lineup, and as he's been slowing down ever so gradually over the last few years, it hasn't gotten to the point where one would be concerned with his production on a year-to-year basis. Beltran is a ballplayer, plain and simple. He knows how to hit.
Due to how he would fit into the O's plans as an outfielder and DH coupled with his desire to win a World Series before he retires, Baltimore is a logical landing spot for Beltran. Unfortunately, he may be priced out of Birdland. But the Orioles would surely love to have him.
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