This week, general managers of MLB teams have spent their time in Orlando, Fla., discussing trades, potential signings of free agents and laying the groundwork for future deals.
Typically, not much happens at the early offseason meetings, but with the annual winter meetings just a few weeks away, things could get crazy on the hot stove.
Resources are limited, as there's only so much talent available to go around. Teams are going to need to act fast while not pulling any punches in order to do what they need to do.
After an 85-win season in 2013, the O's have proven that their success in 2012 wasn't a fluke and that they really are a good team. But the 2013 season also proved to the team that it needs to make some upgrades if it wants to reach the playoffs next season.
Namely, the O's need help in their starting rotation and bullpen, as well as left field, second base and at designated hitter. Will they fill all of those holes this winter? That's a good question.
The team has a few players in mind that they would like to target. Just like any player, there are good and bad aspects to these guys.
Since the offseason is still young, it's a bit difficult to pinpoint exactly which players are being targeted by what specific teams. Let's review what I make out to believe to be are the O's top four offseason targets.
Spoiler alert: They're all starting pitchers.
A recent post by Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports claims that the O's have some interest in Tim Hudson, and have "discussed him internally."
Pros: Hudson is a seasoned vet who can front a rotation and knows how to win, as evidenced by his career 205-111 win-loss record and 3.44 ERA. The O's need a guy like him in their rotation to slot either first or second behind Chris Tillman and help be a mentor to the young pitchers looking to grow into aces. Guys like Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy could really benefit from the presence of a pitcher like Hudson.
Since he didn't receive a qualifying offer, the O's wouldn't lose a draft pick if they were to sign him, and the O's obviously need to continue to build their farm system by using every resource available. It would be great for the team to get a high-caliber pitcher without surrendering a draft pick.
The Orioles just hired former Atlanta Braves minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace to be their pitching coach. They also hired former Braves front office special assistant Dom Chiti as the team's new bullpen coach. Considering that Hudson has ties to both men, would those ties be a factor in Baltimore's pursuit of Hudson? One would hope so if the O's decide to take it to the next level with the pitcher.
Cons: At 38 years old, Hudson is likely reaching the end of his career. While the numbers he put up last season suggest that he's still capable of pitching well (8-7, 3.97 ERA in 131.1 innings), they may not be worth the two-year, $24 million deal that Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has heard mentioned.
Hudson's age, coupled with a serious broken ankle that he suffered on July 24, are causes for concern. Hudson's body is getting older, so would an average annual salary of $12 million really be worth the risk for a guy who could potentially have another serious injury?
While his broken ankle was a freak accident caused by Eric Young, Jr. of the New York Mets stepping on his foot while Hudson covered first base, the pitcher has also previously undergone Tommy John surgery. Other than that, though, Hudson seems to have been pretty durable. My only concern is that there's only so much that an aging body can take, especially one coming off a serious injury.
The O's will have to decide whether a salary like the one Passan reported is worth the risk on an aging pitcher.
There's mutual interest between a reunion between the O's and Scott Feldman, who was acquired by Baltimore from the Chicago Cubs in June.
Pros: Prior to the 2013 trade deadline, the O's needed a back-of-the-rotation starter who could be relied upon to provide innings with an acceptable ERA. The fifth slot in the rotation had been a revolving door of young pitchers and washed-up veterans, so the O's made a move for Feldman, which they believed could solidify a shaky rotation.
Feldman did that and much more, as he went 5-6 with a quality 4.27 ERA over 90.2 innings. The tall right-hander made 15 starts as an Oriole in 2013, and pitched the only complete game for the Birds this season in his first career shutout.
The O's like Feldman, and Feldman likes the O's. He will continue to provide a steady and reliable force in any rotation he joins. Plus, he likely won't be terribly expensive, as Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors predicts a two-year, $17 million deal for the pitcher.
Cons: While Feldman is the kind of the pitcher who would help the O's, the team's biggest need for its rotation—and possibly entire roster—is a true ace pitcher. Feldman is obviously not that, and if the O's use some of their resources on him, that makes it that much more difficult to potentially acquire a true front-line starter. However, it's not as though there's a big-name starting pitcher on the market that the O's have a real shot at acquiring.
Feldman could also potentially be priced out of Baltimore's plan should another team decide to make a serious run at him, especially if a third year is brought into the mix. The O's may not want to go to that third year for a pitcher like Feldman, and if the money goes much higher than what Adams predicted, then it's safe to count the O's out.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir enjoyed a bit of a resurgence during the 2013 season with the Cleveland Indians. I was of the belief that the O's wouldn't pursue Kazmir, but a recent tweet from Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe indicated otherwise.
Pros: A former first-round draft pick of the New York Mets in 2002, Kazmir enjoyed success with the Tampa Bay Rays. From 2005-08 he kept his ERA at or below 3.77 and helped propel the Rays to their first winning season and World Series appearance. He's also won 10 games or more six times in his nine-season career.
Kazmir's market value has raised significantly after a 2013 campaign in which he went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA. The average velocity on his fastball was 92.5 mph—a great sign since that's the fastest he's hit since his rookie season. Kazmir is historically a good strikeout pitcher, having struck out 162 batters over 158 innings this season, and 1,155 over 1,180 career innings. Kazmir has also walked fewer than three batters per nine innings, a first for the lefty.
A deal for one or two years would likely be enough to rope in Kazmir, with an average salary of $5 million-$8 million per year, making him affordable enough for the O's. He also wasn't given a qualifying offer, so the O's wouldn't lose a draft pick when signing him, and he'll just be 30 years old in January.
Cons: Kazmir has one very major and obvious fault working against him as he looks for a deal this winter: Which version of Kazmir will the team that signs him get?
Sure, Kazmir had a very solid bounce-back year, but if there was ever a picture-perfect example of a player who has experienced baseball's ups and downs, Kazmir is the guy. Will Kazmir's next team get the pitcher who showed immense improvement with Cleveland and kept his ERA under 4.00 with Tampa Bay, or will they get the guy who went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in 28 starts for the 2010 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?
Any team handing this lefty a contract assumes all risk. He could be a giant steal or a giant letdown. We'll have to wait until 2014 to find out.
But if the money is right, you know the O's will be all over him.
Maybe this slide shouldn't be included. Heck, we'll probably never hear another rumor about a potential Shelby Miller trade to Baltimore for the rest of the offseason. But that's the great thing about baseball: You just never know.
Pros: Miller is a 23-year-old stud. In 31 starts this past season, Miller worked 173.1 innings, went 15-9, pitched a complete game and maintained a 3.06 ERA while striking out 169 batters.
Miller certainly has a bright future ahead of him, and the O's would love it to be with them. He could front the rotation, along with Chris Tillman, giving Baltimore two young growing pitchers under team control to help the team battle it out for the top spot in the AL East.
Cons: The biggest con would be that it would probably take Hardy and half the Orioles' farm system to pry Miller away from the Cards. The O's probably wouldn't be willing to give up what it would take to get Miller into orange and black, and I can't blame them. The Birds need to build up their farm system, not trade it all away, and Miller is already worth a lot of prospects.
There's also the concern that he only pitched once in the playoffs after having a fantastic season. At the time, it led many baseball fans to believe he had an injury that the Cards were attempting to protect and hope would heal during the playoffs. However, there hasn't been any evidence to verify such speculation.
All in all, an O's acquisition of Miller will almost certainly not get done, at least not this winter. It's nothing more than two GMs kicking the tires.
But don't quote me on that. This is baseball, after all. Anything can happen.