Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Baltimore O's Rumors
The "hot stove" season is beginning to get into full swing, and rumors are flying left and right.
General managers from all over the league met up in Orlando, Fla. last week for preliminary trade talks and with agents regarding the free-agent players they represent.
The Orioles weren't left out of the fun, with plenty of rumors circulating about who will come and who will go. At this point, they're only rumors, but all MLB fans know that anything can happen when it comes to trades and signings.
With multiple reports coming out of said meetings in regard to the O's, the imaginations of O's fans have since run wild thinking about what could happen this winter with their favorite team.
At this early point in the offseason, it's hard to tell which rumors have any truth to them and which rumors are a load of baloney. However, I'm going to attempt to do just that by taking a look at what came out of the meetings in Orlando last week.
Interest in Carlos Beltran: Fact
On Friday, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Spots tweeted that the O's have interest in free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, but that interest also depends on whether the team can move a high-profile and high-salary player such as catcher Matt Wieters.
Beltran is an obvious fit for the O's. He's a veteran outfielder, and though his best fielding days may be behind him, he could serve as a lethal designated hitter while getting some playing time in left or right field. His career .359 OBP would be a big boost to an O's lineup that ranked 19th in baseball in OBP in 2013 with a .313 mark.
The veteran won't come cheap, though, so Rosenthal's analysis that the O's would need to move a piece in order to make budget room for Beltran is spot on. A two- or three-year deal averaging $10-15 million per season is easily attainable for the switch-hitter.
In all, the O's are interested in Beltran, and they should be. Again, he's a perfect fit for their lineup. But his arrival in Baltimore would depend on a lot of factors. Don't be surprised if the O's sign him, but don't expect it, either.
Interest in Scott Kazmir: Fiction
As Kubatko argues, the O's don't need another starting pitcher who averages less than six innings per start. Kazmir Had a good season in 2013, but has had consistency issues the last few seasons to accompany the problem he's had his whole career, which is not pitching deep into ballgames.
The O's would be smarter to invest their resources into other available starters, and the team likely knows that. Because of this, the team is probably not going to be focused on Kazmir right now.
However, should the O's miss out on some of their other targets, I can definitely see them making a run at Kazmir. It's all circumstantial. As of now, don't expect to see the O's placing the highest bid on the lefty.
Interest in Shelby Miller: Fact and Fiction
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported last Wednesday that the St. Louis Cardinals had turned down a trade offer from the O's. That trade offer, which was shortstop J.J. Hardy for the Cards' young right-hander, was a bit shocking to O's fans, but also made a ton of sense.
Hardy is arguably the most important defensive piece to the O's. He plays a premium position and has won Gold Gloves each of the last two seasons, all while providing enough pop to win a Silver Slugger award this year.
But on the other hand, the Cards need a shortstop and the O's need pitching. And while trading a shortstop with one year left on his deal for a 23-year-old with multiple years of control was a long shot, the O's had to gauge interest. And frankly, I can't blame them.
Obviously the O's would need to give up more to get Miller, and I'm not sure they'd be willing to. Hence why I list this rumor as both fact and fiction. The team is interested in acquiring a guy like him, as would be any team, but he'll likely cost too much to make it work.
Not Shopping J.J. Hardy: Fact
Now to address the J.J. Hardy topic.
The O's need Hardy. As I said in the last slide, he's arguably their most important defensive piece and he provides pop. And while he's got just one year left on his contract, it didn't take much for the team to extend him in 2011, so he'd likely be an easy signing again should the O's decide they want to do that.
With Gold Glove third baseman Manny Machado likely missing the beginning of the season due to injury, Hardy's presence on the left side of the infield becomes even more important to the team. The Orioles have no obvious replacement should they trade Hardy, and their defense would surely suffer from moving such a key piece.
The O's aren't shopping Hardy. They don't want to move him. If they were offered an overwhelming deal, they'd ship him off, but since that likely won't happen, expect to see Hardy in an O's uniform come Opening Day 2014. Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports agrees with me.
The team was simply gauging interest, that's all.
Interest in Tim Hudson: Fact
A rumor stating the O's have interest in starting pitcher Tim Hudson is in fact true, per Kubatko, but they haven't gone further than just simply discussing the right-hander internally.
Hudson is another perfect fit for the O's because he wouldn't require more than two or three years and doesn't come with draft-pick compensation tied to him.
On the other hand, he'll likely be expensive as he's a big-name, accomplished seasoned vet, and he's coming off of a very serious broken ankle injury suffered in July.
Hudson is going to have a number of suitors, so it's not like the O's are automatic front-runners for the talented pitcher's services. The O's would likely need to outbid many other clubs in order to bring Hudson to Baltimore, which probably isn't going to happen.
But if Hudson happens to hang around on the market into January and February, the O's could become much more aggressive. Signing Hudson all depends on the competition.
The O's will have him on their radar, at the very least.
Not Shopping Matt Wieters: Fiction (to an Extent)
I don't believe the O's are openly shopping Matt Wieters, telling teams that they're looking to dump their catcher.
I do believe, though, that the team is keeping an open mind on him and is letting other clubs know that he can be had at the right price.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was told that the O's are willing to deal Wieters, but Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun tweeted that a club source told him Wieters, and Hardy for that matter, aren't being shopped, and the rumors surrounding them were just part of initial dialogue with teams.
Wieters is arguably the best defensive catcher in the AL, and possibly No. 2 or 3 in baseball, and while his offense leaves something to be desired, he has hit 20 or more homers in three straight seasons.Why would the O's want to trade him, especially when there is really no replacement for him anywhere in the organization?
For the exact reasons that Rosenthal pointed out: He is two years away from free agency and is represented by superagent Scott Boras.
While the O's wouldn't want to lose Wieters' defense, they certainly have to be intrigued by the idea of getting a nice package for him two years prior to his likely inevitable departure, since, as Rosenthal notes, Boras clients rarely sign extensions and Wieters has already rejected multiple long-term offers from the Birds.
Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com feels that it would be surprising to see Wieters on the move this offseason, but also sees an extension for the catcher becoming increasingly less likely.
With that said, don't be surprised to see Wieters' name come up in trade talks, but don't expect him to play anywhere else, at least not until the trade deadline in 2014 or next offseason. He's too important to the club's defense and depth at this point.
Stranger things have happened, though.
Shopping Jim Johnson: Unsure
At the tail end of last week, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports wrote an interesting piece on the O's. He believes the team should not only shop Matt Wieters, but also closer Jim Johnson.
Trading one of the two, or both, would free up payroll and create flexibility for the team to pursue a free agent such as the aforementioned Carlos Beltran. And while Wieters projects to earn $7.9 million next season through arbitration, Johnson is projected to earn a whopping $10.8 million after consecutive 50-save seasons, during which time he saved a total of 101 games.
Finding an effective closer is no easy task, but the O's would be better set replacing Johnson in-house than they would be someone like Wieters or J.J. Hardy. Their bullpen contains quality arms like Darren O'Day and Tommy Hunter, and there are free-agent options such as Grant Balfour.
Johnson could net them a couple of useful pieces as well as free up finances to attempt to sign other players to fill holes in the organization. It's certainly an intriguing thought, especially when you consider $10.8 million is a ton of money for any closer not named Mariano Rivera.
There haven't been any real rumors surrounding Johnson's availability, but the O's likely would listen to any club calling about the right-hander. It wouldn't be completely shocking if the rumors about him were to pick up when the annual December winter meetings start.
Johnson will be an interesting one to watch, to say the least.