Five Free Agents Who Could Help Save the Orioles' Offseason from Disaster
There's no way around it: The Orioles' offseason has been a catastrophe of galactic proportions.
Baltimore did manage epic signings of speedster Quintin Berry and slugger Xavier Paul to minor league deals for those of you who aren't paying attention to the fine print. Obviously, I jest, but there are still a dozen or so players out on the free-agent market who could provide a boost to this flailing squad, and most of them wouldn't even cost too much.
Several of these free agents were recently profiled by Bleacher Report featured columnist Alex Snyder, so we'll try to avoid those same players and take a more unpredictable approach.
Let's get to it!
RHP Scott Baker, Age: 32
Seriously, where has all the love gone for Scott Baker?
Once upon a time a top prospect with the Twins, Baker has a 63-48 record and a career ERA of 4.14, both truly respectable numbers.
It didn't get much publicity, but he successfully returned from 2012 Tommy John surgery late last season to make three starts for the Cubs in September.
The Cubs cut him loose after shelling out $5.5 million for his services, but there's no doubt the O's could ink him for less than that, especially to an incentive-laden deal. Heck, even at $5.5 million, he'd be worth kicking the tires on.
From 2007 to 2011, Baker posted a .598 winning percentage and a 3.98 ERA while averaging 27 starts a season for the Twins. In 2011—his last full, healthy season for Minnesota—he went 8-6 with a career-best 3.14 ERA and the highest K/9 rate (8.2) of his career. He also averaged 6.4 innings per start.
Here's how Baker's stats compare to the Orioles' entire current projected rotation:
|Winning %||.568 (63-48)||.507 (112-109)|
|10+ win seasons||3||4|
Upon further review, it appears that Baker is also incredibly stingy with the walks, another issue that has plagued the Orioles the past 15 years. In 2009, the one year that Baker cracked the 200-inning barrier, he walked just 48 batters.
Bud Norris walked nearly that many in half a season's worth of starts with Houston last year.
I, for one, would feel a whole lot better about having Baker make 20-25 starts for Baltimore instead of rushing Kevin Gausman into a starting role prematurely.
LHP Chris Capuano, Age: 35
With Chris Capuano, we're getting slightly into the "over-the-hill" territory. If he joined the Orioles rotation, he'd be the oldest member by six years.
Still, consider the splits from the seasoned vet from before he turned 30, and then afterward:
|Under 30||Over 30|
The lefty dealt with some injuries in 2013 but made a combined 64 starts the two previous seasons in 2011 and 2012. He has also come pretty cheap, making just over $10 million since the start of the 2011 season, or roughly $2 million less than Scott Feldman will make next year pitching for the Houston Astros.
There's no reason Capuano can't be had for less than $5 million, and really, can it ever hurt to add a guy who graduated from Duke?
OF Tyler Colvin, Age: 28
There aren't many 28-year-olds with two 18-plus home runs campaigns under their belt who are currently unemployed, yet here we are, inching ever closer to the 2014 regular season, and five-year veteran Tyler Colvin is still looking for a home.
Just consider the line that Colvin put forth when he was last given an everyday job in 2012: .290/.327/.531, 27 2B, 10 3B, 18 HR, 72 RBI, 62 R, 7 SB
Yeah, that was almost two years ago now, and it was in Colorado, but last time I checked, Camden Yards was a hitters' park, too.
In fact, more home runs have been hit at the Yard over the past two years than at Coors Field.
So, why have both the Cubs and Rockies been so keen to dump Colvin?
For starters he followed a pretty impressive 2010 campaign of .254/.316/.500 with a major stinker, hitting .150 in 80 contests in 2011, and then after his big 2012 campaign, hit only .160 in 27 games last year.
Still, for a guy who only made $2.3 million in 2013 and has a career .275/.322/.468 line in the minors, it seems like it might be worth taking a risk on Colvin.
I mean, come on, this guy has rubbed shoulders (OK, at least shaken hands) with some great ones, like Tiger Woods.
SS Stephen Drew, Age: 30
By my count, the Orioles eliminated more than $31 million from last year's Opening Day payroll just by cutting ties with Brian Roberts, Jim Johnson, Wilson Betemit, Jason Hammel and Nate McLouth.
Yes, some players such as Adam Jones, Darren O'Day and Wei-Yin Chen earned a healthy raise, but the Orioles still have plenty of cheddar to spend and, as we've all noticed, have yet to flex any financial muscle this offseason.
Maybe they've just been waiting for the price to come down on Stephen Drew.
I know what you're thinking: Why would the Orioles have any desire to shell out $13 million-$15 million per year to add a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop to a team that already has two such shortstops in J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado?
The answer is simple: The O's have no second baseman worthy of playing every day.
Former Rule V draftee Ryan Flaherty has been a great story and all, but does anyone seriously think the O's can field a competitive squad in the American League East with him playing every day at second?
Flaherty posted a .224/.293/.390 line last year and a .216/.258/.359 slash the year before. He'll also turn 28 this season, well beyond when a player usually shows his potential.
Drew, on the other hand, enjoyed one of the finest offensive seasons of his career in 2013, posting a .253/.333/.433 line and tying a career high with 67 RBI.
As impressive as he was, how could those numbers not improve the hitting in a lineup with Adam Jones (.285/33/108), J.J. Hardy (.264/25/76), Matt Wieters (.235/22/79), Manny Machado (.283/14/71) and Chris Davis (.286/53/138)?
This is where the rabid O's fan interjects "what about top prospect Jonathan Schoop?"
Yes, Schoop is the future for Baltimore at second base, but don't be fooled by him ending last season in Triple-A and then making a brief cameo in the big leagues. Schoop is 22 years old and has less than 300 at-bats above Double-A.
He's also coming off a season in which he broke his back.
Theoretically, that would be three years and $42 million-$45 million out the door.
The deal would give the Orioles, who already have the best defensive infield in baseball, arguably one of the top defensive infield units in baseball history. It would also give them a proven bat and an offensive upgrade over Ryan Flaherty or the newly acquired Jemile Weeks. Meanwhile, it would give Schoop some time to get his feet wet at the upper level of the minors.
Most importantly, however, it would finally prove to all those soon-to-be free agents out there that the team is indeed willing to pay in order to compete.
LHP Paul Maholm, Age: 31
Considering how consistent Paul Maholm has been over the course of his nine-year career, it's kind of surprising that some team hasn't snatched him up yet this offseason.
The durable lefty has made at least 26 starts every year since 2006, including at least 30 starts five times in the past eight seasons.
Some of the shine came off Maholm after last season, when he posted his highest ERA since 2010 and his lowest number of innings in a full season for his entire career.
Still, it's easy to do worse than a guy who has been as durable as Maholm, who also sports a career ERA of 4.28.
Despite last season's down year, he still won 10 games, marking the second consecutive season that he's broken into double digits. That is especially notable considering that he spent the first seven years of his career in Pittsburgh, where he won more than 10 games just once.
As pitchers go, he's pretty stingy with the long ball, posting a 0.9 HR/9 rate over 242 big league starts. That's a lower mark than Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee, Jered Weaver and Max Scherzer—and something that would come in handy in a hitters' park like Camden Yards.
Maholm made $6.5 million last year.