Ranking the Best Remaining Players the O's Could Bring in for Spring Training
With spring training just a few weeks away, most teams around MLB are content with their winter moves, considering their offseason at or near completion.
Baltimore Orioles fans are wondering when their team is going to start shopping.
Save the salary dump of closer Jim Johnson (of which the funds have yet to be reallocated) and a few lesser moves, the team has yet to be connected to anything but a rumor, and is without the impact move it so desperately needs.
Even though we're in the middle of January, there are still a handful of free agents remaining on the market who could be a big help for the Birds. But they won't be on the market forever. If the O's decide they want anyone on the open market, now is the time to make a move.
The following slides rank the best remaining fits for the O's heading into spring training.
5. Nelson Cruz,Outfielder
Nelson Cruz is a limited ballplayer with some baggage, and personally I don't want the O's to sign him, but there's no denying his bat could be a benefit to the team and he's one of the better remaining options.
The right-handed hitter mashed more than 20 homers in each of the last five seasons with the Texas Rangers, with at least 76 RBI in every one of those years. His career .268 batting average and .327 OBP are respectable, though the O's would likely hope for more out of the OBP department considering the team finished 19th in baseball there in 2013.
O's fans can think of Cruz's bat much like a right-handed version of Luke Scott.
But on the flip side, Cruz will be 34 on the first of July, meaning his best days are likely behind him, and he's searching for a big deal. He's widely considered a very poor defender in the corner outfield spots, and was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season last year for his ties to the Biogenesis scandal.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported in November that Cruz was seeking a deal in the four-year, $75 million range. That's a ton of money for a guy who has never driven in 100 runs and can't play defense.
His demands have likely come down over the last couple months as he's just looking for a job at this point, but he may still be priced out of Baltimore's plans.
Which is perfectly fine with me. I'd rather the team spend their money on another hitter.
4. Fernando Rodney, Closer
The O's need bullpen help, especially after dealing their closer who saved 50 games in back-to-back seasons.
Fernando Rodney could very well be one of the best fits left for the team.
Rodney had an incredible year in 2012 for the Tampa Bay Rays, going 2-2 with 48 saves and an incredible 0.60 ERA, but struggled a little more in 2013 with a 3.38 ERA and 37 saves in 45 chances.
Yes, he blew eight saves, one less than Johnson did for the Birds in 2013.
Rodney will be 37 in the middle of March, and consistency has been an issue for the hard-throwing righty during his career. He's a solid relief pitcher, but he's not worth the $10 million a year he's asking for, as Jon Heyman reported in December.
Plus, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported on Monday that the O's are more interested in adding starters and another backup catcher to their roster than a high-priced free-agent closer, adding that the team feels comfortable with its in-house options.
If the O's wanted to spend that much money on a closer, they would have just kept Johnson. Rodney's demand will have to come down significantly if the O's are going to sign him.
3. Francisco Rodriguez, Relief Pitcher
The longer the O's go on without making any serious moves, the more attractive a reunion with Francisco Rodriguez looks.
Although it seems like K-Rod has been around forever, the right-hander is only 32 years old, and already has 304 saves to his name. His career 2.70 ERA is quite appealing, and even though he pitched to a 4.50 ERA in 22 innings with the O's during the second half of last season, the righty wasn't exactly used consistently or in situations he's used to pitching in.
Rodriguez would likely come cheaper than most of the higher-profile relief options out there, such as Fernando Rodney, and could fill a variety of roles. Were the O's to bring him back, they could give him a shot in the closer's role, or try Tommy Hunter as the closer and use K-Rod to replace Hunter's vacant setup man position.
Regardless, Rodriguez would add some much-needed bullpen depth to the O's roster, and for the cost it would be a risk worth taking.
Prior to this offseason, I was opposed to the Orioles bringing back Rodriguez. Now, I've changed my mind, and feel his addition would bring some quality depth to the roster.
2. Kendrys Morales, First Baseman/DH
Remember I said I'd rather the O's spend their money on a different hitter?
That hitter would be of the switch variety, named Kendrys Morales.
Morales would be a fantastic option for the O's, as he could take over everyday DH duties for the team with the occasional start at first base to give Chris Davis a break in the field.
A .280 career batting average is a nice number, and his career .333 OBP would be a big boost for an O's lineup in serious need of OBP help. He hit 22 homers in 2012 and 23 in 2013, while driving in 73 and 80 runs, respectively. And his 34 doubles in 2013 are a great total.
If he were to slot into the No. 5 spot of the O's lineup, he'd bat behind Adam Jones and Davis and sit in front of Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy, providing great lineup protection for him and adding more depth to the lineup. Essentially, his presence would help everyone else in the lineup while everyone else around Morales would likely help his personal numbers. It's a win-win for both sides. In addition, he'll be only 31 in June.
If the O's want to spend money on a bat, Morales is the bat to target. His upside is there, his proven ability is there, and he'd likely cost less than Cruz.
1. Bronson Arroyo, Starting Pitcher
The Orioles need starting pitching help. One of their biggest needs for their rotation is a starter who can consistently give the team innings.
Bronson Arroyo does that. A lot. In fact, he's had nine straight seasons of at least 32 starts and 199 innings pitched. Talk about a guy who can pitch deep into games.
If the O's were to add Arroyo, they would not be getting an ace. With a career 4.19 ERA, Arroyo is a quality starter, but not a front-line one, especially since he'll be 37 before the seasons starts.
But with Chris Tillman being the only pitcher reaching 200 innings for the O's in 2013, their rotation could certainly use a guy like Arroyo providing that steady presence and giving the bullpen a break. Because if the bullpen is better rested, it could help them perform better.
I say the O's need to do everything they can to sign Arroyo, because even though he'll probably have an ERA anywhere between 4.25 and 5.00 in the AL East, the innings he can provide are more valuable than anything any other starter on the open market can offer the club, considering the O's have a limited budget.
Arroyo is the best available option for the O's to add before spring training starts.