As we come closer to entering the final month of the MLB regular season, it's never too early to brainstorm how the Baltimore Orioles will handle the free-agency period in regard to replacing a few players whose contracts will be up at the end of this season and adding players who could be huge assets to the club for the 2015 season.
The Orioles will need to make preparations in order to determine how they will replace the free-agent trio of left fielder Nelson Cruz, first baseman/designated hitter Delmon Young and lefty reliever Andrew Miller.
Seeing as how Cruz is the major league leader in homers at this time with 34, it is extremely unlikely that the Orioles will sign Cruz to a multiyear deal, which is exactly what he's looking for after rolling the dice on his current one-year contract with the Birds.
As for Miller, lefty relievers will be in high demand, particularly a lefty of his caliber.
Miller holds a 2.13 ERA and a strikeout-per-nine ratio of 14.4 on the season so far. As an Oriole, he has only given up one earned run through eight and one-third innings pitched and has struck out 12 during that span.
Nope, the Orioles won't have a chance to sign Miller either if they hope to retain their core players when the following year's free-agent class is due for new contracts.
Signed to a minor league contract prior to the start of the season, Delmon Young brought a considerable amount of value to the Orioles. The former first-round pick is hitting .311 on the year and is slugging for a solid .461 with 17 extra-base hits.
Sure, the Orioles could bring him back as a bench player, but they seem content with Steve Pearce's ability in that first baseman/designated hitter role, and they may opt to have outfield depth considering it will be weakened by the departure of Cruz.
With that being said, here are a few interesting free agents for the 2014-15 offseason who the Orioles could make a run at.
Adam Dunn, DH/1B
While it may not be the most alluring potential signing that the Orioles could do, Adam Dunn still has a lot of power left in his 34-year-old body. Although his batting average is just .220 on the year, he draws a ton of walks and has an OBP of .343, something the Orioles highly covet.
Not only can the Orioles interchange Dunn at designated hitter or first base, but he has experience playing the corner outfield spots if need be.
Joe Thatcher, RP
The 32-year-old held a 2.63 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 24 innings while with the Diamondbacks and walked just three batters, making for an incredible strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.33.
With Orioles' lefty specialist Brian Matusz struggling this year to the tune of a 3.92 ERA and 1.443 WHIP, the club's key decision-makers will need to go after a rock-solid lefty so the bullpen won't miss a beat heading into the 2015 campaign.
Yasmani Tomas, LF/RF
One of the top young power hitters out of Cuba, Yasmani Tomas is a 23-year-old corner outfielder who could sign with a major league club in late 2014 or early 2015.
The timing depends on several factors, per Ben Badler of Baseball America: "Tomas will still have to obtain residency in another country, get an unblocking license from the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball to be eligible to enter into an agreement with a club."
According to the website, the 6'1", 230-pound right-handed hitter possesses 70 raw power on the 20-80 scale and is considered one of the elites in all of Cuba when it comes to power hitters. During the 2012-13 regular season for Cuba's Serie Nacional, Tomas hit for a triple-slash line of .289/.364/.538 with 15 homers over 81 games.
Considering the wave of superstars that have come from Cuba over the past few years, the Orioles would be wise to at least throw their hat in the ring and possibly get this kid locked up for several years, much like Jose Abreu's team-friendly deal of $68 million over six years.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
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