Now that the Orioles finally have a new GM in place with Dan Duquette, it's time to sign some players for 2012.
It's become pretty clear from his comments that Duquette is not going to go after big name free agents like Prince Fielder and C.J. Wilson. That may make some fans angry, but he seems to believe in building from the ground up, so money will be allocated to scouting, player development and the international market.
The group that the Orioles will pursue will likely be some of the guys that wouldn't come to the top of your mind when thinking of the 2012 free agent class. Buck Showalter stated earlier that he wants to target minor league free agents to build up the pitching depth, so I think that the Orioles will pounce on some of the minor league talent available in hopes of finding the next late-bloomer or a veteran with stuff left in the tank.
Here are 10 under-the-radar free agents that the Orioles should think about this offseason.
Aaron Cook has spent the last couple of years dealing with injuries, so he will likely come cheap to whichever team decides to pick him up.
One thing that has caused the Orioles' pitching staffs to falter in the past few years is the inability to stay in games for longer than five innings. This forces the bullpen to get overworked and exposed. That leads me to believe that the Orioles should pursue an inning-eater to slot in the back of the rotation and give some breathing room to the young pitchers.
Cook has been good at racking up innings in the past, reaching the 200 inning plateau twice in his career, although he hasn't done it since 2008. Jeremy Guthrie has been the only player to pitch over 200 innings in a season for the Orioles since 2008.
Cook's been getting paid very well over the last three years, making at least $9 million in each year. He looks to make much less in 2012, as he hasn't been able to stay on the field much for the last few years. An incentive-laden deal may give the Orioles a chance for a low risk starter to help stabilize the rotation.
It's funny how much attention C.J. Wilson and Mark Buerhle are getting because Paul Maholm is a pretty good left-handed starter with high upside that could probably be signed relatively cheap.
Maholm has gone under the radar most of his career because he has been pitching for the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, but he has been one of the lone shining spots on the roster.
The market for Maholm may take some time to develop because he may be looking at Wilson and Buerhle's deals as comparison for what he should make. If the Orioles get in early and woo him, they could have a very good middle of the rotation starter.
It's unfortunate that Mitch Talbot fell out of favor in Cleveland because he looked like a very promising young pitcher after his impressive rookie year in 2010. He followed with an injury-filled season marred by some really rough starts.
If Buck wants to replenish the upper farm teams with young talent, he should look to Talbot. Talbot is one of the youngest available free agents at just 28 and could very easily bounce back if given the right opportunity.
David Aardsma has flown under the radar for a while in his career, which could work in the favor of the team that signs him for 2012.
Aardsma pitched extremely well in 2009 and 2010 for the Mariners and looked like a steal as they picked him up to close for next to nothing. He unfortunately missed all of 2011 to injury and had to undergo Tommy John surgery in July.
The surgery will likely keep him out for the start of the 2012 season, but he could be a good pickup for the second half, when the Orioles' bullpen seems to struggle most.
Greg Smith fits the mold of a minor league free agent with high upside that could replenish the Triple-A pitching staff.
Smith, who is notable for being a piece in the Dan Haren and Matt Holliday trades for Oakland, had a solid rookie year for the Athletics in 2008, while establishing his pickoff move as one of the best in the majors.
After being traded to Colorado, he didn't make it back to the majors until 2010, but was released after that season by the Rockies. He spent 2011 in Triple-A, pitching for the Yankees' and Red Sox's affiliates before eventually becoming a free agent again.
After seeing Mitch Atkins fail in 2011, I can't see why the Orioles wouldn't go after a player like Greg Smith to try to make the Norfolk Tides a little bit stronger.
John Maine's career began with the Orioles in 2004, but it wasn't until he was traded to the New York Mets for Kris Benson that he started to show promise. After five solid seasons with the Mets, Maine developed shoulder issues and hasn't been back to the majors since 2010.
Reports are that Maine is ready to go in 2012. Assuming that is true, he could be a steal on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. Reuniting Maine with his original team could be very beneficial for both sides.
One name that most people don't know is Sammy Gervacio, an eccentric right-handed reliever who was most recently a member of the Houston Astros.
Gervacio is known for his funky windup in which he shows the ball to the fans before pitching. It sometimes overshadows the fact that he has a good fastball and slider combo.
At just 26, Gervacio could be a terrific young relief option for the struggling Orioles bullpen.
Kanekoa Texeira has been switching teams like crazy lately, which isn't always a bad sign for a player.
Texeira has had success in relief for the Royals, but got lost in a roster shuffle. He couldn't get accustomed to life as a Yankee again, but he could easily get back on track and be a solid relief option on a minor league deal.
Adam Russell has never had a chance at a full season in the majors as a reliever, but he hasn't been all that bad.
Russell has a 3.95 career ERA, but has struggled with control in the past. In 2011, Russell allowed 20 walks in 32.2 innings for the Rays, which is way too high.
The perfect situation would be for the Orioles to sign Russell with the intention of placing him at Norfolk and let him pitch his way to Baltimore.
Manny Corpas was once a really terrific relief pitcher for the Rockies, which is not an easy feat considering their home ballpark.
In 2007, Corpas had a miniscule 2.08 ERA with 19 saves in 22 chances. He struggled with inconsistency, but he has had time to mature. Injuries have derailed his career a little, but he could be one of the biggest steals in the current market if he can return to form.
Corpas has the potential to become a closer once again and is just 28 years old. The Orioles would be smart to bring an arm like Corpas' into the organization and see how things go.