Orioles Free Agent Rumors: 10 Players They Need to Pursue This Winter
The Orioles have had a pretty active winter so far. The problem is that they really haven't made any moves that will make a huge difference on the team. The biggest move so far has been signing Japanese starter Tsuyoshi Wada, which is huge considering how bad the rotation was last year but won't make the Orioles a .500 team or put fans in the seats.
I'm not saying that Dan Duquette has done a bad job. We're still in the early stages of the offseason, and while there are still many holes on the roster, there are also a lot of players out there to get.
Duquette has done a great job adding depth to the bench in all spots. Endy Chavez, Taylor Teagarden and the plethora of middle infielders added have greatly improved the team, but there are still holes in starting spots.
The way I see it, the two biggest holes now are the rotation and finding a corner infielder/DH to go with Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis. Here are 10 players that the Orioles should look at to take over those spots.
Chen Wei-Yin, SP
After the Orioles signed Wada, it seemed they might also be making a play for another left-handed starter that played in Japan last year.
Chen Wei-Yin, a product of Taiwan, is younger than Wada and throws harder. He has still not reached his full potential but was one of the best pitchers in Japan last year.
The Orioles would gain two things from Chen: a very talented starter that could help with the horrible rotation and attention in yet another country in Asia that could open the door to a world of new talent.
In terms of getting Chen for his talent, I'm not dying to see the Orioles sign him. He has potential to be pretty good, but is coming off of an injury-plagued season and isn't going to blow people away. I am more of a fan because of what it would do for the Orioles' reputation in Taiwan.
Asian countries have a reputation of highly publicizing their countrymen in professional sports. Yi Jianlan wasn't spectacular and played for the so-so Milwaukee Bucks when he came into the NBA, but almost all of China watched when he played against Yao. If Chen played for the Orioles, future Taiwanese players would immediately think of the Orioles when thinking about coming to America.
Joe Saunders, SP
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I've written about why the Orioles should sign Joe Saunders before, and my stance hasn't changed. He's a local product, and a 200 inning pitcher that would be huge in saving the bullpen from being overworked.
One thing I haven't touched on in the past is why he is a great fit for the ballpark. Saunders is typically a ground ball pitcher, which is a big deal at Camden Yards, where letting the ball in the air often lets it leave the yard.
His career numbers in Baltimore aren't spectacular, but they did come early in his career. His ERA is 4.58 there, but he also won all three games he started there.
The Orioles need a guy like Saunders. He's not going to be the ace of the staff (although he kind of would be for the Orioles), but he's a solid pitcher that gets outs. There is a lot of competition for his services now, but the Orioles need to play the hometown card to go get him.
Roy Oswalt, SP
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It's been noted recently that Roy Oswalt is now looking for a one-year deal to prove he is healthy again, but if he chooses security now, the Orioles should step in with a two-year deal.
The Orioles won't sign Oswalt on a one-year deal. There are enough contending teams looking for starters that he would definitely go somewhere else before coming to Baltimore.
My suggestion is for the Orioles to differentiate by offering him more years. Oswalt is just the right kind of guy for the Orioles rotation. He is a proven veteran that could have a terrific impact on the young pitchers on the staff. Imagine Dylan Bundy (who has been compared to Oswalt) learning in spring training under Roy Oswalt.
Two years for Oswalt is a risk. He's coming off of injury and will cost a good deal of money considering his seniority and reputation as a top starter, but this is the right risk to take. Two years isn't crippling and the benefits outweigh the costs.
Jair Jurrjens, SP
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The Braves recently tried to use Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado to pry Adam Jones away from the Orioles but were turned down. The Orioles made the right choice to not part with their blossoming superstar but should still have Jurrjens on their radar.
Jair Jurrjens is a fantastic pitcher that has Cy Young ability. His first half in 2011 was nothing short of spectacular, so it's a bit of a surprise that the Braves would be willing to trade him, but if he is truly available, the Orioles may want to make a counter offer centered around prospects.
The biggest question is whether the Orioles have the talent in the farm to get Jurrjens. It would probably take a lot to get Jurrjens and at that point, is it really worth it to deplete the farm that much for one player when the team isn't ready to compete yet anyway? Probably not.
Either way, the Orioles should at least stay in touch with the Braves. Jurrjens would be the best pitcher on the team since Mike Mussina.
Gavin Floyd, SP
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Gavin Floyd is a great young pitcher and, like Joe Saunders, is a hometown guy. He actually grew up even closer than Saunders, in Annapolis.
The White Sox are sort of an enigma right now. They traded Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays, which makes it seem like they are rebuilding but also just gave a five-year extension to their top trade chip John Danks. The way I see it, Floyd is not considered as much of a part of the long term solution in Chicago as Danks and will probably get traded.
Floyd is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract and has an option for 2013, so he'll likely be traded sometime in 2012. While he is talented, the Orioles wouldn't need quite the same package of prospects to acquire Floyd. He could be a big part of the rotation if they could convince Kenny Williams to give him up.
Edwin Jackson, SP
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Edwin Jackson is arguably the top free-agent starter available, so the first question that comes to my mind is why would he go from the World Series winning Cardinals to the miserable Orioles?
The thing that strikes me about Jackson is the fact that he has played for five teams since 2008 (and was technically on a sixth since he was traded to Toronto before being flipped to St. Louis). As someone who just moved myself, I can only imagine how annoying it must be to have to keep packing up and leaving for a new city.
Now to why the Orioles can solve this problem. The Orioles have typically had a team policy that they won't give a pitcher a contract for more than three years, but the organization feels comfortable adding a fourth year for Jackson considering he is still just 28. A four-year commitment could give Jackson confidence that he won't be moving any time soon.
Another big thing that the Orioles offer is the opportunity to be the ace on the staff. Jackson has fantastic stuff and would likely supplant Jeremy Guthrie as the No. 1 pitcher on the staff. This may not be that much, but Jackson has pretty much been the three or four guy everywhere he's gone in the past three years and may want to match up against the best.
Jackson is represented by Scott Boras, so it's likely going to come down to who offers the most money, but Jackson would be a terrific addition to the Orioles if they could scrape together enough.
Carlos Pena, 1B
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The Orioles may not be in the market for a first baseman because they would love to keep Mark Reynolds at first, but the way that the market is working right now, Carlos Pena might just fall to them.
The Orioles made a run at Carlos Pena last year, but he ultimately decided to go with a more comfortable situation in Chicago and it worked out for him. This time around, the Orioles need to get him to say yes.
Pena is almost identical to Mark Reynolds. They both hit a lot of home runs but strike out a lot and don't hit for a great average. The plus with Pena is that he is a much better defensive first baseman.
Pena and Reynolds together would hit more home runs than any corner infield duo in the majors. The Orioles should try to let them join forces and become a big punch in the middle of the lineup.
Martin Prado, 3B
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Martin Prado is two years away from free agency, but the Braves look like they are ready to trade him.
In terms of available third basemen, Martin Prado is the best. He has been playing out of position in left recently but is naturally a third baseman and could push Mark Reynolds or Chris Davis to DH.
Prado hits for a nice average and would be a good defender at the hot corner. The Orioles would need to trade for him, so again, it might take more than the Orioles have to give up. For the right price, Prado could be a solid option and if Brian Roberts isn't playing second on Opening Day, Prado could.
Carlos Quentin, OF/DH
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Carlos Quentin's name kept coming up for the Orioles at the winter meetings but not much has gone on since then. As I mentioned, the White Sox are looking to trade some of their players, and this is a good fit.
The Orioles are currently without a DH since non-tendering Luke Scott. They might resign him at a lower rate, but I wouldn't be surprised if they moved on.
When I think about getting Carlos Quentin, I look immediately to Chris Tillman as the centerpiece. He'll be 24 in 2012 and despite a rough start to his career, still has immense potential. The White Sox could be in the market for a close to ready pitcher with big question marks in their current rotation.
Prince Fielder, 1B
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It wouldn't be a wish list without having the one player that every Orioles fan wants but knows that they won't get.
It's obvious what Fielder would bring to the team. He's one of the best offensive players in the majors and will transform the offense of whichever lineup he is added to. His defense is not great and will likely get much worse over the life of his upcoming contract, but he makes up for it.
The Orioles are not going to be the only team in on Fielder. The Cubs, Blue Jays, Nationals, Mariners, Cardinals and Rangers are likely all going to be in on Fielder, so the price will be high and the competition stiff.
Fielder will end up having his choice of teams because he'll get offers that he likes that are all around the same amount, so it's going to come down to comfort and competitiveness. As much as I think Maryland is a terrific place to live, Fielder may choose elsewhere and the direction of the club won't have him running to Baltimore. If anything, both of those point him to the Nationals.
I think Fielder is going to end up being Theo Epstein's first big contract in Chicago. Epstein has a history of making big deals like that and it just seems like the right fit. As much as we would all love to see Fielder in Baltimore, I doubt it. At this point, we can all just hope.