Missing Pieces the Baltimore Orioles Could Still Land

Alex SnyderContributor IIDecember 30, 2013

Missing Pieces the Baltimore Orioles Could Still Land

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    The new year is just a couple of days away. Spring training is right around the corner. Before we know it, we'll be smiling at the mention of the words "pitchers and catcher report."

    And as is typical of the new year, most of the offseason shopping has been completed by this point around Major League Baseball.

    Big trades have been made, giant contracts have been signed and speculation is made about which acquisitions will work out and which ones will flop.

    But there are still some players left on the open market. There's still opportunity to improve one's ballclub. And for Baltimore Orioles fans who have witnessed a train wreck of an offseason, those words may bring a bit of a relief.

    We all know by now how the team shipped closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics to free up salary space, then lost out on starter Scott Feldman, left fielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Brian Roberts.

    They agreed to terms with closer Grant Balfour, then backed out of the deal because they didn't like the results of his physical. They have yet to really improve their club this offseason, spare the additions of reliever Ryan Webb and left fielder David Lough.

    Even though it's getting to be late in the offseason, the market remains open for a reason. Teams will pursue players, and deals will be made.

    Here's an idea of some of the players you could see the O's being tied to going into the new year.

Bronson Arroyo, Starting Pitcher

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    Right-hander Bronson Arroyo is the kind of starting pitcher the Orioles need.

    The team could likely sign him to a two-year deal as opposed to a long-term commitment.

    He's experienced with 14 seasons of big-league ball under his belt.

    And he's durable, having started at least 32 games each of the last nine seasons while pitching 199 innings or more in every one of them. And his career 4.19 ERA is very, very solid.

    Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun claims the O's will focus on guys like Arroyo rather than Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez because of the appeal of cost and contract length, and it makes sense given that the team has prospects Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy waiting for their shot.

    Arroyo would add quality depth to a rotation that desperately needs it, as well as eating innings that will in turn give the bullpen a break every five days. The O's need to make this acquisition happen.

Kendrys Morales, DH/ First Baseman

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    According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, the Orioles are interested in free agent switch-hitter Kendrys Morales, but the draft pick that they'd have to surrender upon signing him remains the most significant barrier.

    With an opening at DH, Morales is an obvious fit for the club.

    His splits from either side of the plate are pretty even, and he could rotate onto the field and play first base every so often to let Chris Davis DH and give his legs a breather.

    Money is also a factor, as Morales turned down a qualifying offer of $14.1 million from the Seattle Mariners. So while the O's could afford to sign Morales, they may not want to spend that much money on him.

    We've all heard that one before, but I digress.

    Morales would fill the hole at DH with a quality bat and wouldn't break the bank. He may cost you a draft pick, but the O's window of opportunity is now, and that window is slowly closing this offseason. I say go with the sure thing and sign Morales.

Fernando Rodney, Closer

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    Ever since the Grant Balfour deal fell through, the Orioles have been linked to free agent Fernando Rodney. But Rodney and the team are worlds apart when it comes to money.

    Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun reports that the O's have "significant interest" in the hard-throwing right-hander.

    But Rodney is seeking a deal worth $10 million in average salary. The O's don't want Rodney for that much money, especially when you consider they dealt Jim Johnson to avoid paying a closer that much when he was projected to earn $10-$11 million in arbitration.

    If Rodney isn't willing to lower his demands, he's not going to be an Oriole.

    The O's would rather move on to an in-house option such as Tommy Hunter than sign Rodney at that price. As Connolly mentions in the piece that I linked above, the O's have reached out to former closer and Oriole Francisco Rodriguez.

    The Orioles will likely remain linked to Rodney until he signs, be it with them or elsewhere. Personally, I think they'd be better off turning to a reliever they already have or signing K-Rod for cheaper and using that money on a starter and/or bat.

    The situation is worth keeping an eye on.

A.J. Burnett, Starting Pitcher

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    As Eduardo A. Encina mentions that the O's are going to be interested in pitchers like Bronson Arroyo as opposed to Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez, he lists A.J. Burnett among Arroyo as a potential target for the O's to pursue.

    Like Arroyo, Burnett is a veteran who could likely be signed to a one- or two-year deal at a reasonable price and would add a stable veteran presence to the middle of their rotation with the goal of providing plenty of quality innings.

    The problem with Burnett is that he still hasn't decided whether he wants to play in 2014 or not, and has stated before that if he returns, he would only want it to be with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    The O's are hoping that if Burnett does decide to return, the fact that he lives in Monkton, Maryland, during the offseason would be enough for him to consider the O's as a team worth signing with.

    But as always, the price has got to be right. If Burnett decides to play then expect the O's to show serious interest in the accomplished right-hander.

Nelson Cruz, Outfielder

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    Early in the month, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted that the O's were showing interest in outfielder Nelson Cruz.

    It's hard to determine just how interested the O's are in Cruz, and the reported interest could very possibly be a media creation due to the O's need for another bat in their lineup.

    Cruz doesn't exactly fit the profile of an Orioles target.

    He'll likely be expensive, and while his bat is strong, he is generally considered a poor defender and we all know how manager Buck Showalter likes to maintain a strong defensive ballclub. On top of that, Cruz was suspended for 50 games at the end of the season in 2013 for performance-enhancing drugs.

    If the Orioles get desperate for a splash, I could see them making this move. But they'd be much smarter to spend money on a bat like Morales as opposed to Cruz.

    In the end, I don't think Cruz will come to Baltimore, but nothing is impossible in the world of baseball, so don't hold me to that statement. Cruz is just one other possibility that the O's will likely consider over the next month.


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