Baltimore Orioles: Potential Free Agent Targets

Nick CafferkyCorrespondent IOctober 8, 2010

Baltimore Orioles: Potential Free Agent Targets

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26:  Victor Martinez #41 of the Boston Red Sox throws the ball away for an error on Brett Gardner (not shown) of the New York Yankees bunt attempt in the 10th inning on September 26, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The Orioles will go into this offseason happier than any 90-plus loss team has in the history of baseball.

    They might have ended the season with 96 losses, but they were 34-24 in August, September and October and under new skipper Buck Showalter, the young players that the organization was beginning to worry about, stopped the regression that was frustrating every fan in Baltimore.

    Because of this recent play, general manager Andy MacPhail will almost certainly make a bigger splash in the free agent market this year.

    Of the holes to fill, the Orioles would like a solid corner infielder--Josh Bell is not panning out like the organization thought he would--a power hitter and a inning-eating pitcher that can replace Kevin Millwood.

    The Orioles would also like a shortstop to replace Cesar Izturiz, who is a liability at the plate, but the pickings are very slim.

    Not on this list are the big names of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jason Werth because the Orioles would have to drastically over pay for these players and I don't see any of those guys going from Playoff stud, to leader of a rebuilding club.

Adrian Beltre

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 15, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010 stats: .321 avg., 28 HR, 102 RBI

    Considering the Orioles are in dire need of a good third baseman and a power hitter, Beltre is the best player in the free agent market this year. He is amongst the best corner infielders in baseball and could hit in the three-spot in the lineup, right in between Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.

    The problem, though, is that Beltre was courted by the Orioles last year--when he signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox--and he made it public that he had no interest in Baltimore. Keep in mind that he was coming off of a terrible season in 2009.

    If he said no last season with few suitors, him changing is mind and signing with the O's when he is one of the most sought after players is a stretch.

Carlos Pena

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    ST. PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 27:  Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles talks with first baseman Carlos Pena #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Gett
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Age: 32

    2010 stats: .196 avg., 28HR, 84 RBI

    Before you bash the idea of Pena being an Oriole because of his terrible average, just listen.

    Pena will more than likely want a one- or two-year deal with a low salary to try and fix his swing and be able to get another contract once that happens.

    Why the Orioles? Because he wanted to be an Oriole in 2006, but the O's backed out at the last minute--retaining Kevin Millar and signing Aubrey Huff instead.

    When at his best, Pena is a mediocre hitter for average, but a great power hitter. In addition, he is one of the best fielding first basemen in baseball and is a vocal leader in the club house--something the Orioles young group could use. 

Adam Dunn

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    CINCINNATI - JULY 22:  Adam Dunn #44 of the Washington Nationals is pictured during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 22, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Age: 30

    2010 stats: .260 avg., 38 HR, 103 RBI

    Washington National fans would never forgive the Orioles if they rip Dunn away from the nation's capital. That being said, he could be a monstrous pickup for a team in need of power.

    Camden Yards' left field wall is very close to the plate and a power hitting lefty could have balls flying into Eutaw Street like it is batting practice.

    Dunn doesn't want to be used as a DH exclusively, but he probably would be willing to go back and forth between the two.

    If Jones, Markakis, Wieters and Roberts return to form next year and the Orioles sign Dunn, the O's 1-5 would be arguably the best in baseball.

Paul Konerko

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    CHICAGO - AUGUST 10: Paul Konerko #14 of the Chicago White Sox hits a double against the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field on August 10, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Twins defeated the White Sox 12-6. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    2010 stats: .312 avg., 39 HR, 111 RBI

    Konerko is probably the most likely player for the Orioles to pay big money for and actually get. The Orioles have been interested in him ever since 2005, when they offered him a much higher salary that the White Sox, but he chose to stay in Chicago.

    His power would be very valuable at first base and he is a good fielder as well.

    2011 will be a Konerko's 13 season, meaning that this is more than likely going to be his last opportunity to sign a big contract. If the Orioles repeat their strategy from '05 and offer more than Konerko's Sox, he might be lured away.

Victor Martinez

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Victor Martinez #41 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 13, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010 stats: .302 avg., 20 HR, 79 RBI (127 games)

    Martinez's versatility is what makes him such a valuable asset for the Orioles. He can play catcher, first base and can DH to give him a break. He could play first base for five days a week and the spell Matt Wieters behind the plate to give Wieters a break.

    The one dark spot on Martinez' resume is the injury risk he poses, but this is one of those situations where the upside is worth the risk.

    If there is a reason why Martinez wouldn't join the O's, it is that he has said he wants to catch more and with that spot held by Wieters, Martinez might go to another team.

Derrick Lee

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    CHICAGO - MARCH 31: Derrek Lee #25 of the Chicago Cubs swings at the pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the Opening Day game on March 31, 2008 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Age: 35

    2010 stats: .260 avg., 19 HR, 80 RBI

    Lee's days as an offensive juggernaut are probably behind him, but view him as a better version of Pena. 

    He is a great fielder, still a productive hitter and is one of the nicest and most respected guys in baseball.

    I think that something people overlook when seeing guys like Pena and Lee is that Camden Yards can resurrect a hitters career--especially for a power-hitter.

    Pena and Lee both hit a ton of fly balls and with the short walls in left and right field, how many of those turn into home runs when they play in Baltimore?

Jake Westbrook

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    PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 21:  Jake Westbrook #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on September 21, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Age: 33

    2010 stats: 10-11, 4.22 ERA, 202.2 IP

    Westbrook is one of three pitcher that the Orioles should look at to replace Millwood as the veteran ace of the staff.

    He doesn't have a team that he has a long relationship--he's only been in St. Louis for a few moths after being trade from Cleveland--meaning that he is one of few players where loyalty won't be a factor.

    The O's are looking for a work horse and Westbrook fits that bill perfectly. He has had four straight seasons of over 200 innings pitched and excluding this season with a terrible Indians team, he has had three straight years of at least 14 wins.

Carl Pavano

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 7: Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game two of the ALDS game against the New York Yankees on October 7, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Age: 34

    2010 stats: 17-11, 3.75 ERA, 221 IP

    Pavano's season has shocked much of baseball after everyone wrote him off when he busted as a Yankee. However, Pavano has resurrected his career in Minnesota and will be looking for a bigger contract. 

    Big contract is a relative term--it won't be anything lucrative like his contract with New York--but probably too big for the Twins to keep him.

    Again, this is a situation where the O's will have to overpay at least a little bit, but MacPhail seems determined to do what is needed to improve this club using outside additions.

Jon Garland

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    DENVER - SEPTEMBER 14:  Starting pitcher Jon Garland #27 of the San Diego Padres delivers against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 14, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    2010 stats: 14-12, 3.47 ERA, 200 IP

    Garland was a solid pitcher on a Padres staff that carried a horrible offense the entire season.

    His ERA is lowest amongst the other two pitchers named, and he is also the youngest. 

    As for his ability to handle a large number of innings, he is as qualified as the others. He has pitched no fewer than 192 innings since 2002. In addition, he spent this season helping to groom rookie pitcher Matt Latos into a star and he can do that with the plethora of young pitchers the Orioles have.