It’s been a disappointing season for the O’s. It was supposed to be a year where they made huge strides towards the future and took the next step towards the playoffs. Instead the O’s took a huge step back and have had no pitching whatsoever. But don’t fret yet because the potential is still there. Typically teams like this that have high upside tend to disappoint. Once they fall under the radar they finally break out. The Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, and Cincinnati Reds have all done the same thing in recent memory. With so many offensive things going right such as the breakout of Adam Jones, the rebound of JJ Hardy, and the All-Star achievement of Matt Wieters, what can the O’s do in the offseason to make sure that next year is their year? Here are a few potential free agents that the birds need to target
Prince Fielder (1B)– Baltimore fans have been hopeful for the arrival for Fielder for a few years now. Ever since we offered the second largest contract to Mark Teixeira but fell short, we have looked ahead to the next big available 1B. The list of teams who will be interested in Fielder are actually pretty thin. Obviously Milwaukee will want him back, but there doesn’t seem to be mutual interest. A World Series win for the Brewers could change that. The Cubs want to resign Carlos Pena and the Cardinals want to resign Albert Pujols. That eliminates both of them. Fielder is a good fielder, pun intended, so being a DH is out of the question. Sorry Boston and New York. Texas is the biggest threat. They are in need of a 1B and will have a lot of money coming in from their new tv deal. But the O’s will be in the negotiations and are willing to pay. McPhail has said on multiple occasions that he has been granted the approval to spend money, but he hasn’t felt that the free agents out there were worth the money. Fielder is worth the money. His 50 HR power would be welcomed at Camden Yards, and he would be a major difference maker.
Yu Darvish (SP)– You probably haven’t head of him yet. He is the next big thing from Japan. Darvish was the ace of the Japanese World Baseball Classic and Olympic teams and is probably the greatest Japanese pitcher ever. No lie. He is only 25 years old and still has plenty of room to grow. There is a big possibility that Darvish will be posted this season, which means that MLB teams will be allowed to bid for the right to negotiate with him. The main reason that the Orioles signed Koji Uehara a few years ago was the strengthen their relations with Japanese players. One has to assume that this move was done in preparation for Darvish. Almost every team will be in on this guy. Are the Orioles necessarily a long shot? Were the Reds a long shot for Aroldis Chapman? Absolutely anyone can the win the rights to these kinda guys. And seeing how the Yankees and Red Sox treated Kei Igawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, New York and Boston are not desirable locations for Japanese players anymore. So even if the Yankees or Red Sox are awarded negotiation rights it doesn’t mean Darvish will sign. All the O’s have to do to spend the dough for a legendary ace quality pitcher. Yes I say legendary because I truly believe Darvish will be the best Japanese pitcher to ever come to the majors. He doesn’t have all that much competition to win that honor.
Heath Bell (CL)– Sure, why not? He is a dominate closer and the Orioles have struggled to find a good closer the last few years. Most teams are actually satisfied with their current closers and all of the contenders already have good ones. In free agency Bell is going to choose a team where he is the closer and not just a set up man. So teams like Baltimore, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Chicago White Sox, Florida, Philadelphia, and St Louis will be in on Bell. You never know.
Jonathan Papelbon (CL)– All of the teams listed above will also be in on Papelbon. Bell will be more desirable and will go first. After that the rest of the teams can fight over Papelbon. He certainly likes pitching in the AL East so Baltimore, Toronto, and Tampa Bay have advantages. He isn’t as dominate as he once was, but he is still very solid. A new closer plus Gregg and Johnson makes for a good beginning of a much improved bullpen. And unlike signing guys who have a history of blowing saves (Gonzalez, Gregg), these guys have a history of success.
Jonathan Broxton (CL)– Okay so he has a little history of blowing saves. But if you get him for a bargain he’s worth the risk.
They are really the only major guys that I think fit. Chris Carpenter will cost too much and is on the decline. Hiroki Kuroda won’t leave the west coast. Dontrelle Willis is too risky and may have actually earned a decent contract. Those three guys are long shots, but are guys I could see fitting. Josh Willingham may also fit, but really isn’t a huge upgrade to Reimold’s potential. Plus he is injury prone. I bank on the O’s continuing with their good offense, Matusz breaking out, and the other young starters continuing to get better. I still know for a fact that Matusz will be fine and will still be an ace in this league. Arrieta has been solid this year, and Britton will be better. Those three guys are a great core. Combine that with a veteran inning eater like Guthrie at the end of the rotation and all your missing is one more guy. Darvish or Carpenter could make this an above average rotation. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.