We are now over a week removed from the baseball Winter Meetings and the Orioles walked away from them only acquiring two players through the Rule 5 draft to the displeasure of many fans.
In the time that Dan Duquette has had the reigns of the Orioles’ baseball operations, he has built a reputation for waiting until the last minute to make any splashes in the free agent market. The most notable cases of this include the signings of Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez in 2014, Everth Cabrera in 2015, Yovani Gallardo and the failed signing of Dexter Fowler in 2016.
With the calendar about to flip to January, and while it is still relatively early in the offseason of baseball, who is left for the Orioles to fill the needs to certain positions?
As of right now, the Orioles have a need for two corner outfielders, a catcher and a designated hitter. Let us break down who is left in the free agent market at those certain positions and potential players the Orioles could be, are looking at or who I think they should be.
Catcher: Welington Castillo, Nick Hundley, and Matt Wieters
Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball has reported most recently that Welington Castillo and the Orioles are most likely not going to agree on a deal despite there being talks of one. This is relieving news to hear considering Castillo is a poor pitch framer and, at best, a mediocre hitter.
As for Nick Hundley, I would not mind having him back on the Orioles; following his stint with the team in 2014 after Matt Wieters went down with an elbow injury. Hundley seemed to compliment fellow catcher Caleb Joseph well and the two managed the pitching staff very well.
And finally, the Orioles’ catcher since 2009: Matt Wieters. It is going to be really hard to say goodbye to Wieters after all he has done for the club to help them become a contender every year. However, just like Castillo; Wieters is a poor pitch framer and has been criticized for his declining defensive skills while his offense has stagnated.
Outfielder(s): Jose Bautista, Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan, Colby Rasmus, Ben Revere, and Michael Saunders
Outside of Dan Duquette’s outlandish and unnecessary comments regarding Jose Bautista and his “reason” for not seeking to offer him a contract, there are other things that would want me to not sign Bautista. The first being is his notable declining skill set followed by being a poor defender (-8 DRS, -5.6 UZR in 2016), and ultimately having a draft pick tied to him due to a qualifying offer being given to him by the Blue Jays.
After being acquired at the non-waiver deadline last season, Michael Bourn was quick to make his presence known on a slacking Orioles team, at the time. Bourn brought a speed element that the O’s had been lacking for almost the entire season, outside of Joey Rickard and all of his four stolen bases. I would not hate the idea of re-acquiring Bourn if it meant that the O’s were going to get somebody else.
Did you know that Angel Pagan had a 5 WAR year with the Mets in 2010? Yeah, me either. I’m not really sure why the Orioles are targeting Pagan in free agency, outside of the fact that he is a left handed hitting outfielder. While having -6 DRS and a 3.6 UZR last season, the 35 year old, turning 36 next July, might not be what the Orioles are looking for.
I listed Colby Rasmus on here because he hits the criteria set by Duquette for an outfielder he would want. The most notable thing about Rasmus in 2016 is that he had a total of 20 DRS and a 14.9 UZR over all three outfield positions with left field being his best. However, he did struggle at the plate; only hitting .206 with a .286 OBP and also racked up a K% of 29% which would have been second on the Orioles only behind Chris Davis’ 32.9%.
Ben Revere was not tendered a contract by the Nationals at that deadline, making him a free agent. Revere, an adequate defender, had 2 DRS and a 0.6 UZR in his first and only season with the Nationals in 2016. In mostly a bench role, Revere hit .217 with a .260 OBP and was able to rack up 14 stolen bases. It is hard to say what he can do in a starting role but I do not think he would be a terrible, and possibly cheap, option for the Orioles. Also, I want to see if even he can hit a home run in Camden Yards.
Michael Saunders became a free agent after not being offered a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays. Outside of Bautista, Saunders is probably the worst defender of this group with his -11 DRS and -8.9 UZR last season across all the outfield positions. Despite that, Saunders is a decent hitter with a .253 average, .338 OBP (which would have been the third best on the 2016 Orioles, min. 100 PA), 24 home runs, and a 10.6 BB% which would have been second best on the O’s last season. If the O’s want to sacrifice defense for offense, once again, Saunders is right up their alley.
Designated Hitter: Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, Edwin Encarnacion, and Mark Trumbo
I would happily welcome back Pedro Alvarez. After 22 home runs in 109 games for the Orioles, you can imagine that number hits 30, at least, if he were able to start everyday. However, due to the Orioles also having Mark Trumbo; Alvarez found himself on the bench a lot of the time. Alvarez would bring a much need extra left handed bat to a heavily right handed hitting lineup.
As appetizing as it sounds to watch Chris Carter effortlessly hit home runs and somehow find his way to leading the league next season in that category, he is just not what the Orioles need anymore: high home run total and high strike out total. Carter hit 41 home runs last season but had a 32 K% which was second in the entire MLB, behind Chris Davis.
My theory this offseason has become: if the Orioles are willing to offer $18 million a year for four years to Mark Trumbo, offer something similar to Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion can hit a lot of home runs (42), take walks (12.4 BB%), get on base (.357) and could come at a similar price to what Trumbo wants, which is around $20 million/year.
Speaking of Mark Trumbo, the Orioles seem to be continuing contract negotiations with him despite their best interests. While I loved watching Trumbo hit dingers this past season, just like with Carter, he does not fit the mold the Orioles need to install: getting on base AND hitting home runs. Trumbo struggles with strike outs, just like any home run hitter like him but he does not back it up with taking walks; made evident by his BB% of 7.6% last season.
No matter what the Orioles do next season, they will not appease every fan of theirs. My only hope is that they act in the best perceived interest of the club which to add players who get on base, play good defense and can drive runs in. I wish them the best of luck.