Recently MLB Trade Rumors has released its expectations of where they believe their top 50 free agents will land. According to MLBTR, the O’s will sign two of their top 50 free agents: Scott Feldman and Nate McLouth.
Discuss the O’s free agency targets on the BSL Forums here.
Feldman is ranked as the 27th best free agent available, while McLouth is 41st on the list. The O’s are expected to sign both guys, as has been a consensus from many around the team since the season ended. Tim Dierkes of MLBTR explains his pick of the Orioles for both:
The Cubs’ one-year, $6MM investment in Feldman a year ago paid off, as he provided 15 solid starts for them before being flipped to the Orioles in a trade for controllable players. The Orioles were happy with the results and Feldman could continue to stabilize their rotation on a new two-year deal. The Twins, Yankees, Blue Jays, Indians, Royals, Angels, Mariners, Astros, Nationals, Mets, Phillies, Brewers, Giants, Padres, and Rockies could fit on guys like this, basically half of baseball.
This year McLouth played in more than 130 games for the first time since his banner 2008 season with the Pirates. He seemed stretched a little thin as an everyday left fielder, hitting .243/.306/.380 from May onward. McLouth still provides quiet value, especially against right-handed pitching, and it should be enough to get him a Jonny Gomes type of contract. If a return to Baltimore doesn’t work out, teams like the Mets and Astros have outfield openings McLouth could help fill at a reasonable cost.
Feldman is, as Dierkes suggests, the type of pitcher that most teams would love to have on their roster. He is fairly reliable, and we saw that reliability pays when Jeremy Guthrie signed a 3 year, $25 Million contract last offseason. Feldman isn’t likely to get that much, but he could see offers in the 2-3 year range from the O’s and competitors.
McLouth would be a decent 4th outfielder for a team with playoff aspirations, or a starter for a team like the Astros. For a team, like the Orioles, who aspire to more than just also-ran status next season, McLouth should not be an everyday player.
While I can see both players returning to Baltimore next season, many O’s fans would be disappointed if those were the big splashes the club made this offseason. These moves do seem to fit in with the M.O. of Dan Duquette who has extracted a lot of value out of relatively cheap free agents. What if O’s fans want to dream on a bigger signing who could have a more significant impact on the club?
MLBTR mentions the O’s as a possible suitor for Carlos Beltran, the aging yet solid outfielder. Beltran would likely spend significant time at DH, but he’s not brutal in the field so he could fill in on defense when they wanted to get Chris Davis some DH at-bats. Beltran’s career triple slash of .283/.359/.496 is solid, and would be a huge boon to an O’s offense that struggles with getting runners on base. While Beltran isn’t the player he once was, he’s still a terrific hitter whose production was 32% better than the average outfielder. That’s 14% better than Adam Jones for those keeping score at home. The biggest question will be if the O’s want to give up the money and draft pick required to sign Beltran after the Cards extended a Qualifying Offer to him.
The next player Tim Dierkes suggests could be an Orioles target is Omar Infante, a player who has been linked to the Yankees recently. Dierkes thinks that Infante could get 3 years and $25 Million on the open market this offseason. Infante was a 3 win player last year for the Tigers, posting a triple slash of .318/.345/.450 which translates to a wRC+ of 117 at second base. It’s questionable if he’ll be able to produce at that level again, but a triple slash closer to his career line would still make him at least a 2-win player. Given the O’s dearth of options at second base, Infante could be a relatively cheap and effective option for the club. He also did not receive a Qualifying Offer from Detroit, which means he won’t cost a pick to acquire.
Marlon Byrd is a player who, coming off a career year, will be looking to cash in during free agency. Byrd was a 4 win player whose bat produced better than even Beltran last year. He’s not great on defense, but his base-running is solid and the bat looked legitimate this year. Then again, his 24 home runs were a career high. In fact, Byrd posted near career highs in almost every category this past season, despite being 35 years old. Will he be able to continue producing at 36? Dierkes projects something along the lines of 2 years and $15 Million for Byrd, which could be a reasonable gamble for any team looking to make the jump into playoff contention. The O’s outfield would be incredibly deep all of a sudden if Byrd became the starting left fielder with McLouth backing up him and Jones.
The last two players the O’s were linked to in Dierkes piece are guys that I don’t think make much sense at all for the club. Dierkes suggests the team could inquire on Kenrys Morales, a potential DH, and Jason Vargas a seasoned veteran and innings-eater extraordinaire. Vargas posted a 4.05 ERA in 150 innings for the Angels last year, but would be just another back end starter on a team full of them. No doubt Morales would be a good bat to add to the lineup, but with the fact that he costs a draft pick, I don’t see the O’s making that kind of move for a 1-1.5 win DH.
No doubt many O’s fans want to see the club make a significant move in free agency. Signings like Feldman and McLouth won’t stir the fan base, and likely won’t be enough to get the team back over the playoff hump. Guys like Beltran, Infante, or even Byrd could however be the push that gets the club back to 90 wins.
One thing that is interesting though, is that Dierkes didn’t link the O’s to any pitchers besides Feldman. The rotation was clearly an issue for the team last year, and many fans have been clamoring for starting pitching help. Unfortunately there aren’t many options for pitching out there, so the club might be able to get more bang for its buck by adding to the offense rather than buying pitching. We know the O’s hit more home runs than any team last year, and if they had more runners on base those home runs would be more damaging to opponents than they already are.
Will the O’s pursue any of these players? Only time will tell. The one thing we do know though, is that the goal will be to get back to the playoffs next season. Hopefully Dan Duquette takes a long hard look at some of MLBTR’s top 50 free agents, because they might be able to get the team back to playing October baseball.