It’s obviously been the offseason of the trade in Major League Baseball.
Stars such as Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Dee Gordon, Gerrit Cole, Ian Kinsler and Marcell Ozuna have been dealt.
It certainly hasn’t been the offseason of the signed free agent.
Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez, among others, are still looking for jobs in mid-January.
For the Orioles, it’s been the offseason of the Rule 5 pick.
I know, you feel like you can say that every year, but this one’s been really special: Three Rule 5 picks to go with one already lingering on the roster from an injury filled in 2017.
I’m not writing this to depress you. I believe the Orioles will get into the trade mix at some point. There is still time.
And executive vice president Dan Duquette isn’t afraid to make trades; he makes them every year. Although most haven’t been particularly useful and certainly didn’t move the needle at the time (last winter’s most significant trade was Yovani Gallardo for Seth Smith).
I’d expect something like that. And then I’d expect most fans to grouse. Why couldn’t the Orioles land a Cole for instance? The national consensus was that the Houston Astros didn’t give up much to get Cole, a former No. 1 overall pick who is under club control for two more years.
The Astros didn’t deal away any of their Top 5 prospects – they wouldn’t do that for Zach Britton in July either – with infielder Colin Moran the highest of the group in roughly the sixth to eighth range. Moran, however, would be rated higher in the Orioles’ system, perhaps third.
The Astros also traded away right-hander Joe Musgrove, who would currently be the Orioles’ No. 3 starter, and two more young players.
Here’s the deal: The Orioles farm system is better than it was and there are players that other teams would definitely want in a trade. But it’s still not a group that is going to land you a highly coveted piece. Those are the cold facts.
And here’s a rather cold opinion: If the Orioles are part of a trade during the remainder of this offseason involving a big name, it will be with that big name leaving the Orioles, not coming to Baltimore.
Jones’ situation different than McCutchen’s
If the Pittsburgh Pirates can trade McCutchen, who has been the face of the franchise, a fan favorite and a community pillar, then it makes sense that the Orioles could, theoretically anyway, deal away center fielder Adam Jones, who has held the same roles in Baltimore.
Both are free agents after the season and both had similarly solid 2017 campaigns. Jones, 32, is a year older than McCutchen and makes $2.25 million more, but the differences aren’t stark.
Yet there is one major thing that separates the two.
McCutchen has eight years and 123 days of service time and Jones has 10 years and 139 days of time in the big leagues.
What that means is that Jones, because he has 10 years in the bigs and five years with one team, can veto any trade. The 10-5 status gives him full no-trade rights that he would have to waive before any trade can be finalized.
Now, Jones is a competitor. And, as much as he has become a fixture in Baltimore, he wants to win. If he sees that the Orioles won’t be competitive in 2018, he could waive his veto rights to join a winner if that’s his desire, whether that would be this offseason or in July. But he would be making that ultimate call, not the Orioles.
In this instance, the baseball is in Jones’ diamond; it wasn’t in McCutchen’s.
Hardy still weighing options
With spring training looming in about a month, J.J. Hardy has not made any decisions regarding his future playing career. The 35-year-old, free-agent shortstop is working out in Arizona, preparing for the upcoming season like he has all of his pro career.
There’s been some interest on the open market, but at this point he is still weighing his options. There is no set timetable on whether he’ll sign a contract or potentially retire.
Hardy batted .217 with a .255 on-base percentage in 268 plate appearances. He was limited to 73 games in 2017 after a pitch fractured his right wrist in June.
The Orioles declined his 2018 option, but have kept the door cracked open for a reunion if the right role could be carved out for the respected veteran.
The Davis’ signing revisited
Tuesday marked the two-year anniversary of the day the Orioles announced they had signed first baseman Chris Davis to a franchise-record, seven-year, $161-million contract.
You know how that has played out so far.
Here’s an interesting note: No one has signed a larger free-agent deal since Davis, who actually had the third largest contract of the 2015-16 offseason, behind Zack Greinke (six years, $206.5 million) and Jason Heyward (eight years, $184 million).
Davis signed his after Greinke and Heyward, however. No one had a bigger deal in the 2016-17 offseason and no one looks like they’ll touch Davis’ mark this winter.
Next year, Davis’ total value should be obliterated, though, by Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.