Free agency has arrived; looking at 10 Orioles that could fly the coop - and probably will -

Dan Connolly

Free agency has arrived; looking at 10 Orioles that could fly the coop — and probably will

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Now that the World Series is over – and you can file this one in the memory bank and use it the next time a friend says baseball is boring – the hot stove season is about to heat up.

Well, sorta, kinda, maybe.

There are a whole lot of knobs on that stove, and they get turned up gradually as the offseason progresses.

Today, the stove gets turned on, and left at 1. Not sure you can boil water for the next week or two.

The first big step – and one that is purely procedural – is that all pending free agents come off 40-man rosters at 9 a.m. today and begin doing laps in the always risky and crowded free-agent pool.

For the Orioles, that means 10 roster sports open, although some will soon be filled by minor leaguers that need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

The Orioles, technically speaking, can present any of their 10 free agents a $17.4 million qualifying offer within the next five days and then the player must accept or reject it within a 10-day period. There’s been some drama involving the Orioles and the qualifying offer in the past, but no sleep is going to be lost on it this winter.

No shot that any of the 10 get qualifying offers from the Orioles. A couple will get buyout checks, a few will get cursory calls to their agents and some will just get out of Camden Yards before the turnstiles hit them in the backs.

Here’s a look at the Orioles’ 10 pending free agents – players that were on the 40-man roster to end the season but can play elsewhere next year — and what the future holds for each.

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    November 2, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I can’t imagine any teams wanting to sign these guys – Miley and Jimenez are borderline major leaguers. Miley has now pitched for 4 teams without much success. Jimenez is a complete mess but who wants a guy who is so inconsistent. Tillman has been a very good pitcher for a while but who knows of he will ever return to the form he displayed from 2012 to 2016. He is a gamble for anyone.
    Smith, Flaherty, and Gentry should be easy to replace while letting Hellickson go is a no-brainer. Castillo was a God-send for the Orioles and he can do well on the open market. Did anyone ever hear somebody say we missed Matt Wieters?
    J.J. Hardy has been one of the most underrated players in baseball for most of his career. I am one who isn’t sure Tim Beckham can be an everyday shortstop in the majors. He makes a high number of errors. I think the Os should bring back Hardy.
    The chemistry on this team needs to change. It was very disappointing the way the Orioles played from Labor Day on. This was in sharp contrast to the 2015 season when they swept the Yankees on the final weekend to finish at .500.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 2, 2017 at 10:27 am

      “Did anyone ever hear somebody say we missed Matt Wieters?” you ask?

      Heck, I think we missed Matt Wieters all season long. Is it all just a big coincidence that our middle of the pack starting rotation changed in to an all-timer awful staff? That it took almost the entire year for Gausman to get it together? Coincidence that our relief corps took a collective step backward? That nobody could throw strikes? I think the staff certainly missed Wieters, if not the fans.

      Is it also merely a coincidence that Nationals Gio Gonzalez seemed to find the fountain of youth this past season? Coincidence that Matt Albers ERA was 2½ runs lower this year than his career ERA? That Stephen Strasberg dropped his ERA by ½ a run and finally lived up to his potential and had the best year of his career? That without ANY relievers on the team that the Nats ERA was still only 3.8? Maybe all this really was a big coincidence … I dunno. But what I do know is Matt Wieters is a top notch catcher, and I for one missed him.

      • bigdaddydk

        November 2, 2017 at 11:18 am

        Herein lies the problem with small samples. One season doesn’t provide adequate data to gauge how well catchers do with a staff as there are way too many variables that can skew data over a single season. Does the catcher make the staff better or worse, or does the staff make the catcher look better or worse? Not sure it’s entirely fair to compare Gonzalez, Scherzer, Strasburg, Roark, Ross, and Jackson to Bundy, Gausman, Miley, Jimenez, Tillman, Hellickson, and the Norfolk Shuttle. The Nats starter all averaged over 5 innings pitched per outing, and three averaged over 6. The O’s had one starter who averaged over 6 (Bundy) and two over 5 (Gausman and Hellickson.) Seems to me that a catcher has to be credited for the outstanding performances if he takes responsibility for the poor ones, like Castro, Givens, and Bleier. Maybe poor pitching is just poor pitching, no matter who’s doing the catching. Personally, as much as I liked Wieters when he was in Baltimore, I don’t see double the money in value over what Castillo provided. Interestingly, the Nats’ catchers ranked dead last in Wins Above Average by position and the O’s catchers ranked 3rd. Whereas the Nats’ starting pitchers were 1st and the O’s starters were 29th in WAA. That discrepancy is too much to lay on the catcher.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          November 2, 2017 at 1:20 pm

          I didn’t intend to imply the EVERYTHING was due to Matts departure. Certainly Matt wasn’t throwing the ball himself. So yeah, I Gotcha. It was total coincidence.

          • bigdaddydk

            November 2, 2017 at 2:18 pm

            Wasn’t implying total coincidence. I’m just saying there’s not enough sample size to say that either catcher has much to do with the performance of either staff. Need more than a season of data to make any kind of a real determination.

    • Ben1

      November 2, 2017 at 4:22 pm

      move Beckham to 2nd.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 2, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      GSI: I’ll buy you a real beer if Miley and Ubaldo don’t get big league contracts this winter. Starting pitching is just too scarce. And these guys are durable, fwiw.

  2. Bancells Moustache

    November 2, 2017 at 9:22 am

    Look on the bright side, Yu Darvish price may have dropped.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      November 2, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Yubaldo Darvishenez?

    • bigdaddydk

      November 2, 2017 at 10:42 am

      He’s not on the bargain rack. DD isn’t interested.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 2, 2017 at 9:42 pm

      More so, he’s not on the bargain rack so he won’t have to settle.

  3. TheWalkingEd

    November 2, 2017 at 10:02 am

    There really isn’t any one of these guys that need to come back.

    Dan, I do agree with your assessment that Tillman is the most likely one of the bunch to return.

    I have really like J.J.’s overall contributions to this team and would hope that when he decides to hang ‘em up that the Orioles would bring him back in some capacity; perhaps as a roving infield instructor for their minor league teams.

    Happy first day of Hot Stove !!!

    • Dan Connolly

      November 2, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      I don’t know if Hardy will ever be a full-time coach. He’s made enough money in his life to be secure for a long, long time and coaching is a tough life. But definitely could see him as a spring training instructor in the future.

  4. bigdaddydk

    November 2, 2017 at 10:41 am

    I see a lot of guys who made some contributions but not enough to stay around. Tillman, I agree, is the likeliest to return. However, I have concerns about his shoulder. Something just doesn’t seem right when watching him pitch. I did my own comparison during the season to previous years and he was in a different arm slot. That screams injury to me, knowing how I’m currently compensating with my own shoulder as I finish out our softball season and hoping the doctor doesn’t find anything serious with it. Arm slot changes are most often the result of discomfort when a mechanical adjustment isn’t required, and Tillman wasn’t in need of a mechanical adjustment from 2016.

    I had a strong appreciation for Gentry, Smith, and Castillo this year. Gentry did some things that nobody else on the roster could do, namely steal bases and cover a huge amount of territory in the OF. Smith could get hot and absolutely kill the ball. I never felt like he was a liability in the OF, particularly if he played there instead of Trumbo. Castillo’s 49% rate throwing out base runners was a serious plus. And his bat plays nicely in OPACY. Of the three, I’d really like to see him back. I know it’s a hard move to manufacture, but if there was any way the O’s could re-sign him to a multi-year deal as a catcher/DH platoon guy and move Trumbo to someone else in need of a first baseman, I’d love to see that. Castillo is a solid #3 or #6 hole guy in a lineup, and he could catch enough games to have a fresh guy behind the plate regularly. I’d like Sisco to have another year to develop. Castillo would be a third catcher but he’d be consuming the DH spot in the lineup. Also takes care of the emergency catcher spot, reducing the damage (OK, this is said in jest) from losing Flaherty.

    Of the ones leaving, or at least likely to leave, I’ll miss JJ the most. His contributions to the O’s renaissance since 2012 have been tremendous. He’s been the consummate professional, playing a great SS and, with the exception of the last couple of years, providing adequate or better offensive production. His influence with Manny and Schoop has been huge. I hope the O’s find a way to bring him back into the organization. He’s smart and likable. He’d make an amazing coach, in my opinion.

    UJ and Miley? Yes, I know there’s a dearth of starting pitching. But I don’t see UJ as a MLB quality pitcher. And I hope Miley ends up somewhere in the AL East so we can see him three or four times a year. They both seem like hard workers and competitors, but the skill set seems lacking to my eyes. I’m trying to picture a rotation that either of them improves, particularly when considering how needy for pitching the O’s are and we won’t pick them back up. The Mets, Reds, and Tigers had worse staff ERAs than the O’s, but Cincy and Detroit had dumpster fires for bullpens and the Mets had injuries to key pieces.

    On a side note, there’s a part of me that is discouraged when I hear O’s leadership commenting on needing left-handed pitching like it’s an absolute necessity. Yes, a lefty would be nice, but I’d take competent right-handed pitching over journeyman lefties any day.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 2, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Good stuff Big Daddy. I asked him about the arm slot stuff. He said he just couldn’t find a spot that he felt comfortable with. Not pain just a comfortable slot where he could effectively throw all of his pitches.

  5. Ben1

    November 2, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Really respect J.J. but …. time to go for ALL the above.

  6. Birdman

    November 2, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    This really makes clear what a reclamation project the Orioles are – out of these 10 free agents, nine had seasons ranging from mediocre to terrible – only one, Castillo, had what could be considered a good year

    as for the Wieters debate, I don’t get it … the guy batted .225 for the Nationals with 10 home runs – the Castillo/Joseph combo was far superior

  7. eatdrink be Murray33

    November 3, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Come on Dan — the real Albatross around the Os neck is playing 1st base . The Davis contract will surely go down as the worst in franchise history.

    The O’s have place all their eggs in the Bundy/Gausman basket. If they don’t become legitimate #2 starters (at a minimum) then we aren’t going anywhere.

    The real conversation should be what are the Os going to do wIth Manny? And then Schoop?

    • Steve Cockey

      November 3, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Great username here. Made me chuckle.

  8. All_The_Way_Up

    November 3, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Dan, who is replacing Executive director of International Recruiting Fred Ferreira? Did his contract expire or was he let go?? Any chance he’d share some words about the O’s approach to scouting & international signings?? The O’s operations are about as clear as mud, I bet he’d provide interesting insight

    • Dan Connolly

      November 3, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Not hearing any names at this point. And yes it’d be interesting.

      • All_The_Way_Up

        November 4, 2017 at 2:20 pm



  9. The Wedge

    November 5, 2017 at 9:05 am

    This might be heart more than head, but I see Tilly, J.J., Flash, and Gentry (on a MiL deal) returning.

    Deuces to the rest. (But thanks for representing the Bird well.)

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