Host of former Orioles hit free-agent market - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Host of former Orioles hit free-agent market

Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA Today Sports

One day after the World Series, an attractive class of free agents was revealed that was heavy on former Orioles.

Adam Jones was declared a free agent, and the market will be an interesting one. Jones, who was named the Most Valuable Oriole for the past season, is 33 and moved from center field, where he won four Gold Gloves, to right field in August when Cedric Mullins joined the club.

It appears unlikely Jones will return to the Orioles for 2019, but the possibility exists if he remains unsigned deep into the winter and the club decides it needs his veteran presence.

The Nationals’ Bryce Harper and the Dodgers’ Manny Machado, who was traded by the Orioles to Los Angeles at midseason, will get the most attention of the 145 free agents. If Game 5 starters Clayton Kershaw and David Price opt out of their contracts, they’ll get plenty of attention, too.

One storyline will be if Machado’s indifferent and inconsistent play in the postseason will cost him.

According to online oddsmaker Bovada, the Philadelphia Phillies are 3/2 favorites to sign Machado. The Phillies are even money to sign Harper, too.

The Dodgers are 9/4 to sign Machado, followed by the Yankees at 3/1, Marlins (8/1), Angels (9/1), Braves and Nationals (both 14/1).

Two former Orioles who were free agents four years ago, Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, are back on the market. After the 2014 season, the Orioles declined to offer Cruz a fourth year (he signed with Seattle), and withdrew from the Markakis sweepstakes (he went to Atlanta).

Cruz hit .284 in four seasons with the Mariners, averaging more than 40 home runs and 100 RBIs. At 38, Cruz won’t get another four-year deal but is still hitting well enough to draw two years.

Markakis, who will be 35 next month, was a first-time All-Star this season, playing all 162 games for the Braves and hitting .297, his highest average since 2012. He drove in 97 runs, his most since 2009. He played all but 12 of Atlanta’s games during his four years there, and could get a three-year contract.

Zach Britton, who was traded from the Orioles to the Yankees in July, gets his first crack at free-agency. Britton’s 2.88 ERA in 25 games in New York wasn’t close to his stellar 2016 season, when he allowed just four earned runs and had an 0.54 ERA while converting all 47 of his save chances. He’ll undoubtedly be in demand.

The market is unlikely to be as strong for right-hander Brad Brach, who was traded by the Orioles to the Braves in late July. Brach had a 4.85 ERA in 42 games with the Orioles and improved to 1.52 in 57 games with Atlanta but looked shaky in two appearances against the Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Steve Pearce’s World Series MVP performance will help him, and the Red Sox might be convinced they need the newest New England folk hero back in 2019.

When the Orioles didn’t pick up Wade Miley’s $12 million option for this season, the left-hander had a tough time getting work and didn’t sign with Milwaukee until spring training. Miley, who led the majors in walks in 2017, cut his walks per nine innings from 5.3 to 3.0 and his ERA from 5.61 to 2.57.

Miley should have no trouble parlaying his season and his success in the postseason — two runs in 14 2/3 innings — into a multi-year deal.

Andrew Miller, who looked to be one of the most sought-after free agents when the season began, had an awful 2018 with Cleveland. In the first three years of a four-year, $36 million deal, Miller had ERAs of 1.39, 1.55 and 1.44. This year, it rocketed to 4.24, and that will cost Miller in the market.

Many may not remember that Edwin Jackson was even an Oriole. Baltimore was the 12th different team Jackson had played for, and it was his briefest stop. He was let go after three rough outings in June 2017.

After a strong season with Oakland, his major league record-tying 13th team, the 35-year-old Jackson is looking for yet another baseball home.

Jim Johnson, who in 2012 set an Orioles record with 51 saves, has pitched for five teams after leaving Baltimore. After a decent season with the Angels, where he had a 3.84 ERA, Johnson looks to be on the move again.

Another peripatetic former Oriole, Bud Norris, has also pitched for five teams after leaving the Orioles in 2015. Norris, now a closer, saved 28 games for the St. Louis Cardinals this season and should find a soft landing.

Jeremy Hellickson had a nightmarish final two months for the Orioles in 2017, but rebounded to a 3.45 ERA for the Nationals in 19 starts. He, too, shouldn’t have much trouble in the market.

Two former Oriole catchers might have to settle for being backups. Matt Wieters, one of the best catchers in team history, had a disappointing two-year run in Washington, hitting just .230.

Nick Hundley, who filled in nicely for Wieters after he had Tommy John surgery in 2014, is 35, three years older than Wieters. Hundley has played for Colorado and San Francisco since leaving the Orioles and could be valuable as a part-timer.

While the market outlook looks bright for most former Orioles, there are a few who might struggle.

Infielder Ryan Flaherty, who might turn his attention to a coaching or managing career, had the best month of his career in April when he hit .300 for Atlanta, but in the season’s second half, was just 1-for-21 (.048).

Corner infielder Mark Reynolds has played for six teams since leaving the Orioles after the 2012 season. He hit .248 for the Nationals in 86 games, but at 35, may be nearing the end of the line.

Pitchers Yovani Gallardo (5.77 ERA in 18 starts for Texas) and Miguel Gonzalez (12.41 ERA in three starts for the Chicago White Sox) face long odds. Gonzalez underwent right shoulder surgery in July and won’t be ready to begin the 2019 season.

The Orioles have one other free agent, Colby Rasmus, who abruptly left the team in July. It was the second straight year that Rasmus walked out on a team, and it’s unlikely he’ll get a chance to do it three years in a row.

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. SpinMaster

    October 30, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Rich: This was a nice trip down memory lane. After reading it, I was reminded that Matt Wieters was sidelined in 2014 with Tommy John surgery and Nick Hundley filled in. I also remember that Chris Davis got suspended at the end of the season and a future World Series MVP filled in for him. It is amazing the number of cards that fell into place in 2014 to allow the O’s to get to the ALCS. I am probably missing someone who did the same as Nick and Steve Pearce did for the Orioles in 2014.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 30, 2018 at 10:12 am

      Spin, how about Delmon Young, Alejandro De Aza and Jimmy Paredes.

  2. boss61

    October 30, 2018 at 9:41 am

    The pattern of pitchers doing better after they leave here cannot be a coincidence. It’s one of the most glaring problems. Let’s hope it’s in the past.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 30, 2018 at 10:09 am

      Mark, it is a lot easier to pitch in the National League.

  3. PA Bird Lover

    October 30, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I don’t see any participation with the O’s this free agent period. Frankly, with no official GM, nothing is clear about the club. With PA out (is he) and the sons taking over there seems to be even more confusion. Will they move the entire Triple A team up and call it a day or sign a bunch of rule 5 guys who may be close. What’s your guess Rich?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 30, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      I would watch this space carefully the next couple of days, PA.

  4. bobbymac824

    October 30, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Always enjoy your vernacular Rich! Perhaps it’s time for Flash and Miggi to return to the nest as coaches? Keep bringing the news – hard, heavy and often!

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 30, 2018 at 12:59 pm

      Bobby, good to hear from you. I think Miguel Gonzalez would like to take another shot at playing. Flash is undecided.

  5. Fdog3

    October 30, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    What’s another word for thesaurus?

  6. cedar

    October 30, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Maybe I’m being too nostalgic but is there thoughts that signing Wieters as back up catcher, mentor to Wynns or Sisco, and working with a young pitching staff could provide a little stability to a rebuilding team?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 30, 2018 at 6:16 pm

      I would be surprised if that happened, Cedar. The Orioles also have Martin Cervenka for depth. They may well add a veteran catcher, but I don’t think they’d spend much on Wieters.

      • Jbigle1

        November 3, 2018 at 2:07 pm

        To be fair I don’t think Wieters is going to get much. He may hang the cleats up if he feels like a heavily incentive laden or deal south of 3-4 million isn’t worth it. I can’t imagine any team invests much more than that guaranteed. I agree we may not even want to spend that much on a backup catcher but Idk if anyone could spend more than that on him at this point.

  7. BirdsCaps

    October 31, 2018 at 12:01 am

    Holy Cow! (feel like I need a Harry Caray footnote here) there are a lot of former birds here. It seems like an overwhelming majority of players do better once they leave Baltimore. Others have posted about reunion with Jones or Wieters, but if they cost more than a 4A guy from Norfolk i’ll have my doubts. Also, having no GM or manager is getting to be an embarrassment for the organization. How much longer can they go on with the Angelos wonder twins in charge without a clear baseball operations executive on staff? At least the ravens are playing this time of year. As messed up as the purple birds are, they look like a model franchise compared to the black and orange.

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