Diner Question: Should the Orioles avoid the free-agent market? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Diner Question: Should the Orioles avoid the free-agent market?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Free agency has begun, and this year’s class is one of the best in recent years. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are the biggest names, but there are a number of others who are quite attractive.

Former Orioles Zach Britton, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller have been prominently mentioned. Adam Jones is also high on many lists.

Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, Cleveland’s Josh Donaldson, Boston’s Craig Kimbrel are also featured on wish lists.

Other intriguing names are the Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi, fresh off his postseason heroics, and a personal favorite, Houston utilityman Marwin Gonzalez.

I read two lists of free agents, a top 50 in SI.com and a top 25 in MLB.com. In neither list were the Orioles listed as a likely fit or even a player for any of the top free agents.

By the time the free-agent market really gets into swing, the Orioles are likely to have a new baseball operations team in place, and it’s expected that the Orioles won’t engage in major bidding for free agents. They’ll probably look for “bridge” players, ones who can be signed to reasonable one-year contracts.

Former Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette said after the Machado trade that the team would redirect its resources to domestic and international scouting, player development, analytics and technology. I’m assuming that’s still the directive, but it could be possible that the team bids on a free agent or two if they think there’s good value.

This Week’s Diner Question:  Would you like the Orioles to be competitive in the free-agent market or do you think they should totally avoid it? 

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49 Comments

49 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 2, 2018 at 7:43 am

    Are we really interested in “bridge” players, even if they ARE willing to sign for only one year? I don’t think so. Throw the youngsters to the wolves, and see what they have. And no, I’m not worried about anybody’s psyche at this point. These guys either have it or they don’t. Let’s find out.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 8:00 am

      Boog, the Orioles did “throw the youngsters to the wolves” in September. That wasn’t pretty, and they don’t have enough youngsters to populate the roster, so some additions will be necessary.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        November 2, 2018 at 8:07 am

        And I’m not expecting it to be pretty this year either …. additions or not.

      • Lookouts400

        November 2, 2018 at 12:55 pm

        That’s the problem, not enough youngsters to fill out the roster. The injury to Hayes really hurt, because he likely would have been here for most of the season and certainly a favorite for 2019. Questions for you regarding Schoop. Do you see the Brewers non-tendering him and if they do non tender him, could he find his way back to Baltimore? And if all that happens, how does his contract work? He was to be a free agent at the end of next year, is that still what would happen?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 9:41 am

      And belated congratulations on your World Series forecast.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Lookouts, my guess is that the Brewers could try to trade him, but I don’t think they’ll non-tender him. Non-tendering makes him an immediate free agent, and while the idea of Schoop back with the Orioles is a nice one, I think he’d get better offers elsewhere. If he signs a one-year contract with Milwaukee or someone else, then he’s a free agent a year from now.

  2. Ekim

    November 2, 2018 at 8:06 am

    The O’s going after free agents now would be like building a house on sand. They’ve got to have a foundation first and what they have right now wouldn’t qualify as a foundation. I hate that there really isn’t anything to build on right now. BUT… after a couple of years with a number one pick we might be able to follow the lead of ( gulp) the Nationals, get some real talent in place and then use free agency to fill the holes.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 8:24 am

      That may be a plan, Ekim.

    • PA Bird Lover

      November 2, 2018 at 11:11 am

      I agree, but first we need a VERY knowledgeable GM, manager, and scouts that know what they’re looking,

    • Lookouts400

      November 2, 2018 at 1:07 pm

      Well, they do have a foundation. The outfield you would think is set, Mancini, Mullins Stewart, with Hayes hoping a solid spring might get him into the mix and Joey Bats around for depth. Then Nunez, don’t know, kinda like him, Villar, a second baseman from someplace, and Davis. Like it or not, Davis will probably be here, don’t think they’re going to buy him out…yet. Cervenka, Wynns, Sisco are your catchers, for better or worse. Hey, at least they can all squat.
      Cobb, Cashner, Bundy lead the rotation, with five or six others vying for the last two slots. The bullpen will see a lot of young pitchers, Phillips, Carroll will be in it at the start, with the opportunity to pitch themselves back into the minors, hopefully Bleier, certainly Givens, Castro, Arajo for 20 days.
      Don’t think they’re gonna add anything from the market, they won’t interfere with the tankin…I’m sorry, rebuilding.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      Well, you have it figured out, lookouts. I guess I have to follow you to see if you’re right.

      • Lookouts400

        November 2, 2018 at 4:10 pm

        I’m bored at work! LOL

  3. bigdaddydk

    November 2, 2018 at 8:35 am

    The free agent market can serve the team well, if they’re selective. There’s no way I want to see them bidding high for the top FAs. But one-year bridge players can be advantageous to giving players more development time in the minors. We have a mid-range farm system now, and the last thing I want to see is those guys get wrecked by being promoted too quickly. I’m not crazy about what happened to Sisco. It seems that promoting him was detrimental to his development. There are others who did reasonably well. I liked what Mullins and Stewart did overall. But this isn’t a one-year process. We’re not competing with anyone next year. So, a handful of bridge player acquisitions to help our youngsters develop properly so they can contribute in two or three years would be preferable to throwing them into the deep end and hoping they can learn to swim.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 8:42 am

      Good thoughts, bigdaddy.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      November 2, 2018 at 9:38 am

      To Rich’s earlier point, the Orioles will need some additional players to round out their roster in 2019. Some could come from Free Agency. They have plenty of Outfielders, should have enough Catchers (though none will be standouts), may need another Infielder or two (after Beckham is non-tendered) and should have plenty of Bullpen candidates.

      They need to have enough Starting Pitchers for the season-long grind. Bundy, Cashman, Cobb should be reliable, then the rest from a group of Wright, Yacabonis, Hess and the kids they picked up in the trading deadline may hold sway. May.

      It will be interesting to see how this plays out. They will be much more watchable and entertaining than the Beer League undisciplined hitters they’ve served up to us over most of the last 4+ years here–Shame on you Dan and Buck..it really was time for you both to be gone.. They let the entire game of Baseball pass them by…

      The best pitching prospects are still over a year away, some are more than 2 years away. They can’t rush them.

      They will be well positioned for high June Draft picks for a while and they should begin net some good International players moving forward.

      We are just going to have to wait and see how this whole thing plays out..and be patient.

      Would send a great message to their players and fans if they found a way to rid themselves of Davis’s contract by this time next year…

      I can tolerate losing if the team plays hard and continues to improve.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 9:43 am

      Interesting perspective, Castaway. You’ve put a lot of thought into it. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. Sisco Kid

    November 2, 2018 at 9:37 am

    I think it’s got to be a combination of some low cost bridge free agents and “throwing the youngsters to the wolves”, as Boog said. In regard to the pitching staff, there are a couple guys we should sign to fill innings until Harvey, Akin, Tate, and those guys are ready. I’m thinking like Bartolo Colon or Miguel Gonzales or someone else on a minor league deal who has a track record of at least eating innings.
    I think we shouldn’t be afraid to bring the young guys up though. Mountcastle’s bat is ready. He can slot in at 3B or at DH if they’re not comfortable with his defense. Hays should be up. Stewart should stay up. Sisco should be given full-time catching duties (which will build his confidence instead of the platoon crap from this past year). Diaz will be ready soon as well. I think the future is brighter than many people realize.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Sisco, Miguel Gonzalez won’t be able to pitch in the early part of the 2019 season due to shoulder surgery.

      It will be interesting to see how a new management team looks at your namesake.

    • Ekim

      November 2, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Sisco… One of the laments of the last season was fielding. Mount castle may be able to “survive” major league pitching but his fielding won’t survive major league hitting. Have you actually seen him in the field? Stewart has been “pushed” up through the minors because he was a #1 pick and certainly not on his ability. Look at his minor league career statistics… not very impressive. One of his flaws is that he is a notoriously streaky hitter. The fact that he did as well as he did in those short weeks we got to see him, to me, is a mirage. Look at how Mullins average dropped like a rock after the other teams got a look at him. Both of them need a LOT more time in the minors!

      • Sisco Kid

        November 2, 2018 at 10:56 am

        All fair points, and I’m probably definitely drinking some Orange Kool-Aid here. I know that none of these guys “projects” to be a huge difference-maker, but the thing is, the Orioles have made a living out of beating projections. And it may be very fair to say that we had some good luck over the 2012-2016 span of time, but I think we’re going to be alright in a couple of years (like 2021 or so). I’m not saying the Orioles are going to contend this year or even next year. It will be a while. But I think there’s something to be said for a group of young guys growing together through a struggle.

      • Jbigle1

        November 2, 2018 at 11:08 am

        Mountcastle nor hays should be up to start the season. Mountcastle needs work in the field and his bat hasn’t been so great in the minors to have him up tomorrow. There’s no sense in rushing him and his service clock to the big leagues. Mullins also probably should’ve stayed down another year. He didn’t need to be on the 40 man but he was hitting well and we needed to see if he could handle CF with jones set to depart. Stewart is nearly 25 years old. He’s showed issues with AAA pitching but he showed a lot of promise in AA. He needed to get protected this year because obviously you’re not going to give up on a guy like that. He’s showed more than you give him credit for. He’s not an elite prospect by any means but when you’re claiming guys like John Andreoli and playing Joey Rickard you certainly don’t take issue with Stewart getting a chance. His ceiling is as high as any OF we have not named mullins, Diaz or Hays..

  5. Os no

    November 2, 2018 at 10:02 am

    This is all mute until they sort out the front office and actually develop a plan. Regardless of the direction the new administration chooses, this is going to hurt a lot for the next few years before they can get this turned around. From what I’ve read on other sites, there is some pitching talent on the farm, but it is not ready to be forced onto the MLB roster yet, and all of the positional assets are years away. These are the assets that will key the rebuild and should be protected and grown. I think the outfield pieces, Mancini, Hays, Mullens, McKenna are probably ready, and we may as well see what Mountcastle and Sisco can do. Villar can play short, Wilkerson can play second and Trumbo and Davis can rotate at first and DH. We know this lineup is far from a pennant contender, but adding bridge/retreads to this lineup would do little to advance the turnaround. Don’t waste the money on these types of players. Spend it instead on the future.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      Os no, McKenna has hit well in the AFL, but grappled with AA. He may well start next season back in Bowie.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm

      Hays may also start out at Bowie, Mountcastle at Triple-A. I see too many holes in the starting rotation and the outfield for them not to bring in temps.

  6. Orial

    November 2, 2018 at 10:28 am

    It all comes down to their minor league depth which unfortunately lies somewhere at AA and A level ball. So to just remain competitive the answer is YES. Speedy defensive OFer,defensive IFer that hits better than what has become the norm lately–.190 to .200 Starting P(Shields),and throw a veteran catcher in there also. Just don’t go overboard which Im sure they won’t. I’ll get a lot of disagreement(let the kids play) BUT–the “kids” are at AA or A. Side note–sadly as far as Jones–Just say no. Thought it would good for attendence and leadership but not sure his “slow” legs are worth it.

  7. bats in the blefary

    November 2, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Look at this list. There are only 2 players who could help the Orioles three years from now, Machado and Harper. Stay away, direct resources elsewhere.
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/12/2018-19-mlb-free-agents.html

  8. Jbigle1

    November 2, 2018 at 10:51 am

    I think we should be in on any reclamation project. Whether it’s a starter or a reliever. it’s going to take ownership to relax their aversion to taking risks on guys with possibly murky injury histories but the guarantee they receive SHOULD be small enough to be able to do that but this is the same team that takes a watered down return or gives away players to dump off relatively small salaries. See Matusz a few years back and O’Day. Though oday’s salary wasn’t insignificant. We’re probably not getting through a season with the guys we have on hand right now in the rotation. The more lottery ticket guys we can sign the better. When July rolls around maybe you have a few guys who are flippable for some more prospects.

    • bigdaddydk

      November 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      Anyone on a make good contract would be worth a one-year look on the cheap. No way I’d bid big on anyone though.

  9. Hallbe62

    November 2, 2018 at 11:29 am

    For now avoid the FA market. There will be plenty of time, energy, & money for FA’s in 3-5 years.

    Find a good Manager and GM. Stick to your stated goals in improving scouting, player development, drafting, & analytics. Begin to explore and sign international talent as well.

    And for the time being continue to promote and play the young minor leaguers and fringe major leaguers that we do have, or can obtain thru the Rule 5 draft.

    We will continue to enjoy high 1st rd. mlb draft picks for the foreseeable future. And when we can consistently play at least .500 baseball, then invest in FA’s to put us over the top and back into contention.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm

      Hallbe, I’m afraid there’s not enough
      talent on hand to staff the major league roster for 2019 without bringing in some free agents on one-year contracts.

  10. willmiranda

    November 2, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Never say never. I haven’t checked out the lists, but if we can get a player whose ability and character will improve the team for next year at a fair price, we should do it. I’d avoid Scott Boras, if possible. If we’re just going to throw out ten lamb chops every day for two or three years, we may as well forfeit and save people a lot of grief. There’s probably no single free agent who’s a must have, but we have to maintain the fundamentals of development, trades, and free agency to compose a team. Many here have criticized the team for ignoring the foreign markets. Ignoring free agency is just as bad. After all, the foreign players are free agents.

    • Orial

      November 2, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Excellant point–avoid Scott Boras.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Interesting points, Will.

  11. DevoTion

    November 2, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks would be a very interesting season if the O’s didn’t sign any free agents and just went straight with what they have. They may even have a better record then this year.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      Well they’re just going to go with what they have, Devo.

  12. BirdsCaps

    November 2, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    My initial response to your question “Should the orioles avoid the FA market” was “should I avoid dating supermodels?” Just like I (and just about everyone else) “avoids” dating supermodels, the orioles avoid the free agent market on a yearly basis. Let’s just face it any game-changing player avoids Baltimore like the plague, due to the club’s penny pinching ways and incompetence in the front office. Sadly, the orioles avoiding the free agent market is a little bit of a misnomer due to Free agents avoiding them, much like supermodels avoid average joes, not average joes avoiding dating supermodels. As long as I’ve followed the team (2001) I have never seen the team make a big splash (maybe exception in 2004 and for davis) or really fully “engage ” in the market. As much as I would love to have game changing players, the birds will do nothing in the FA market (sans a few low level players to fill out the roster.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 11:50 pm

      BirdsCaps, I think you conveniently forgot that the Orioles were in the top half of MLB this year in payroll and that they signed the most expensive starting pitcher on the free agent market.

      That’s not “penny pinching.”

      It is difficult to attract top free agent starters to Baltimore, and that’s because the ballpark is so difficult to pitch in.

      During their run, Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Darren O’Day were all signed to handsome contracts.

      You can say the moves were bad ones, but you can’t say they spend money.

      • Jbigle1

        November 3, 2018 at 11:27 am

        Most expensive pitcher in May. Yu Darvish was a bit more pricey.

      • BirdsCaps

        November 3, 2018 at 4:23 pm

        Hey Rich
        Thanks for making me refine my argument. You are correct that the birds signed Cobb and Cashner to decent sized contracts and there was the Davis incident. However, they were end of the winter signings that didn’t attract the amount of interest that the players agents expected and thus the player signed in Baltimore. In terms of O’Day, he got I believe 8-9 million a year and Adam (I believe) signed an extension at a very reasonable rate. The Birds did have a fairly high payroll during the good years, however a good portion of the money was spent on assets that were in arbitration and players signed to extensions not via free agency. I still argue that the team has been very cheap in terms of signing free agents (and yes I did need to clean up my argument a bit). Cobb may have been one of the top paid pitchers in the 2017-18 FA market, but as good as Cobb was in TB he still was not a top tier player. Given you can make the argument that he is/was a very good player, but not someone I would argue that is a huge difference maker(e.g. Kershaw Sale, Madbum). Other good players include JJ (another extension) and Nelson Cruz (who was taken on a one year and relatively low risk contract). The Davis contract is the best argument that the birds do indeed spend money. However, without that data point I still contend that a large part of my argument stands: that the birds almost never sign difference makers or top tier players in the FA market.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      Thank you for the correction, jbigle, put my point stands.

  13. Raymo

    November 2, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    I say take a gamble and sign a few FAs. If we end up with another Nelson Cruz type resurgence, we can flip him at the deadline for more prospects.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 2, 2018 at 11:59 pm

      Will be interesting to see what new management’s philosophy is, Raymo.

  14. chico salmon

    November 3, 2018 at 10:58 am

    I like Jose Iglesias. He’s represented by Boras Corp, but we just don’t have a SS (Villar at 2B).
    I’d go 2 years with an option, maybe 3 years. SS is just too valuable and we need a quality fielder there.
    I also like Jose Lobetan at C. Those two positions, C and SS, need a veteran presence to bridge things.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 3, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      Interesting ideas, Chico.

    • Jbigle1

      November 3, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      I like your thinking with a SS. I think Iglesias May be too pricey for us though. I was thinking hechavarria is a good fit. Solid defender, not much with the bat but he should sign a very reasonable 2 year deal. I say we roll with Wynns/Sysco at catcher. We could certainly bring in a guy like loboton because that’d be a minor league deal but I’d like to see if one of the two of them can kick in the big leagues first.

  15. Jbigle1

    November 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Re-signed Sean Gilmartin to a minor league deal. We’re already making big moves…

  16. boss61

    November 3, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    For me its an easy question: avoid it. I am of the continuing opinion that the rebuild will take years to achieve. Many if not all of the contributors to the next O’s postseason team probably are not yet in organized baseball at all. Any free agent we sign will be retired or nearly so before we again are truly competitive. Signing someone just delays or impedes the needed youth movement.

  17. Suffering Os Fan

    November 6, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    I don’t have a problem spending between $5-10 million on free agents. The hope would be to get a reclamation project and flip him at the trade deadline for a prospect or two. Regardless, the bullpen and rotation need to be filled out and pitching is always valued at the deadline. Now imagine if the new coaching staff and management can find a way to develop some pitching . We can flip some guys and hopefully strike gold on a prospect or two. Worth a few million in my book. Probably not in the Angelos’ book though…

  18. ImissSchoop

    November 9, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    The Astros got their first #1 pick in 2012 meaning their low point came in 2011. Then they had two more seasons of 100 loss seasons followed by a 92 loss season (w/ two bad yrs before that as well). After that they were a WC w a similar season in 2016 and then won the WS in 2017. If you use that as a measuring stick we are looking at 4 horrendous years. They weren’t good before that but I believe the draft worked different then. Obviously our path will be different than the Astros but we are talking about ~4 yrs until competing (3 now that 2018 is over except in my nightmares). So getting a FA of stature now would be a waste since its unlikely they will be around for the good times to come.

    That said Rich is right in that we’ll need to grab some players just to field a team so the question actually should be ‘how much should we spend on FAs’ If the $$$ that isn’t spent on FAs will in fact go into scouting then we should spend as little as possible. I’m talking less than ~$2m/yr on any one player and hopefully less. There are players like that available and we’ll have to get a few. They may not be the names listed above but hopefully to save money they will be the same caliber player. Will be a long couple of years coming up. The only issue here is the uneducated fan will not be happy about this and money will be lost at the stadium (for some reason it seems people will show up for a team that hovers around .500 with no shot at competing but won’t for a team list this past year). Figuring out the middle ground is way beyond me but hopefully the new front office will get it right AND make sure to put the long term picture as the priority.

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