With several key players hitting the free agent market and areas of need all over the diamond, the Orioles’ roster could look significantly different come Opening Day.
- Adam Jones, OF: $49MM through 2018
- J.J. Hardy, SS: $28.5MM through 2017 (includes $2MM buyout of $14MM club option for 2018; option vests based on plate appearances)
- Ubaldo Jimenez, SP: $26.5MM through 2017
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections by MLB Trade Rumors)
- Brian Matusz (5.156) – $3.4MM
- Nolan Reimold (5.113) – $900K
- Paul Janish (4.156) – $600K
- Chris Tillman (4.113) – $6.2MM
- Miguel Gonzalez (4.095) – $4.9MM
- Ryan Flaherty (4.000) – $1.5MM
- Zach Britton (3.158) – $6.9MM
- Vance Worley (3.112) – $2.7MM
- Brad Brach (3.063) – $1.1MM
- Manny Machado (3.056) – $5.9MM
- David Lough (2.149) – $800K
- Non-tender candidates: Janish, Lough
The Orioles have one of the most distinguished free agent classes of any team, and yet even with all of these notables hitting the open market, Adam Jones sees it as an opportunity. “It’s going to be exciting to see what goes on this offseason because I know when you have a lot of free agents that means you have a lot of money to spend,” Jones told the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly in a late-season interview. “And so, hopefully, I can influence some officials to spend a little bit of that money.”
Since Dan Duquette took over as executive VP of baseball operations in late 2011, the Orioles have indeed shown an increased willingness to spend, going from an $84MM Opening Day payroll in 2012 to just under the $119MM mark for last season’s opener. A nice chunk of that increase has gone to Jones himself via his six-year, $85.5MM extension, which is still the largest contract in O’s franchise history. The Orioles may well have to break that record in order to re-sign some of their own top free agents or add major talents to replace those departing stars, which also means overcoming a well-documented wariness to long-term free agent deals.
First, the good news for the Orioles and their fans. Manny Machado was healthy and had a superstar year, Jones continued to produce, Jonathan Schoop broke out as an everyday second baseman, Ubaldo Jimenez had a solid bounce-back campaign and Zach Britton cemented himself as a reliable closer while headlining one of the game’s better bullpens last season. Combine these with former fourth overall pick Kevin Gausman, who is now established as a full-time starter, and there are worse building blocks to have in place for a team looking to reload as an AL East contender.
The problem, however, is that these are also pretty much the only areas of relative certainty amidst a very unsettled Orioles roster. It’s possible that the O’s will have openings at first base (Chris Davis), setup man (Darren O’Day), right field (Gerardo Parra), catcher (Matt Wieters) and at the front of the rotation (Wei-Yin Chen).
Let’s begin with the rotation, as it stands out as an area of need even if Chen returns — a seemingly unlikely scenario, according to several pundits. Beyond Jimenez and Gausman, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are likely to be back despite rough seasons that saw their ERAs catch up to their generally unimpressive career advanced metrics. It was poor timing for the arb-eligible pitchers, who failed to maximize their earning power. Assuming the Orioles bring them back, a total of $11.1MM in combined arbitration earnings is a very good price for two innings-eaters (though obviously Baltimore hopes the two can deliver more than just innings next year). If not, Tillman and Gonzalez could both potentially be non-tender candidates come next winter as their price tags keep rising.
A more aggressive move would be for the Orioles to non-tender Gonzalez (the less established of the two) this winter and replace him with one of Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright. This frees up more money to pursue a true top-of-the-rotation starter, and there’s no shortage of big-name aces on the market this winter. Baltimore could also tender Tillman and Gonzalez and then trade one or both to open a rotation spot, though they’d certainly be selling low on either pitcher.
Of course, the O’s have been particularly hesitant to spend big on pitching. Jimenez’s four-year, $50MM deal is the largest contract the team has ever given to a pitcher, and that’s probably one Duquette would like to have back given Jimenez’s up-and-down performance through two seasons. It’s probably safe to assume that David Price and Zack Greinke are out of Baltimore’s price range. Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto would command a deal worth at least twice Jimenez’s price tag, and any of the names in the second and third tiers of the free agent pitching market (Chen himself, Mike Leake, Jeff Samardzija, Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy) are all good bets to exceed Jimenez’s number.
Could the Orioles deal for an ace? They may not have the trade chips available given their thin farm system, which could be even more lacking given Dylan Bundy’s ongoing shoulder problems. The former top prospect is out of options, so while he could still emerge as a secret weapon if healthy, he’ll have only a short window in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training to prove he’s fit.
Expect the O’s to look at Scott Kazmir, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ or any other quality starters who posted Chen-like numbers in 2015 but could be signed on shorter-term deals than the four or even five years that Chen could command. Simply replacing Chen, of course, doesn’t solve Baltimore’s overall pitching issues. Either owner Peter Angelos shows a greater willingness to spend on free agent arms or else the Orioles will again be relying on a lot of things to go right for their incumbent starters.
The same question of spending also applies to Davis, who is projected by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes to land a six-year, $144MM contract this offseason. Unlike the free agent pitching market, this winter’s list of available first basemen isn’t star-studded, so there’s no easy way to make up Davis’ 47 home runs. Someone like Adam Lind (if the Brewers either don’t pick up his option or look to trade him) could be at least a passable replacement; while Lind isn’t an everyday option since he can’t hit left-handed pitching, he could be platooned with prospect Christian Walker, a right-handed bat. The Orioles could also look to trade for a similar left-handed first baseman like Ryan Howard or Adam LaRoche, or sign a potential non-tender candidate such as Pedro Alvarez or Logan Morrison. The soon-to-be-posted Byung-ho Park could also be a consideration. After all, Baltimore has dabbled in the Korean market in recent years (e.g., Suk-min Yoon) and successfully nabbed Chen from Taiwan.
Filling that gap at first base would open the door for the Orioles to replace Davis’ power with a big corner outfield bat, though names like Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward would again require huge financial commitments. Baltimore’s only current corner outfield options are David Lough, Nolan Reimold and Junior Lake, so it’s probably no surprise that the team is interested in bringing Parra back to bolster either left or right field.
In late August, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd projected that Parra could earn a 3-4 year deal with an average annual value in the $10-$15MM range, though that was before Parra suffered through a miserable September and finished with only a .625 OPS in his 238 PA as an Oriole. Even if Parra’s poor finish lowered his price into the three-year/$24MM range, in my opinion Parra may not be worth such a commitment and the O’s could instead use that money on a more consistent free agent bat.
Given the question marks in the corner outfield spots and at first base, re-signing Steve Pearce could be a sneaky-important move for the Orioles given his versatility. Pearce battled some injuries last season and regressed after his big 2014 campaign, though he still hit 15 homers in 325 PA. While Pearce’s contract value is somewhat hard to predict, his price tag shouldn’t be all that big, unless the Orioles lose him to a team that can offer more regular playing time than the part-time role he’d likely receive in Baltimore.
Beyond the headline names on the free agent outfield market, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Orioles made runs at signing Ben Zobrist or Colby Rasmus, both of whom drew interest from Baltimore last winter. Since the O’s prefer shorter-term free agent deals in general, both could be good fits — Rasmus has said he may not want to play longer than a few more seasons, while Zobrist is entering his age-35 season and may not command too lengthy a contract. (Though a four-year deal isn’t out of the question for Zobrist since his versatility is expected to draw a large amount of interest in his services.)
As mentioned, the Orioles had a pretty strong bullpen last season. While O’Day’s great numbers were a big part of that success, Baltimore could withstand his departure by elevating someone like Brad Brach to the setup role. The O’s could also explore a pretty strong setup reliever market, looking at the likes of Mark Lowe, Tony Sipp or Shawn Kelley to replace O’Day (who may earn the largest contract of any relief pitcher this offseason), or perhaps go with lower-cost options.
The O’s also have a replacement for Wieters in the form of Caleb Joseph, who only hit .234/.299/.394 with 11 homers over 355 PA last year but is a solid defender and pitch-framer. There’s been speculation that Wieters might not even be issued a qualifying offer by the Orioles in the wake of his disappointing 2015 season, as the catcher struggled both offensively and defensively after returning from Tommy John surgery.
I tend to believe that Wieters would indeed reject a QO if offered. Firstly, it would be stunning if the first player to accept a qualifying offer was a Scott Boras client given how the agent has so harshly criticized the QO concept. Secondly, between the thin catching market and Wieters’ star pedigree, he’s sure to find a multi-year deal even in the wake of a tough season. Baltimore can therefore be pretty confident in issuing Wieters a qualifying offer and at least ensuring themselves a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.
The Orioles have just under $42MM committed to three players (Jones, Jimenez, J.J. Hardy) for 2016 and MLBTR projects roughly $34.9MM for their 11 arbitration-eligible players, assuming everyone is tendered a contract. Pre-arb players in regular roles (i.e. Schoop, Gausman, Joseph) will take up a few more roster spots at minimum salaries. If the 2016 payroll stays in the $119MM range, that leaves Duquette with approximately $42MM to work with this winter.
That’s certainly enough room to add at least one big salary into the mix. Since Angelos has specifically gone on record as saying the team will try to re-sign Davis, I would guess that if the Orioles are going to break the bank on a signing, it will be for the slugging first baseman since that kind of power is hard to find in today’s game. The O’s have been more willing to spend on position players (Jones, Hardy, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis) than on pitchers, so it makes sense that they’d try harder to retain a familiar big bat than they would a free agent ace.
Jones, Jimenez and Hardy are also the only players signed beyond 2016, so the Orioles have space on the books for another long-term commitment. It seems likely, however, that the O’s will look to the future in another sense by considering extensions for Schoop and possibly Machado, though Duquette has said that a Machado extension isn’t a major priority for this offseason.
This certainly promises to be, by far, the Orioles’ busiest winter under Duquette, as his tenure has been marked more by canny under-the-radar acquisitions — i.e. Chen, Gonzalez or Pearce — than by flashy trades or free agent signings. Even the one-year, $8MM signing of Nelson Cruz in February 2014 (Duquette’s most successful free agent deal) was rather a unique circumstance given how Cruz’s market was chilled by a PED suspension and the qualifying offer.
Hardy was the only one of Baltimore’s free agents to re-sign last winter, as the Orioles lost Cruz, Markakis and Andrew Miller to free agency. The O’s have internal replacements for a few of this winter’s free agents, but another mass exodus would leave the team with simply too many holes to fill. Duquette will have to be creative and Angelos will have to be willing to go beyond his contractual comfort zone in order to get the Orioles back into playoff contention. If not…well, if last winter’s free agent 0-fer allegedly led to tension between Duquette and manager Buck Showalter, a repeat performance could result in some front office changes.
I think a lot of people are going to be surprised at the contract O’day gets this offseason. Absolutely nasty. His swing and miss rate has rivaled, Wade Davis and more over the past 2 years.
i Dont think many people will be shocked by O’days contract because most people expect him to get paid. Still a little trouble with lefties but still better than most
He’ll get big bucks and should. Pretty good with pretty much everyone except Bautista.
Agreed. But I’m very impressed with Gyvens. And since Bundy has no options and finally appears healthy in the AFL look for him to be a one inning reliever for now.
Break the bank, get Davis back. Moral and hitting power are needed now more than ever.
I thought this season proved the pitching was need now more than ever.
25+MM for moral is a tad much. There’s guys like Smoak who could knock out 40 in OPACY for 23 MM less and we’d not have suspensions hanging over our heads.
I think attempting to trade Adam Jones for some pitching could help. I think Gausman is going to grow if they work on his breaking ball. Its much easier for a pitcher to develop something vs his arm side batter. His splitter has dominated lefties. I have high hopes for Gausman in 2016.
I think Alex Gordon is a better sign, than Davis. Hell so is Josh Reddick. They really need to keep their finances in check before they try to get Machado locked down. Machado has got to be the ABSOLUTE priority going forward. He needs to be locked down well past his final team control.
I’d lock up Schoop as his power is awesome. He was better recognizing pitches in ’15 and should explode into a 30+ hr guy and gg 2nd baseman. You’re Reddick thought is solid.I think we missed the boat with Gordon.
I think Schoop is going to be solid, however if he doesnt work on getting on base, it limits his total value. If Schoop takes a Altuve type contract, that would be a good play. However that money is nothing close to what Machado will command.
Most of the team needs to work on being selective. Machado figured it out but it took 4 years. I really hope Terry Crowley is more involved. I felt like Coolbaugh was brought in from Texas just for Davis. I’m hearing that Terry will be on the bench as Coolbaughs “asst.”.
While I disagree about moving Jones (I don’t see anyone picking up his contract) I completely agree with your other points. Especially Machado. He needs to be the highest paid (non-DH) 3B in the ALEast after this season. However, the current CBA expires after 2016. Teams are waiting on the next for a lot of guys.
I don’t understand the knock on AJ. 4 gold gloves. 25-30 and 90-100. He played the last 6 weeks hurt. Buck finally pulled him the last couple weeks 5 or 6 games. He’s a great center fielder who’s got 5 good years left minimum.
I don’t see any knocks on Jones above. He’s outstanding and a core piece of what happens for the next several season in Baltimore. That contract though is pretty hefty…$16 million in 2016 & 2017 then $17 million in his final year. Plus he has a no trade clause. That seems pretty hefty. Jones is marvelous player and a better representative for the organization. The cost of moving him outweighs any addition.
GRob you obviously know the O’s. Good post. Disagree strongly though regarding Davis.I suppose his getting suspended for adderal twice outweighs his homers. And would hate for him to not be granted a tue again and possibly get caught. For 150+ I need to be sure there’s not a repeat of ’14. If by chance his FA year was last year he’d get stuck like Nelson did.
Appreciate your comment but don’t understand your logic with respect to Adam Jones.
Here’s a player who is and most probably will continue to be the face of the franchise (even with Machado on the team), is in the prime of his career, plays hurt and hard always, knocks 30 over the fence and is a 100 RBI guy and you think $16-17M is a “hefty contract????
Have you looked at what Utility guys are making in the majors these days? How about a little closer to home on the same team. Jimenez a pitcher that effects 32 games at the most over the coarse of a year and is making $28M a year! This guy is a gift and frankly the line for his services will be long and quickly formed. The O’s would be crazy to move him for anything less than some type of blockbuster deal that solves multiple positions for them. No way that’s probably happening though.
Jiminez got 50MM for 4 years. 12.5 per year.
Stand corrected but my comment about Jones still stands.
In spite of the gold gloves, his rating for CF makes him appear to be a more valuable player if they move him to a corner OF spot.
With Donaldson putting up MVP numbers, and looking like he will earn close to $12 million next season through arbitration, I highly doubt Machado will be the highest paid 3B in the AL East next season.
He won’t be until ’17 if he has another year like 15. Alot of his homers were solo as he led off most of the year. As long as he doesn’t have another knee injury the sky’s the limit for both those guys.
The Adrian Beltre
Adam Jones contract is gold, especially to the mid-money and higher teams, and will look even better after all these FA deals this winter. If you move him, it better be for something special. Also, I’d hope the O’s look into Son, sounds like a younger version of the good Choo(COF, lefty, great OBP), and Camden Yards always helps power.
Wish I could up arrow this twice!
Every team would take on Jones with his contract
I strongly doubt Adam Jones will get traded
Reddick would be a trade, not a sign, as he’s not a FA.
I think the orioles need to increase the payroll 15-20 million this season in order to get the job done. You need 2 starters (zimmerman and kazmir are my choices), Parra value has fallen enough that it shouldnt be that hard of a sign, and then go get Zobrist
If you’re familiar with the O’s on a daily basis you would understand that Buck and Dan get along great. As proven by their results since 2012. The most wins in the league. So Davis is just as risky as Cruz was and the big ? will be the drug exemption. According to the Balto. Sun since ’08 he’s had tue’s each year except ’12, ’13 and ’14. If you’re familiar with ADHD, formally called ADD until ’13, you would know it’s a lifelong fight. It doesn’t come and go which causes one to question CD’s history. And if I’m dishing out 150MM atleast I don’t want another suspension for “not getting his paperwork to MLB on time”. O’Day is a great reliever and teammate but for 8 or 9 per year, Gyvens and Brach have proven themselves to be solid in the 7th and 8th. Chen will be missed but he’s not a team guy. Which means he’s not a Buck type guy and he will get likely 5 @100. A tad much for his talent. I think they resign Parra, Pearce and don’t give a QO to Wieters. He’d be crazy not to take it and double his ’15 salary. They may offer him 2 @ 22. They don’t need him but Buck likes him and a as an alternate catcher/dh his bat may come alive after 2 years of injury. They’ll sign 2 ‘capable’ pitchers and hopefully nab someone like Smoak. We’ll see.
Solid write up as usual. The O’s need to bring back several of these guys and that includes Davis. It was good to see the coaching staff come back (particular Dave Wallace) but I was hoping Coolbaugh wouldn’t return.
At the end of September I was thinking Chen, O’Day, and Davis would be ideal to return, but the more I’m seeing I have moved that down to Davis. O’Day is solid and will get some serious money but already has a couple of replacements in the system (Givens, Brach.) Chen could be let go since they have a couple of options from spot-start guys and other rotation (Wright, Drake) but ultimately they need to clear space for Bundy. Gausman needs to have a solid 2016 for sure, but that third pitch is hard to come by so far.
I seriously doubt they will make QOs for Chen and Wieters, but might for Wieters if they know he’s going to decline it. Getting a draft pick in place of that would be helpful. They’ve got their catching corps in Joseph and Clevenger. I do hope that Parra will be back, signed lower that he would’ve been in August, since that locks down the right field position. Left can probably platoon between Lake, Reimold, and Urrutia. But outside of Davis at first, the infield looks great. I don’t know who the DH could be other than seeing who’s hot between Pearce (though I don’t think he should be resigned) and Paredes.
The second level focus for the offseason should be rehabbing the farm system. Baltimore is probably going to get ranked nearly last after having given up so much for the successes of 2012-2014. Losing guys like Arrieta and Rodriguez who have proven their immense worth elsewhere has been a big ding for Duquette. The farm system is not looking great, but is full of AAAA guys that are solid in their leagues but not good enough for the show.
Drake should be in the pen. You may have meant Wilson and Wright. Hopefully they’ll prove to be solid. Paredes and Lake need to move on. Pearce is a favorite of Buck’s and will hopefully return to ’14 form. He’s valuable on defense. I think he’s done everything except to pitch and catch. Just need that 20-25 back with the high OBP. At 4-5MM he’ll be an asset. At almost 4MM let Matusz go to the Cubs and find himself with the rest of the O”s pichers.
Byung-Ho Park should be on the top of their list and also any starting pitcher that signs less then $60 million like Lackey.
Lackey was bad for the Sox in ’10 and ’11. Had TJ surgery in ’12. Solid year in ’13, though 10-13 big win in game 6. And ’14 was good then gone at the trade deadline. For 80+MM. I see him in the NL. Definately not an Oriole. Was pretty vocal against Cruz in ’14 which didn’t sit well. No Al east for alot of pitchers. I love the O’s but Toronto hitting is not a plus for attracting pitching. They killed Chen and Tillman. One reason Chen is long gone. Likely to the NL.
I doubt Lackey gets more then $25 million and that’s a stretch.
I’ll be pretty surprised if Lackey doesn’t crack $30MM at least. Jake Peavy landed $24MM on a two-year deal coming off a pretty inferior 2-3 year platform to the one Lackey just turned in.
He has a chance at three years, and if not, two years at $15MM+ per season seems perfectly attainable.
Why is Flaherty not a non-tender candidate? His overall slash of .202/.281/.356 is pretty poor and it has gotten worse every year since 2012. Not to mention that he slashed an anemic .140/.220/.327 after the All-Star break. It’d be better to give a utility man in the minors a shot and pay him only the league minimum than spend $1.5 million to have Flaherty on the roster.
With Janish he’ll probably be gone. He was here because of his D. Schoop and Hardy spent alot of time on the DL. If you remember the old O’s teams, Belanger was an anemic hitter but won 8 gold gloves. The O’s D was sloppy last year the last 6 weeks but still was the best in the AL. That’s why Hardy got 40 for 3. Defense first. Hopefully he’ll get his power back this year. From 12-14 he hit more homers than any SS.
It feels like once you lose your power, you don’t get it back. I really hope Hardy does though. It’d be great to get some pop with that gold glove of his.
Yeah I agree with you although I think most fans have been calling for Flaherty to be cut loose for quite some time now but Buck seems to love him so I doubt he’s getting cut.
“Cruz, Markakis and Andrew Miller all signed elsewhere last offseason, leaving Baltimore 0-for-3 in retaining their biggest free agents.”
Hardy was also a free agent last season, but they resigned him.
I think Hardy was signed before he technically became a free agent so it is considered more of an extension then free agent deal but yeah I see where your coming from as he was a pending free agent. Although in hindsight I’m sure any O’s fan would of preferred that $40mil going towards a Cruz contract.
The comments about trading Adam Jones are insane. The contract is extremely team friendly, considering he would make 22+ on the open market. In regards to the free agents we have, I don’t see Davis being resigned and we really shouldn’t unless we increase payroll by 15 Mil (which Angelos will never do). I’d like to see the following moves made in the Offseason. Let’s Davis, Chen, and O’Day walk. The only exception being if Chen for some reason will take 12-14 million per year over 4 years. If the price is right for Parra, 8-10 Mil he’d be a great left fielder. Extend Weiters a QO but don’t resign him. Essentially we’d get 3 first/second round draft picks for guys we could replace and allocate money elsewhere. As for the rotation, try to shop Jimenez ANYWHERE someone with take him and most of his salary, even if it means including a decent prospect. Then, sign Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, and Chris young. All are older (minus Leake) and would fit very well at OPAC. The rotation would consist of Kazmir, Leake, Tillman, Gausman, Young. Much better that last year and you could then shop Gonzalez for a solid reliever. As for the offense, I’d go for low cost, high OBP guys like Zobrist and Span(if he doesn’t get tendered). Then sign Byung-ho Park and Pedro Alvarez if he also doesn’t get tendered and put him in at DH.
All of these moves above if made should be around 45 to 50mil with not much long term contracts due to the older age of most of the free agents. So the lineup would be C. Joseph C, Byung-ho Park 1B, Schoop 2nd, Hardy SS, Machado 3rd, Zobrist/Parra LF, A. Jones CF, and Span/Alvarez RF. This will make pretty good team, with a solid rotation, bullpen, and balanced lineup that won’t rely on the Homer as much.