For a team that won 96 games in 2014 and finished atop the American League East, it’s been a relatively quiet offseason for the Baltimore Orioles. The club entered the open market hopeful it could retain a number of their own free agents, but most of those names have since departed in favor of lucrative, multi-year deals that the Orioles simply would not match. Baltimore has lost more talent than they’ve gained to date, but there is still time to address some of the questions that remain on the table for this roster.
Adding a left-handed hitting outfielder appears to be at the top of the club’s remaining to-do list. Colby Rasmus has been linked to the team in recent rumblings. While he’s likely the best fit among the remaining options on the market, he’s hardly a replacement for Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. Baltimore could also look at adding another option capable of handling first base if they are serious about moving Chris Davis to DH. Christian Walker may ultimately be an option, but he has just 207 plate appearances above Double-A in his career and has yet to show he can hit pitching at this level.
Of course, this doesn’t include the lingering injury questions as Manny Machado is still coming back from a leg injury and might not be ready to start Spring Training on time.
Steve Melewski at MASN delves a little further into some of the questions facing the Orioles, looking ahead to next offseason. There are 11 players on Baltimore’s 40-man roster who have contracts set to end following the 2015 season.
Those potential free agents include: two starting pitchers in Bud Norris and Wei-Yin Chen; four relief pitchers in Darren O’Day, Tommy Hunter, Ryan Webb, and Wesley Wright; catcher Matt Wieters; first baseman/designated hitter Davis; outfielders Alejandro De Aza, Delmon Young, and Steve Pearce.
Hunter, Wieters (who isn’t guaranteed to be ready to start the season as he’s coming back from Tommy John surgery), Pearce, and Chen could be potential extension candidates but even then there are no guarantees that the two sides will reach a new deal.
Melewski continues on to discuss how the organization should be approaching the group, taking into consideration some of how the fan base might respond given the fact that the team won the division for the first time in nearly 20 years this past season. Some feel that the Orioles should be aggressively looking to move players from this group now rather than just watch them leave with no return. Others would prefer the club waits to see how they are playing midseason, suggesting that the Orioles could wait until June to see where they are in the standings before trying to deal off assets at the trade deadline.
Much of what is being overlooked, however, are the questions that need to be addressed before these decisions can be made. Baltimore needs to see how some of their existing internal options develop before it can make a call on these bigger questions moving forward.
For instance, can Walker handle first base and produce enough at the plate to warrant handing him the starting role? Baseball American has him ranked as the #3 prospect in Baltimore’s system, but if he’s unable to step into the starting lineup this season does that make it more necessary to consider re-signing Davis before he reaches free agency? The development of Dylan Bundy and Tim Berry will factor into whether the team can trade Norris or Chen. If Dariel Alvarez, Henry Urrutia, or Mike Yastrzemski steps forward then could that allow the team to let one of their outfielders walk?
Baltimore might benefit from making an effort to move some of these players now, but there is little suggesting that they have to. The team has time on their side to make some of these decisions. Right now the focus should remain on repeating as a contender in 2015 – adding potential options this offseason instead of worrying about next. The rest will work itself out in the end.