The most fun aspect to watch during Major League Baseball's off-season is the free agent moves and trades that alter the baseball landscape and 2012 will be no different. Many Baltimore Orioles fans have high hopes this off-season that the O's will make a move to improve their 2012 playoff squad, but I am here to tell you not to get your hopes up.
Let's take a look at ten of the top free agents this off-season and if the Orioles would even make sense:
- Josh Hamilton – Ok, so no surprise here, and let's be realistic Baltimore, if Peter Angelos was not willing to spend money on Prince Fielder last year, why on earth would he spend money on a 31 year old free agent who plays 135-140 games a season with off the field issues? He is not, and the "rumors" that the Orioles are interested is just a Baltimore front office ploy to make fans think this is the case, just like when Mark Teixiera was a free agent a few years ago….did you know the Orioles never actually placed a contract in from of him? Another front office ploy that worked, as many fans felt Teixiera passed on his hometown team. I see Hamilton landing with the Dodgers or back with the Rangers.
- Zach Grienke – This was the one big name free agent I thought the Orioles would have a real shot at, but not likely. Grienke doesn't want to play for a big market city which would play in the O's favor, but he wants more than a three year contract and we all know that the Orioles do not give long term contracts to pitchers, which drops Baltimore out of the race. Grienke could go a number of places, but the Rangers, Angels, or Dodgers seem to be the most fitting.
- Michael Bourn and BJ Upton – I paired these two together because they are both center fielders and both are fairly young, but neither will wind up in Baltimore. The Orioles would most likely not want to ask Adam Jones to move to left field and neither of these two guys would make the move either. In my opinion, both will get over paid and wind up in the National League.
- Annibal Sanchez – How about some good news for O's fans…Sanchez seems to be the most likely of the big free agents that could end up with the Orioles, he proved this season that he could pitch in the American League, he is only 28, and I could see him signing a three year deal. The downside is with such a slim quality starting pitching market, Sanchez is going to demand more than he is worth, upwards to $12-$14 million a year and I am not confident that Angelos would pony up that kind of dough for a guy who is a low #2 or high #3 starting pitcher.
- Rafael Soriano – Baltimore has a closer, enough said.
- Hiroki Kuroda – The Yankees have offered him a qualifying offer of $13.3 million, so he may simply accept that offer, but if he doesn't, he would obviously be looking for more than that and the Orioles are not going to give a 38 year old pitcher that kind of money. I think Kuroda ends up with the Yankees, he was their second best pitcher in 2012.
- Kyle Lohse – The second player on this list that is a possibility to come to Charm City, Lohse has had two good years in a row, and was likely the best pitcher on a St. Louis Cardinal team that made the playoffs this season. He is looking for a three year deal, which is right up Baltimore's alley. The downsides: He is 34, which would make him 37 at the end of his contract and he has not shown he can pitch in the American League. If the price is right, I could honestly see him coming to Baltimore.
- Adam Laroche – He is going to come with a price tag of three years and $12 million per year, but a lot of Baltimore's pursuit will depend on what happens with Mark Reynolds. I feel Laroche would be a great move for the Orioles, he is solid defensively and a much better overall hitter than Reynolds with just as much power and he is left handed, he could light up Eutaw Street. The Nationals are still, in my opinion the likely landing spot for Adam as we have seen they like to spend money, and he was very important to their line-up in 2012.
- Nick Swisher – Reports have already come out that the Orioles are not going to pursue Swisher, and as much as Swisher seems to make sense for the Orioles, he would be a downgrade at first, he is a poor outfielder and he does not produce enough to be a full time DH. Nick could honestly end up anywhere, but I do not see him back with the Yankees or in Baltimore.
- Angel Pagan – Talk about a player that is going to get way overpaid this off-season, Pagan is that guy and he is a center fielder, not coming to Baltimore and the Orioles are not going to try. I would have told you last week that he would likely end up with Detroit, but with the Tigers signing Torii Hunter this week, Pagan will likely head back to San Fransisco.
Those are your top tier free agents and how their future destinations look. Honestly I would be surprised if Baltimore ended up with any of them, especially with Peter Angelos as the owner. He is not one to spend money, as we all know, and he is still in a lawsuit with MASN and the Nationals that may end up costing him a boat load of money, having to give more MASN profits to the Nationals, so seeing him spend a large amount on free agents is highly unlikely.
Here are some not so big name free agents that the Orioles could make a run for:
- Mike Napoli – Napoli would be a great fit in Baltimore, especially if Reynolds is not brought back. Napoli can play first 120 games, catch 30 games and DH when needed and brings some pop with his bat and he WALKS! The O's need some guys with high OBP if they want to have more success in 2013. Also, he is only looking for a three year deal in the $9 million per year range and honestly Reynolds would be looking for about the same amount and to me, Napoli would be an upgrade.
- Kevin Youklis – As Jonah Hill said in the movie Moneyball, Youklis is "the Greek god of walks" and boy the Orioles could use a guy like that. Plus he is a baseball player's baseball player, he plays hard and can play an adequate first base, can play some third if you want to give Machado a rest, and of course DH. I would literally jump up and down with excitement if Baltimore signed him.
- Joe Saunders – He did a nice job when he came over to Baltimore in late August via a trade with Arizona, and he is an innings eater who would be a nice veteran presence in the starting rotation. He won the WildCard game on the road for the O's and is a cheap starting pitcher option.
- Melky Cabrera – OK, so he got busted for using performance enhancing drugs, but in this day and age in baseball, teams will tend to look past it. Cabrera has a good bat, can play left field, and he gets on base! Doubtful he ends up in Baltimore, but would love to see the O's make a run for him.
- Jeremy Guthrie – If you know me, you are probably dropping your jaw in amazement that I would even mention his name, as I couldn't stand him when he was in Baltimore, but once he got out of Colorado last year and was traded to Kansas City, he really seemed to find something there, and now the Orioles can actually provide some run support, which Guthrie never received in his first stint with the O's. He would be a nice, cheap option for the rotation.
- Ichiro – He will be 39 in 2013, but he showed last year that he can still give a team a solid bat, good defense, and speed on the base paths. He could be a great fit for the one year deal he is looking for and would be a nice addition in left field for the O's.
I hope this doesn't depress some Orioles fans as I have simply stated the facts regarding the Orioles and free agency, and I do feel that Baltimore has to make some additions as it will be nearly impossible to repeat their 2012 records of 29-9 in one run games and 16-2 in extra inning games in 2013. Orioles101 will keep you posted all off-season on any and all moves made by the O's and what are your thoughts on the free agents listed above? Is there someone else out there you would like to see Baltimore go after? Let your voice be heard, post a comment with your thoughts.
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