Baltimore Orioles Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free-Agency News
After ending a 15-year playoff drought in 2012, Baltimore headed into the 2013 with high expectations.
While the team was successful, putting together its second consecutive winning season (85-77) for the first time since 1996 and 1997, the Orioles fell short, finishing 6.5 games out of a wild-card berth and 12 games behind Boston for the division lead.
Adding to the starting rotation remains a priority, but with the potential departures of left fielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Brian Roberts as free agents, plugging those holes could take precedence over the rotation's issues as the offseason progresses.
Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Orioles, along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click to the next slide to see the latest from the rumor mill as the O's put together their roster for 2014.
Baltimore's Free Agents
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Baltimore this winter, including the status of the team's free agents.
Orioles Free Agents
IF Alexi Casilla (Nov. 4: Team declined $4 million option)
LHP Scott Feldman (Dec. 6: Signed a three-year, $30 million deal with Houston)
RHP Eddie Gamboa (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
RHP Jason Hammel
LF Nate McLouth (Dec. 6: Signed a two-year, $10.75 million deal with Washington)
1B/DH Michael Morse (Dec. 12: Signed a one-year, $6 million deal with San Francisco)
OF Jason Pridie (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
2B Brian Roberts (Dec. 17: Signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Yankees)
RHP Francisco Rodriguez
C Chris Snyder
Nov. 18: Signed LHP Kelvin De La Cruz to a one-year deal
Nov. 20: Signed RHP Edgmer Escalona to a one-year deal
Nov. 25: Acquired RHP Brad Bach from the Padres in exchange for RHP Devin Jones
Nov. 25: Claimed INF Cord Phelps off waivers from the Indians
Dec. 6: Signed OF Francisco Peguero to a one-year deal
Dec. 6: Signed RHP Ryan Webb to a two-year, $4.5 million deal
Dec. 19: Signed OF Xavier Paul to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training
Dec. 23: Claimed RHP Liam Hendriks off waivers from the Cubs
Ike Davis: Orioles Talking Trade with New York
Friday, Dec. 27 at 12:47 p.m. ET
The Orioles have discussed a deal with the Mets that would bring embattled first baseman Ike Davis to Baltimore, according to the New York Post's Mike Puma, but they are unwilling to meet New York's asking price of 20-year-old left-handed starter Eduardo Rodriguez.
Davis, 26, hit .271/.357/.460 with 26 home runs and 96 RBI over his first 183 major league games before a freak ankle injury ended his 2011 season prematurely.
Since then, he's battled injury, illness and ineffectiveness, hitting only .219/.315/.414 with 41 home runs and 123 RBI, finding himself relegated back to the minor leagues at one point in 2013 and used primarily against right-handed starters upon his return.
Baltimore's interest in Davis is likely two-fold: Not only would he provide a powerful bat for manager Buck Showalter to plug into the designated hitter spot, but, under team control through the 2016 season, would give the Orioles some insurance if they aren't able to work out a deal to keep Chris Davis in town.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Too Expensive for Baltimore's Taste
Update: Thursday, Dec. 26 at 9:43 p.m. ET
Don't expect the Orioles to sign Ubaldo Jimenez—or Ervin Santana for that matter.
According to the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina, the Orioles aren't willing to make the kind of lengthy financial commitment that it will take to sign either of the free agent starters.
--End of Update--
Wednesday, Dec.4 at 11:51 p.m. ET
Baltimore has targeted Ubaldo Jimenez as a potential addition to the rotation and are said to be in active talks with the free agent hurler, according to a report from Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Jimenez, who celebrates his 30th birthday before Opening Day, had a terrific season for Cleveland, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.33 WHIP with 194 strikeouts in 182.2 innings of work. He was especially strong down the stretch, posting an ERA of 1.82 over his last 13 starts.
While he still walks nearly four batters per game, Jimenez is the type of innings-eating power arm that the Orioles need to add to what is a rather bland, mediocre, rotation.
Bronson Arroyo: Free Agent, Orioles Interested
Update: Thursday, Dec. 26 at 9:41 p.m. ET
Bronson Arroyo, along with A.J. Burnett, are Baltimore's top targets to bolster the rotation, according to the latest report by the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina. Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are too expensive for the club—as is Masahiro Tanaka—and they don't have any interest in Matt Garza.
--End of Update--
Monday, Nov. 18 at 4:10 p.m. ET
Bronson Arroyo, who will celebrate his 37th birthday before Opening Day 2014, told Sirius/XM's Jim Bowden that the Orioles have contacted him, though they've yet to extend him an offer.
The veteran has been one of the more reliable starters in baseball over the past nine years, tossing at least 200 innings in all but one season—2011, when he finished one shy of the mark with 199.
He's coming off of a solid campaign for Cincinnati that saw him go 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, his second consecutive season with a sub-4.00 ERA. While allows too many home runs, leading baseball for the second time in three years with 32 long balls hit off of him, some of that can be attributed to him making half of his starts in Great American Ballpark, one of the more hitter-friendly venues in the game.
Not extended a qualifying offer by the Reds, the Orioles would not have to surrender a draft pick if they did wind up signing him.
A.J. Burnett: Is Maryland Resident Team's Top Choice Among Available Starters?
Thursday, Dec. 26 at 9:39 p.m. ET
According to the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina, the Orioles have not abandoned bolstering the rotation and are focusing their attention on established veteran arms like A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo over Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Matt Garza.
Not only does the team like the fact that Burnett and Arroyo have established lengthy track records of success, but, more importantly, aren't going to take the kind of commitment that Jimenez and Santana will command once the market develops. Garza, Encina notes, the team has never been high on.
--End of Update--
Saturday, Dec. 14 at 11:31 a.m. ET
Baltimore is interested in working out a one-year deal with veteran free agent starter A.J. Burnett, and that he's a Maryland resident—he lives in Monkton, to be exact—gives the Orioles an advantage that no other team can offer, according to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko.
Since escaping from New York after the 2011 season, Burnett, 36, has been fantastic for the Pirates, going 26-21 with a 3.41 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 61 starts, averaging three strikeouts for every walk that he issues.
While it's true that two of Burnett's three seasons with the Yankees were colossal failures, his numbers against the Yankees—and some of the other teams Baltimore fans have come to dislike—are pretty good:
Burnett is 6-3 with a 2.43 in 11 career starts against the Yankees, and 12-8 with a 3.45 in 29 games (28 starts) against the Rays. I'll also mention that he's 8-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) against the crosstown rival Nationals.
Rivalries aside, adding Burnett to the front-end of the rotation would give the Orioles someone who knows how to pitch, make batters miss (he led the National League with 9.8 K/9 in 2013) and will eat innings, having eclipsed the 200-inning mark three times in the past six seasons, never dropping below 185.
Francisco Rodriguez: Orioles Interested in Bringing Back for Vacant Closer Role?
Update: Monday, Dec. 23 at 7:01 p.m. ET
The Orioles have apparently decided to pass on re-signing Francisco Rodriguez, according to a report from MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko:
The Orioles don't appear to have any interest in bringing him (Rodriguez) back despite giving up minor league infielder Nick Delmonico in a July 23 trade. His name was floated in the warehouse, but it must have gone right out the window.
Either Fernando Rodney, if they can sign him, or Tommy Hunter will serve as the team's closer in 2014.
--End of Update--
It would seem improbable that the Orioles would look into the possibility of re-signing reliever Francisco Rodriguez, and even more unlikely that they're considering him as their closer.
But with the closer market continuing to dwindle, it's now at least an alternate solution.
According to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have shown at least an interest in exploring the possibility of bringing Rodriguez back as a ninth-inning option.
The O's traded for the veteran reliever last July, acquiring him from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor-league infielder Nick Delmonico. Rodriguez pitched brilliantly for the Brewers, posting a 1.09 ERA and notching 10 saves. But following the trade, he languished in the middle of the Orioles' bullpen, getting very few "late and close" situations and posting a 4.50 ERA in 23 appearances.
With many big name closers now off the board and with the O's backing out of their two-year agreement with Grant Balfour, they're clearly now exploring whatever available options they can find.
Rodriguez has 304 career saves, and he would love nothing more than to return to a closing role.
The Orioles are also considering other options, including former Rays closer Fernando Rodney.
Connolly also writes that the Orioles could just be keeping open-minded to any option.
The sense is that it was more due diligence than anything, and it would seem a reunion with Rodriguez would be highly unlikely. But I think we all learned with the Balfour fiasco last week that the unexpected isn’t always impossible in Birdland.
With the current state of the closer market and very options left on the table, K-Rod may have some leverage here. But it's still a long shot at best.
Fernando Rodney: Baltimore's Top Target to Replace Jim Johnson?
Monday, Dec. 23 at 12:58 p.m. ET
Despite the fact that he's believed to be seeking at least a two-year deal with a $10 million annual salary, the Orioles continue to have "significant interest" in Fernando Rodney, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly.
It's believed that the Orioles are looking to sign Rodney to the same two-year, $15 million deal that they had agreed to with Grant Balfour. Between his asking price and the fact that three other teams are interested in the veteran closer, the chances of Rodney lowering his asking price aren't great.
--End of Update--
Sunday, Dec. 22 at 12:07 a.m. ET
Unless Fernando Rodney lowers his asking price, the Orioles will look in-house to replace departed closer Jim Johnson, MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko writes.
Sources tell Kubatko that Tommy Hunter would likely be the choice if Baltimore stays in house. Hunter has converted four-of-eight save opportunities over his six-year career, with all four successful saves coming in 2013.
--End of Update--
Friday, Dec. 20 at 6:09 p.m. ET
With Grant Balfour no longer an option for the Orioles, who backed out of the deal earlier this afternoon, it's expected that Baltimore will make a run at Fernando Rodney to take the ball in the ninth inning from manager Buck Showalter.
--End of Update--
Friday, Dec. 20 at 1:20 p.m. ET
Should the two-year deal that Baltimore inked with Grant Balfour fall apart, the team is expected to move quickly to try and sign free agent Fernando Rodney, sources tell the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina.
Rodney, 36, is coming off of two successful seasons in Tampa Bay, where he pitched to a combined 1.91 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while converting 85-of-95 save opportunities.
His numbers are skewed a bit by his remarkable 2012 campaign (0.60 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), but he still posted a respectable 3.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 2013 for the Rays. Encina notes that the team had spoken with Rodney earlier this winter but that the talks didn't go very far before the team signed Balfour.
Jonathan Papelbon: Trade Target
As the Orioles look for a new closer, the Philadelphia Phillies' Jonathan Papelbon is reportedly a target, according to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko. He reported that the Phillies and the Orioles have discussed a trade involving Papelbon.
If a trade were to happen the Orioles would have to eat a large portion, if not all, of his contract. The 33-year-old is owed $13 million in each of the next two seasons and has a $13 million vesting option for 2016. The closer does have a limited no-trade clause.
The right-hander went 5-1 and had 29 saves with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.135 WHIP. He struck out 57 and walked only 11 in 61.2 innings.
Papelbon saved 219 games in seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox. During his time with the Red Sox, he posted a 2.33 ERA and a 1.018 WHIP in 429.1 innings. He has added 67 saves in two seasons with the Phillies.
Baltimore has to like the numbers that the reliever has put up at Camden Yards. Papelbon has a 1.13 ERA, a 0.875 WHIP and 18 saves in 26 games in Baltimore. In fact, outside of Yankee Stadium, the closer does not have an ERA above 2.51 in any of the AL East ballparks.
Papelbon has shown that he can pitch in the AL East, so there'd be very little risk in trading for him. However, Philadelphia is only looking to trade him in order to shed some salary. If Baltimore wants him, it'll have to be willing to eat a lot of money.
Baltimore's Deal with Grant Balfour Falls Apart
Update: Friday, Dec. 20 at 6:03 p.m. ET
Sources tell Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that Balfour will discuss with union leaders whether or not to file a grievance against the Orioles.
Balfour's agent, Seth Levinson, released a statement shortly after Baltimore announced that it was backing out of the deal, stating that his client is perfectly healthy. Via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:
Grant is completely healthy and that was told to us today by Dr. Koco Eaton, a well-respected club physician. Dr. Eaton’s opinion is based upon the fact that the MRI which was taken today is the same as the MRI which was taken in 2011 as a condition of the 3-year contract that Grant signed with the A’s.
Dr. Tim Kremchek, another well-respected club physician, reviewed the Orioles’ medical report and advised that he is remarkably impressed that there has been little change in Grant’s arm for almost 10 years.
Now factor into the equation that Grant was a 2013 All Star, pitched 65 games and another 3 scoreless innings in the post season with a 94-95 mph fastball. The only reasonable conclusion is that Grant is healthy and the Orioles at the last moment changed their minds.
While it's unlikely that a grievance filed by Balfour would have any effect on Baltimore's offseason plans this winter, this entire situation might. Other free agents—and their representatives—could be completely turned off by the Orioles, not wanting to risk the team backing out of a deal at the last minute.
--End of Update--
Update: Friday, Dec. 20 at 3:14 p.m. ET
Dan Duquette, Baltimore's executive vice president of baseball operations, told reporters today that the Orioles deal with Balfour "will not come together," and that while the team will "never close the door, they are going to go in another direction," according to Eduardo A. Encina from the Baltimore Sun.
Speculation has run rampant that Fernando Rodney is the other direction Baltimore is looking to go, but there are other free agent options available, including Chris Perez, Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, the latter two still recovering from season-ending surgery earlier this year.
--End of Update--
Update: Thursday, Dec. 19 at 8:15 p.m. ET
"Serious jeopardy" may be too strong of a phrase, sources tell the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, but there is no question that Balfour's deal with the Orioles "may be in jeopardy."
--End of Update--
Update: Thursday, Dec. 19 at 7:24 p.m. ET
Baltimore's deal with free agent closer Grant Balfour is in serious jeopardy due to an issue with his physical that "needs to be resolved," a source tells Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports.
It's not clear whether the issue that came up during Balfour's physical has to do with an illness, an injury or something else completely, but it must be something rather significant for the team to stop the process while they try to "resolve" whatever the issue may be.
Kubatko says that Executive vice president Dan Duquette couldn't be reached for comment, but that he's expected to speak about the situation on Friday.
Should the deal fall apart, look for Baltimore to re-open talks with free agents Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan, who the team has already been linked to previously. Kubatko also notes that established closers like Chris Perez and Fernando Rodney remain unsigned and could be options.
--End of Update--
2013 Stats: 65 G, 1-3, 2.59 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 62.2 IP, 3.9 BB/9, 10.3 K/9, 38-for-41 SV
Contract Status: Two years, $15 million
The staring contest between Baltimore and veteran reliever Grant Balfour has mercifully come to an end, with the Orioles winding up with arguably the best closer that remained available.
Balfour has pitched to a 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while saving 64 games for Oakland over the past three seasons. He has experience pitching in the AL East as well, having spent four seasons in Tampa Bay (2007-2010), going 14-7 with a 3.33 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 203 relief appearances.
Durable and consistent, making at least 50 appearances a year since 2008, Balfour adds a fiery personality to the Orioles bullpen, something that has been missing for quite some time.
While some may question why the Orioles would unload Johnson, who is five years younger than Balfour , has similar numbers over the past three years and was set to become a free agent after the season, the Orioles save some money in 2014.
In each of the next two seasons, $500,000 of Balfour's salary each year is deferred while Johnson, arbitration eligible, is expected to command close to a $10 million salary—savings that the team can spend to bolster other areas of the roster.
Kendrys Morales: Orioles Have Interest, But...
Thursday, Dec. 19 at 12:47 p.m. ET
Fox Sports' Jon Morosi reports that the Orioles are interested in free agent 1B/DH Kendrys Morales, but that the fact they'd have to surrender a first-round draft pick to sign him is a substantial hurdle for the team to get past.
Morales spent 2013 with the Mariners, hitting .277 with 23 home runs, 80 RBI and a .785 OPS as the team's primary designated hitter, a role that he'd likely occupy in Baltimore, while providing the team with a solid backup for Chris Davis at first base.
Owner of a career .280/.333/.480 slash line, the switch-hitter has hit extremely well in limited action at Camden Yards, posting a .413 batting average with three home runs and an OPS of 1.177 over 46 at-bats.
Dec. 12: Selected 3B Michael Almanzar in Rule 5 Draft
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 4:58 p.m. ET
Baltimore not only filled a need with its trade of infielder Danny Valencia to the Royals for OF David Lough, but they cleared a path for Almanzar to stay on the 25-man roster once the season begins.
Almanzar's presence certainly played a part in the team's thinking with that deal, as Dan Duquette, executive vice president of baseball operations, told MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko that Almanzar is essentially a younger version of Valencia.
Unless something drastically changes, it would be a shock if Almanzar didn't break camp with the Orioles in 2014.
--End of Update--
The Orioles added 23-year-old third baseman Michael Almanzar to their 40-man roster in the Rule 5 draft from the Red Sox at a cost of $50,000.
Given a $1.5 million bonus to sign with Boston out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Almanzar spent all of 2013 at Double-A Portland, hitting .268 with 16 home runs, 81 RBI and a .760 OPS.
Per Rule 5 Draft rules, if Almanzar doesn't sped the entire season on Baltimore's 25-man roster, he must be offered back to Boston at half-price ($25,000). That scenario seems like it's going to play out, as it would take a fairly good-sized miracle for Almanzar to stick in the big leagues at this point.
Dec. 18: Acquired OF David Lough
2013 Stats: .286/.311/.413, 5 HR, 33 RBI, 5-for-7 SB
Contract Status: Not arbitration eligible until 2016
The Orioles had a gaping hole in left field and hope they've filled it by acquiring David Lough from the Royals.
Lough, who finished eighth in the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year voting, is a plus defender in either corner spot who, thus far in his short major league career, has hit left-handed and right-handed pitching equally well.
Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette tells MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko that Lough will be given every chance to start in Baltimore, saying: "He's got a chance to be an everyday ballplayer for us" when asked where he fit on the team's roster.
Look for Lough to be Baltimore's starting left fielder, hitting towards the bottom of the lineup, where he and Jemile Weeks could potentially cause some problems for the opposition with their speed when they get on base.
Nelson Cruz: Orioles Have Spoken with Cruz's Agent
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 9:28 p.m. ET
CBS Sports' Jon Heyman has amended his earlier report that stated the Orioles had made an offer to Cruz and now says that the team has merely spoken with his agent, with no indication of how serious those talks have gotten.
He does point out, however, that the Orioles have been reluctant to surrender the 17th pick in the 2014 draft, which they would lose were they to sign Cruz.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 8:15 p.m. ET
MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko tweets that multiple Orioles sources have told him that the team is not in on Nelson Cruz, which would contradict the earlier report that said they had made him an offer.
Eduardo A. Encina from the Baltimore Sun also tweets that he had not heard of the team extending an offer to Cruz.
--End of Update--
Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 7:45 p.m. ET
Baltimore has made Nelson Cruz an offer, believed to be a four-year deal in the $60 million range, similar to the deal that Curtis Granderson signed with the Mets, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
--End of Update--
Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 3:58 p.m. ET
The Orioles met with Cruz's representatives on the first day of the Winter Meetings and plan to speak again, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, who notes that Seattle and Texas both remain engaged and significant competition for the slugger's services.
--End of Update--
Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 11:45 p.m. ET
A source characterizes the Orioles as being in "active talks" with free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to a report by Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi.
Cruz, 33, hit .266 with 27 home runs, 76 RBI and an .833 OPS over 109 games for the Rangers in 2013, and has slugged at least 22 home runs and driven in at least 76 runs in each of the past five seasons. In 21 career games at Camden Yards, Cruz has posted a .333/.368/.481 slash line with two home runs and nine RBI.
Chad Gaudin: Orioles Interested in Versatile Free Agent
Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 9:02 p.m. ET
The Orioles continue to search for ways to bolster their rotation and have some interest in 11-year veteran Chad Gaudin, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
Gaudin, 30, spent 2013 with the Giants, going 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 30 appearances, which included a dozen starts. He's made a total of 87 starts over his career, going 26-29 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
He has some familiarity with the AL East, having spent 2003 and 2004 in Tampa Bay and 2010 and part of 2011 in New York, and his ability to shift from starter to reliever rather seamlessly is certainly a bonus.
But for Orioles fans, signing Gaudin would be a disappointment, as he won't necessarily make the Orioles any better than they already are.
Daniel Murphy: Baltimore Among Teams Interested
Monday, Dec. 9 at 8:42 p.m. ET
The Orioles are one of the teams interested in swinging a trade for Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, per the New York Post's Joel Sherman.
Murphy, 28, hit .286/.319/.415 with 13 home runs, 78 RBI, 23 stolen bases over 161 games in 2013. Arbitration-eligible for the first time, he's due a significant raise over his $2.9 million salary, but would still have a very team-friendly deal, given his production.
Johan Santana: Orioles Interested in Former Cy Young Award Winner
Monday, Dec. 9 at 3:33 p.m. ET
Despite the fact that he's missed two of the past three seasons with injuries and tossed only 117 innings since the end of the 2010 season, the Orioles are interested in signing Johan Santana, according to WFAN'sSweeny Murti.
La Velle E. Neal III from the The Minneapolis Star-Tribune spoke with Ed Greenberg, one of Santana's agents, back in November, and Greenberg indicated that his client was working his way back into shape: “Johan is progressing well. He’s into his throwing program and is feeling good. It’s still a work in progress, but is progressing as planned.”
With Santana unlikely to command anything but an incentive-laden deal and the Orioles not looking to break the bank to bolster their starting rotation with a veteran arm, the two sides could be a match.
Joel Hanrahan: Free Agent, Orioles Interested in Former All-Star
Thursday, Dec. 5 at 3:09 p.m. ET
Two-time National League All-Star Joel Hanrahan is being discussed by Orioles brass as a potential replacement for Jim Johnson as the team's closer, according to MASN Sports' Roch Kubatko.
Hanrahan, 32, would be a low-cost signing, but one that may not pay dividends right away as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery this past May. Hanrahan struggled during his short time in Boston before the injury, converting 4-of-6 saves but allowing eight earned runs and 10 hits over only 7.1 innings.
From 2011 to 2012, Hanrahan was a stud for the Pirates, going 76-for-84 in save chances while pitching to a 2.24 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
Dec. 2: Acquired 2B Jemile Weeks
2013 Stats (Triple-A): .271/.376/.369, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 17-for-19 SB
Contract Status: Under team control through 2017, becomes arbitration eligible in 2015
The Orioles were ready to move on from Jim Johnson as their closer, and they used him to obtain Jemile Weeks, who they hope will be the long-term solution to the gaping hole that has been left at second base by the oft-injured Brian Roberts, who remains a free agent.
Weeks appeared in only eight games for the A's in 2013, going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts, spending most of the season with Triple-A Sacramento in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he continued to flash some of the defensive inefficiencies that drive fans and coaches insane.
Since hitting .303 with a .761 OPS and 22 stolen bases over 97 games for the A's in 2011, Weeks has struggled to equal that production. A change of scenery and a chance to win the everyday job in spring training may be all the speedy switch-hitter needs to get things back on track.
While he may be something of a reclamation project, Weeks still has significant upside and could allow the team to shift some of the money they had budgeted at second base to the starting rotation. As for who will close in Baltimore, ESPN's Jim Bowden says that the team will look outside the organization for that player.
Michael Young: Free Agent Reached out to Orioles
Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Peter Gammons says that the Orioles see free agent infielder Michael Young, who reached out to both Baltimore and Boston, as "interesting."
A seven-time All-Star, the 37-year-old Young split the 2013 season with the Phillies and Dodgers, hitting a combined .279 with eight home runs, 46 RBI and a .730 OPS.
Noted for his versatility and tremendous clubhouse presence, Young could fill the void Baltimore currently has at second base. Or, should Brian Roberts return for another season at the position, Young could fill in for the injured Manny Machado at third base (if he's not ready for Opening Day) while providing insurance for the oft-injured Roberts.
Matt Wieters: Catcher on the Block?
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 1:36 p.m. ET
The Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina says that while the Orioles don't dispute that Wieters is potentially available, the team is not shopping him and has not officially put him on the trading block.
--End of Update--
Having made no progress on a contract extension for two-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles are willing to trade the 27-year-old, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
Wieters, under team control through the 2015 season, is represented by Scott Boras, who has a reputation for making sure that his clients hit the free agent market.
One of the premier defensive catchers in the game, the switch-hitting Wieters has struggled at the plate, hitting only .235/.287/.417 in 2013, though he did chip in with 22 home runs and 79 RBI, his third consecutive season with at least 20 home runs.
Shelby Miller: Orioles Tried to Acquire NL Rookie of the Year Finalist
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 12:01 p.m. ET
--End of Update--
According to a report from CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, the Orioles approached the Cardinals about a trade that would have sent All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy to St. Louis in exchange for right-handed starter Shelby Miller—but were rebuffed by the National League champs, who told the O's that there was no deal to be made.
That the Orioles are being aggressive in trying to bolster the rotation shouldn't come as much of a surprise; adding to what was one of the most ineffective rotations in baseball last season has been a priority for the team since before the offseason began.
But that the team is willing to deal Hardy is a bit of a surprise. While, as Heyman notes, his value is as high as its ever been as he won both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove while hitting 25 home runs in 2013, the Orioles don't have an obvious replacement for him on the roster or in the minor leagues.
Jonathan Schoop, the team's best infield prospect, is the likely starter at second base in 2014, and while there are a pair of quality shortstops available in free agency—Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta—the Orioles haven't been linked to either thus far and both are likely to command far more than Baltimore is willing to spend.
Offseason Outlook: Baltimore Will Not Spend Big to Bolster the Rotation
According to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, that's the stance that Dan Duquette, Baltimore's executive vice president and de-facto GM, is taking when it comes to improving the team's starting rotation.
As a group, Baltimore's starters pitched to a 4.57 ERA in 2013, the 27th-highest mark in baseball. Yet Kubatko says that Duquette will not spend lavishly on the free-agent market—or move any of the team's top prospects—to improve the rotation.
Orioles fans that were dreaming of seeing Ervin Santana or Matt Garza under the Christmas tree in December might want to lower their expectations to the likes of Scott Feldman or Joe Saunders, both of whom were underwhelming after joining the Orioles during last season.
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