The Baltimore Orioles are on the verge of taking advantage of an offseason that has moved at a leisurely pace, resulting in several reputable players being available at reasonable rates.
The O’s are linked to several key players still available including Pedro Alvarez, Jay Bruce, Dexter Fowler, and Yovani Gallardo. A combination of Gallardo and one or two of the aforementioned hitters could round out their offseason and make them a serious contender in 2016.
Having already resigned key free agents Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters along with acquiring high upside players in Hyun-soo Kim and Mark Trumbo, the O’s look to be on the verge of having an exemplary offseason.
Retaining Davis, O’Day, and Wieters was substantial, especially considering the team lost key contributors Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller the previous offseason. Those loses loomed large in the O’s fall from their AL East throne in 2014 to a .500 record in 2015.
One blemish on their offseason this far is seeing Wei-Yin Chen depart and sign with the Miami Marlins. Saying goodbye to Chen resulted in a compensatory draft pick, but it also left a hole in an already weak starting rotation.
This brings us to the top remaining starter on the free agent market in Gallardo. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney the team and Gallardo are working on a deal in the ballpark of 3 years and 40 to 45 million.
If the sides could come to an agreement in this range it would certainly have the makings of a steal. Consider the 5 year-70 million dollar deal the Kansas City Royals dished out to Ian Kennedy and Gallardo looks even more appealing. Gallardo is not only younger than Kennedy, he is also coming off a better season despite pitching his home games at hitter friendly Globe Life Park.
Gallardo would reinforce the Orioles rotation and make it more respectable. Chris Tillman could be due for a bounce back season after a rough 2015. Meanwhile Kevin Gausman offers a high upside option.
A solid rotation backed by a reliable bullpen led by Zach Britton and O’Day gives the O’s a good enough pitching staff to contend in 2016.
The O’s could further strengthen their offseason by diving into the discount bin for outfielder Fowler who is coming off a solid season for the Chicago Cubs. Also from ESPN’s Buster Olney the O’s are interested in Fowler for a deal similar to what Howie Kendrick received from the Los Angeles Dodgers at 2 years-20 million.
Outside of perennial All-Star Adam Jones in center field the team has question marks at the corner outfield spots. Fowler, especially at a discounted rate of 2 years-20 million, would help offer the O’s a plethora of options in the outfield corners.
With Fowler, Ryan Flaherty, Kim, Nolan Reimold, and Trumbo the team would have an impressive amount of depth. This depth would give them the flexibility to ride the hot hand at the corners. It could also provide an opportunity for Kim to get his feet wet in American baseball by spending some time in the minor leagues.
Taking this hypothetical free agent signing frenzy one-step further, consider the idea of bringing in former Pittsburgh Pirates slugger Alvarez. After hitting 30+ HR’s in 2012 and 2013, Alvarez saw his production drop in 2014 and 2015.
Given he is still relatively young he could sign a 1-year deal to try and re-establish his value. Alvarez would give the O’s more depth at first base, third base, and DH. Camden Yard’s shallow power alleys could be the perfect spot to ignite another 30+ HR season from the former All-Star.
If the O’s were to bring Alvarez in a one-year deal it would be a low risk move that could reap huge rewards in 2016.
There is still work to be done but the best of the Orioles offseason is yet to come. The best news is that the available players left appear to be available at club-friendly rates.
Being patient, acquiring high-upside pieces, and retaining key free agents could result in a phenomenal off season for the Orioles and a return to the top of the AL East in 2016.