The word from around the Warehouse is that the Orioles aren’t done with their winter shopping. The club has made some significant moves, most notably making a run in the international market for starting pitching by acquiring Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada and Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. But executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has made it clear the Orioles are still active in improving the club for 2012 and beyond. It’s unclear whether the best options will come via trade or through the free-agent market, which has cooled in recent days.
But that gives us the perfect opportunity to take a look at some of the top remaining free agents. The options aren’t plentiful. And the O’s could make a run at several – or at none – but given the organization’s needs, here’s a look at the club’s top free-agent possibilities.
- OF Yoenis Cespedes: You’ve obviously already seen the YouTube video – which makes most people sore from just watching it. Physically, Cespedes is as impressive as they come, so the 26-year-old Cuban defector will have his share of suitors. Reports Friday from the Dominican said the Orioles are one of the six teams that have shown the most interest. The Cuban defector is largely an unknown – there is some debate whether he truly is major league ready, especially when it comes to his plate discipline – which could drive down his value. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in his Dominican Winter League debut Thursday. But the Marlins have made it known they’re willing to pay big money for Cespedes. The Tigers will be a player as well. The Orioles will have to see how the market plays out. For now, they wait for him to officially establish Dominican residency and become a free agent.
- RHP Edwin Jackson: The Orioles are undoubtedly interested in Jackson, and signing him would be an ideal finish to an offseason dedicated to solidifying the organization’s starting pitching. He’s a veteran at the age of 28 and is seeking a five-year deal and worth between $15 million and $17 million annually. Teams are standing pat on that, including the Orioles, who historically haven’t given pitchers deals of more than three years. He is the best available starting pitcher on the market, so if there’s an in-between here – four years for a lesser price – the O’s might be game.
- DH Johnny Damon: Once former Oriole Luke Scott signed with the Rays, it was obvious Damon wasn’t returning to Tampa Bay. He is an interesting fit. He can provide the DH bat the Orioles have been looking for, and Duquette signed him with Boston. He showed last year (.261/.326/.418, 16 HRs, 29 doubles ) that he can still hit at age 38 and has a reputation for being a good clubhouse guy, which is always a plus. He also would be an easy solution to fill the leadoff spot if second baseman Brian Roberts hasn’t recovered from his concussion problems.
- OF Jorge Soler: While most of the attention has been given to Cespedes, Soler, a 19-year-old Cuban defector, could have more upside. He’s a lean, 6-foot-3 hitter who could play all three outfield spots and has speed the Orioles need. He’s not yet major league ready, so he won’t be an immediate contributor. It's unclear how much interest the O’s have in Soler, and he’s quickly becoming a more cost-effective alternative to Cespedes. Still, given the Orioles’ commitment to international scouting, you know they are actively observing Soler.
- 1Bs Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman: The Orioles don’t have a need at first base, but Pena and Kotchman are both premier fielders at first who can add pop to a lineup. Right now, it looks like the Indians have the most interest in both, but the Rays could also bring both back to Tampa Bay. But since the Orioles would like to add another bat, these two are legitimate options.
- RHP Roy Oswalt: As the market on the 34-year-old slides, the Orioles might just raise their eyelids to the idea of Oswalt. He’s only seeking a one-year deal and his price has reportly dropped to $8 million. But he seems like a better fit for a contender like the Rangers, Yankees or Red Sox.
- 1B Prince Fielder: As much as Orioles fans love the idea of Fielder hitting balls into the right-field flag court of Camden Yards, it’s highly unlikely that he will be wearing orange and black next year. His sitiuation is fluid, however, and you never quite know what hand agent Scott Boras will play with the 27-year-old slugger. But every day Fielder remains on the free-agent market, the possibility remains.
Other options: The Orioles seemingly would like to obtain another reliever. Chad Qualls, Joel Zumaya and Dan Wheeler could all be options, as could Francisco Cordero, who was given his first chance to close by Orioles manager Buck Showalter in Texas. There are also starting pitcher options – Joel Pineiro, Bartolo Colon and Livan Hernandez – but given their wear and age, they aren’t ideal puzzle pieces. Role players like Wilson Betemit, who would be a good bat to have, is a bargain-bin possibility.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times