Back in October, we asked how many of the Orioles' nine free agents were likely to return in 2014. Now, with less than five weeks until spring training, it could end up that none of them return to Baltimore.
Interestingly, of the team's nine free agents, the one who seemed most likely out the door – right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez – is the most likely to return at this point.
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In some cases – like that of Feldman and McLouth – the Orioles weren't going to get caught up in free-agent bidding wars they might later regret. The organization hasn’t been extremely active in free agency in the past, and that trend likely won’t change. Some players the Orioles cut bait on, like Jason Hammel and Alexi Casilla, are still looking for jobs.
Now that we’re getting closer to the season, we revisit our look at the team's free agents. In addition to the nine major league free agents, we added Chris Dickerson and Taylor Teagarden, who were outrighted off the 40-man roster shortly after the season ended. Both have signed minor league deals elsewhere.
RHP Scott Feldman (12-12, 3.86 ERA in 30 starts in 2013; 5-6, 4.27 ERA in 15 starts for the Orioles): Feldman was the free agent the Orioles wanted to bring back the most -- he pitched well for the club since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in July -- but Feldman received a three-year, $30 million deal from the Houston Astros that set a high spending bar on starting pitching early in free agency. The Orioles might have been able to get Feldman for a discount if they were more aggressive earlier in the process, but Feldman probably wasn't going to get a three-year deal in Baltimore. Feldman showed he could hang in the American League East, but the Orioles weren't going to get in a bidding war for a mid-rotation pitcher.
OF Nate McLouth (.258/.329/.399, 12 HRs, 36 RBIs, 30 stolen bases in 146 games in 2013): The Orioles also wanted to keep McLouth, who was a fan favorite and fit well atop the team's batting order, but McLouth signed a two-year, $10.75 million contract with the Washington Nationals to join a crowded outfield. His ability to play all three outfield positions made him attractive to the Nationals, but the Orioles believe that David Lough, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals for Danny Valencia, could be a younger McLouth clone.
2B Brian Roberts (.249/.312/.392, 39 RBIs in 77 games in 2013): The club liked the idea of retaining the longest-tenured Orioles player, but the 36-year-old Roberts agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the New York Yankees. The deal probably suits both teams well, as Roberts joins a Yankees team on which he won't necessarily be depended on to play every day, and the Orioles can move on to find their second baseman of the future. The Yankees' deal with Roberts, who was slowed by injuries the past four years, has been yet to be formally announced.
RHP Jason Hammel (7-8, 4.97 ERA in 26 games in 2013): Hammel, who was the Orioles' Opening Day starter last season, remains unsigned. The longer he sits on the market, the more likely a reunion could occur. But if the Orioles are going to pursue a free-agent starting pitcher, there might be better values than Hammel, who battled injuries -- his right knee in 2012 and his throwing elbow last year -- in his two seasons with the Orioles.
C Chris Snyder (.100/.250/.100, 1 RBI in nine games for the Orioles in 2013; .243/.305/.387, 6 HRs, 24 RBIs in 52 games at Triple-A Norfolk): The organization liked the way Snyder worked with some of the Orioles' younger pitchers, particularly at Triple-A. But he signed a minor league deal with the Nationals last month that could pay him $1 million plus incentives if he makes the team this spring. Snyder has a good chance of doing that because there's not much catching depth beyond starter Wilson Ramos. Meanwhile, Steve Clevenger and Johnny Monell will compete for the backup spot behind Matt Wieters.
LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (5-6, 4.03 ERA in 19 starts at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013): Wada never threw a major league pitch for the Orioles after signing a two-year, $8.15 million deal in 2011. The club declined his $5 million option for 2014, and the Japanese left-hander signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs in December.
2B Alexi Casilla (.214/.268/.295. 1 HR, 10 RBIs in 62 games in 2013): The Orioles opted to pay Casilla a $200,000 buyout to cut ties on a $3 million club option. Casilla is still unsigned and there hasn't been much talk about him on the free-agent market. He didn't play much in Baltimore, but his speed and glove should be enough for a club to sign him late, even if it is a minor league deal.
OF/DH Michael Morse (.215/.270/.381, 13 HRs, 27 RBIs in 88 total games in 2013; .103/.133/103 in 12 games with Orioles): Morse never looked comfortable in the Orioles lineup after the team acquired him in a waiver deal in late August. How much of his struggles has to do with his injured wrist, which needed offseason surgery, might never be known. His best years have come in the National League, so the fact that he signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the San Francisco Giants makes sense. The Orioles weren't going to extreme lengths to retain him after such a disappointing stint in Baltimore.
RHP Francisco Rodriguez (3-2, 2.70 ERA, 10 saves in 48 total games; 2-1, 4.50 ERA in 23 games with Orioles): Back in October, it seemed logical that the Orioles and K-Rod would part ways amicably. Rodriguez never received the chance to close games, and he didn't play a very big impact role for the Orioles down the stretch following the July trade with the Milwaukee Brewers. But now, with Jim Johnson gone, he is a little more intriguing. The Orioles have inquired about K-Rod. And if K-Rod wants to close, the Orioles have one of the few closer openings in the game.
OF Chris Dickerson (.238/.266/.400, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs in 56 games with Orioles; .243/.350/.368, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs in 37 games at Norfolk): The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Dickerson to a minor league deal earlier this week. He will receive an invitation to major league spring training, but like he did with the Orioles, his main purpose is to add organizational outfield depth for the Pirates and he will likely open the season in Triple-A. The Orioles outrighted Dickerson off the 40-man roster in October, and soon after that, he became a free agent.
C Taylor Teagarden (.167/.180/.300, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs in 23 games in 2013): Teagarden, who had been a career backup, signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets with an invitation to big league spring training. He could compete for the backup catching spot behind Travis d'Arnaud, but he will likely start the season in Triple-A as well.