Once again, former Orioles finding free-agent market unwelcoming

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Every year, the Orioles send a bevy of players into free agency, whether they're late-season veteran additions or mainstays who simply weren't part of the club’s future plans.

And seemingly every winter, those players are left waiting deep into the offseason before finding a new team.

This year, the Orioles sent nine players into free agency at the major league level, and only catcher Welington Castillo has found a new club so far. He signed with the Chicago White Sox on Dec. 1, receiving a two-year deal that topped what the Orioles would have paid him had he picked up his player option.

Otherwise, the list of former Orioles searching for teams is long.

Considering their walk-year performances in 2017, it's no surprise that Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jiménez, Chris Tillman and Jeremy Hellickson don’t have teams yet. Miley was the only one with a sub-6.00 ERA last year with the Orioles, while Hellickson had a 5.43 ERA between the Philadelphia Phillies and Orioles.

Besides Castillo, none of the major league position players have found a home yet either. Outfielders Seth Smith and Craig Gentry remain on the market, while infielders Ryan Flaherty and J.J. Hardy are also free agents.

Each represents a unique case. Smith saw his playing time wane down the stretch, but he remains a steady left-handed hitter who gets on base, even at age 35. Gentry didn't sign anywhere until the Orioles brought him in during spring training last year, and he showed flashes of being an impactful fourth outfielder again while in Baltimore.

Flaherty hit free agency despite scant opportunities in his six years with the Orioles, making him one of the more unusual six-year free agents ever to hit the market. And Hardy is coming off an injury-shortened year that made him openly wonder whether he'd be playing at all in 2018.

That the Orioles' veteran free agents are still on the market this year, when teams are waiting for the market to drive down prices, isn't much of a surprise. But it's also been something their own free agents have experienced before.

Top players such as Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters have all seen their free agency extend into January and beyond in years past. Last year, the only Orioles free agent who had signed at this point was left-handed reliever Brian Duensing, who was snapped up early by the Chicago Cubs.

No one in this group will end up back with the Orioles on a long-term contract the way Trumbo and Davis did, but the longer the market drags on, the more a reunion with some of these familiar faces might become appealing to each side.

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