Analyzing the pending free agents in the playoffs that the Orioles could target

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

After three days of playoff baseball, it seems clear that every game won't include a mention of Orioles closer Zach Britton not pitching in last year's wild-card game and it's safe for those in the Baltimore area to watch this fall.

Aside from rooting against the team's rivals, there could be a greater purpose to checking out this year's postseason action — to catch possible future Orioles who are pending free agents.

With a clear need to add starting pitching and a desire to upgrade their defense in the outfield that's becoming as regular a need as the rotation, here's a rundown of some of the top pending free agents whose teams are still in the playoffs.

Starting pitchers

CC Sabathia – The longtime Yankees ace could be making his last start in pinstripes on Friday, and should he decide for a final act after his monster contract in New York expires this offseason, Sabathia has plenty of qualifying traits. Namely, he has experience in the American League East, has shown an ability to mow down the Orioles in their first-hand looks (though not this year), and has the pedigree of a top starting pitcher. That his best years are far behind are a concern, as are the salary requirements for a pitcher who just made $25 million this season. But if he's willing to take a bit of a discount, and the Orioles are willing to take a big risk, he fits the bill.

Doug Fister – It's impossible for Doug Fister to cost less than the $1.25 million the Orioles wouldn't pony up to sign him this year as he sat on the market into May and ultimately signed with the Los Angeles Angels. (They didn't add him to their major league roster because they opted to go with former Orioles farmhand Parker Bridwell. Wheels within wheels.) But Fister is in Boston's playoff rotation over former Cy Young winners Rick Porcello and David Price. Even with a 4.68 ERA, Fister now has the AL East experience the Orioles covet. Now they just have to hope he ends up in their price range.

Yu Darvish — The most expensive of the pending free agents still going in the playoffs, potential suitors should get a long look at Darvish as the Dodgers make what's expected to be a long run into October. He's ending a six-year, $56 million contract at age 31 and looks fully healthy this year. If he's expecting a similar deal in free agency, which could easily be his ask, the Orioles may not be involved.

Josh Tomlin and Masahiro Tanaka – For these two, options are going to determine where they pitch in 2018. Tanaka can opt out of his massive contract in New York and hit free agency again, but that would mean sacrificing $67 million guaranteed after a subpar year. The Indians hold a team option for Tomlin at just $3 million, which might be steep for a pitcher who had a 4.98 ERA, but he's valuable depth to either them or any other team in free agency.

Outfielders

Cameron Maybin – After a career renaissance with the bat in Detroit last season, Maybin was a defensive asset for the Angels and then the Houston Astros this season. He was a highly rated defensive center fielder and was rated a shade above average in left field as well, all contributing to his strong season. That he has little experience in right field could make him a tough fit for the Orioles, who could use someone to spell rookie Austin Hays there.

Howie Kendrick – A veteran who has added the outfield to his extensive defensive repertoire in recent years, Kendrick could provide the steady bat the Orioles have sought, but like Maybin, he could be redundant batting from the right side and wouldn't add as much defensive value as someone else might. He'll also command a significant salary, as he's made around $10 million for each of the past three years.

Jon Jay – Despite spending the past two years as a league-average hitter, Jay has been valuable for his defense and can provide cover at all three outfield positions. He's played the least right field of the three, but that's been where he's best-rated over the last few years. As a left-handed bat, he'd also fit the Orioles desire to get more versatile in that sense. However, he made $8 million to be a part-time player this year. It's unclear that the Orioles go that high for a reserve's salary.

Relievers

With Zach Britton and Brad Brach in the last year of salary arbitration, plus Darren O'Day's contract adding another salary, there might not be much room for the Orioles to add a high-priced arm. That would make Cubs closer Wade Davis, the top free agent on the market, a luxury they can't afford. However, lefties Craig Breslow and Francisco Liriano could be veteran answers to the left-handed relief question they've been trying to answer for years. So too could old friend Brian Duensing, who has been rock-solid for the Cubs.

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