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Orioles should have the money to compete in free agency, but would they overpay?

The Orioles could offer competitive deals to their free agents, but the market might drive prices too high.

Last week, the Orioles brass met to discuss the plan for this offseason.

After those discussions, the sense coming out of the warehouse is that they’ll have the money needed to make this team competitive – or better – next year.

The sense is that they should be in position to make a legitimate run at their key free agents, specifically Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and even Wei-Yin Chen and Matt Wieters. Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce are in play, too, but won’t cost as much as the first four.

In other words, the Orioles think they can make competitive offers to their free agents, place the ball in their players’ hands and make it tough on those guys to say no.

And that certainly would be welcomed by a fan base that has watched the Orioles pull up short on free agents – theirs and others – in the recent past. There are plenty of examples just in the past few years of the Orioles allowing their own players go elsewhere – Mark Reynolds, Scott Feldman, Andrew Miller – without receiving a formal offer.

But the real question is whether being competitive and sealing the deal will be one and the same this year.

Frankly, the Orioles make offers based on what they think a player is worth. Makes sense. But it seems like that’s almost always lower than what the open market demands. So the Orioles ultimately fall short.

Once a player reaches free agency, in most instances, it becomes an overpay situation. If you want a certain player, and you are competing with other teams, you need to overpay for him (in terms of more money or an extra year). And Orioles owner Peter Angelos has never been one to endorse the megadeals that he has regarded in the past as "irresponsible."

It would be a real surprise if deals signed by Davis, O’Day and Chen don’t exceed conservative estimates. Chen easily could get a five-year deal and O’Day four years.

The Orioles don’t give out five-year contracts to starting pitchers; four is a stretch (Ubaldo Jimenez got four years and $50 million two offseasons ago and that deal hasn’t exactly been lauded). Four years for a nonclosing reliever would also be out of character for the Orioles.

As for Davis, who like Chen and Wieters is represented by Scott Boras, the sky is the limit. Seven years and $150 to $200 million could be the going rate for the 29-year-old slugger. Consider that Mark Teixeira received eight years and $180 million from the New York Yankees heading into 2009, which was his age 29 season.

The largest deal the Orioles have ever doled out was the six-year, $85.5 million extension given to Adam Jones in 2012. The organization’s biggest free-agent signing was six years and $72 million for Miguel Tejada in 2004.

Davis will blow those away.

It remains to be seen whether the Orioles will be blown away by what Davis is offered by other teams.

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