The collective baseball world woke from its winter break this week to start a post-Edwin Encarnacion era of free agency, with the urgency level creeping up for teams to settle their offseason business.
With the reported agreement between outfielder Rajai Davis and the Oakland Athletics, the market for outfielders is starting to shake out, and that means candidates for the 2017 Orioles are coming off the board.
Davis was just one of many players the Orioles had on their radar for their most glaring need at this point — an outfielder who, if not an everyday right fielder, will be part of a platoon with returning outfielders Joey Rickard and Hyun Soo Kim at the corner spots.
And though team officials have said rookie Trey Mancini could be the everyday designated hitter, they’re also skeptical of evaluating players exclusively off September performance in the majors. That means an everyday designated hitter could be on the shopping list as well.
Here’s a list of the top players still available on the free-agent market who could fill the Orioles’ needs in the outfield or at designated hitter (or both) before the players report to spring training in six weeks.
Just as last year’s Orioles offseason had a Chris Davis-sized cloud over it into January, this year’s edition is painted by the protracted courtship of Trumbo. Last year’s 47-home run man would probably be more welcome back as a designated hitter than a right fielder, given the team’s stated interest in improving the outfield defense, but the market is only recently becoming clear for Trumbo.
He turned down the Orioles' $17.2 million qualifying offer, has a draft pick attached to him in free agency and just saw Encarnacion set the slugger market with a deal worth three years and $65 million guaranteed. A short-term deal worth more than the qualifying offer would be ideal for him, but maybe not for the Orioles.
A name manager Buck Showalter said was firmly on the team’s radar at last month’s winter meetings remains available. The 35-year-old outfielder is coming off a year in which he batted .277 with a .750 OPS for the San Francisco Giants. He’s a switch-hitter who holds his own from both sides of the plate and plays capable defense, making him a nice veteran complement to what the Orioles already have in the corners.
Davis’ reported $6 million deal with Oakland could be the going rate for veteran extra outfielders this offseason. Executive vice president Dan Duquette said last month that the market was surprisingly high for this type of player. Luckily for him, there are plenty of options still left.
This one checks a lot of boxes the Orioles seem to covet — power hitter with contact problems whose left-handed bat could benefit from playing in Camden Yards — and Rasmus comes with the added benefit of being a capable defender at all three outfield positions.
Rasmus’ .206 average in 2016 was the worst of his career, but he is just a year removed from a year that saw finish with 50 extra-base hits for the Houston Astros. He could be a good fit for the Orioles, a team that has gotten the most out of inconsistent but talented players before.
In terms of a strict designated hitter, the left-handed-hitting Alvarez makes all the sense in the world if the Orioles want to bring him back. His deal last year was worth a shade under $6 million, and he hit 22 home runs as a platoon DH. For something in that price range, the Orioles could bring him back and play Mancini against left-handed pitching.
The former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder, like Alvarez, showed big power in a limited role last year, but did so while playing both corner outfield spots and first base. It’s unclear whether he can hold up as a full-time outfielder at age 33. But the Orioles would be plenty accommodating to find ways to get a left-handed bat that swatted 28 home runs a season ago and has averaged 25 a year with an .803 OPS over the past five seasons into their lineup as much as possible.