The Orioles hope to have their seven-year, $161 million deal with first baseman Chris Davis finalized by the end of the week — he is expected to take a physical Wednesday or Thursday — but signing the 29-year-old slugger to the largest deal in club history won't complete the Orioles' offseason to-do list.
They are still looking to upgrade their starting rotation and solidify their corner-outfield positions, despite rapidly dissolving markets in both areas.
Along with retaining Davis, improving the starting pitching was seen inside the Warehouse as the Orioles' top offseason priority. But the Orioles enter late January without having addressed the rotation other than claiming right-hander Vance Worley off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates, a move that does not overcome the loss of left-hander Wei-Yin Chen through free agency.
The Orioles have maintained interest in free-agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who has averaged 191 innings over the past seven seasons. Gallardo's reliability would help stabilize the rotation, but he appears to be seeking a four-year deal, and the Orioles aren't likely to go beyond three years for someone already well into his transition from a power pitcher to a command pitcher.
The biggest sticking point, however, is that the Orioles would have to forfeit their first-round draft pick to sign Gallardo, who declined the Rangers' $15.8 million qualifying offer.
By retaining Davis, the Orioles will have one fewer pick in this year's draft. Because of draft compensation tied to qualifying offers, the Orioles were at one point looking at the possibility of having eight selections among the first 100 picks. But the return of Davis and catcher Matt Wieters, who accepted his qualifying offer, lowers that to six in the first 100.
They were open to relinquishing their first-round selection earlier this offseason, but they've become more reluctant to do so as the winter has progressed.
This is an important draft for the Orioles in resupplying their farm system with young arms. Over the past three years, they've dealt pitching prospects Eduardo Rodriguez, Josh Hader and Zach Davies, so having a surplus of high-round draft picks might be more crucial than it had been. The system also has a visible developmental void left from the 2014 draft class, which was hurt because the Orioles gave up their first- and second-round picks to sign Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, and dealt their competitive-balance pick in the Bud Norris trade.
The Orioles' first-round selection, 14th overall, will be their highest pick since they drafted right-hander Kevin Gausman fourth overall in 2012.
Free-agent right-hander Doug Fister has a number of fans in the organization as a possible bounce-back candidate, but the Orioles wish his asking price were closer to that of a pitcher coming off the worst year of his career. Fister is reportedly seeking a two-year, $22 million deal, so his price must come down for the Orioles to pursue him.
Other options on the free-agent market — Mat Latos and Tim Lincecum come to mind — have their own warts. And there aren't many starters available in the trade market, so the Orioles could look internally for young arms such as Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson to progress into rotation opportunities.
In filling their corner-outfield void — the Orioles signed South Korean outfielder Hyun-soo Kim to play one corner-outfield spot, likely left field — they have to ask whether their options are better than ones on their existing roster.
The Orioles' courtship of outfielder Justin Upton, who agreed to terms on a six-year, $132.75 million deal with the Detroit Tigers on Monday — never gained traction because of the team's reluctance to lose a draft pick. And it now appears that the Orioles' pursuit of outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was all about lighting a fire under Davis. Once Davis agreed to terms, the Orioles' interest in Cespedes flatlined.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was pleased with how Nolan Reimold finished last season, and the club has yet to give Cuban outfielders Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia extended looks. They hope to see L.J. Hoes' best years after reacquiring the outfielder from the Houston Astros.
Last year's outfield platoons with Travis Snider, Delmon Young and David Lough among others didn't pan out, but the Orioles might end up platooning again in 2016.
Even with Davis in the fold, the Orioles could use another left-handed hitter, so veterans Will Venable and David Murphy, could be options even though they're not seen as everyday players. Otherwise, regressing veterans such as Alex Rios and Jeff Francoeur could be had for cheap as rosters continue to fill.
And don't dismiss a possible reunion with Steve Pearce if the Orioles are still looking for outfield help next month. If there's anything we've learned from this offseason, it's that the Orioles value their own players.
NOTE: Orioles minor league pitcher Zack Dodson, on the Double-A Bowie roster, was suspended for 100 games for a third violation of the minor league drug policy. Dodson, a left-hander who failed his third career drug test for a drug of abuse, was signed to a minor league deal last month.
A 2009 fourth-round pick of the Pirates, he had spent his entire career in the Pittsburgh organization, including the past two entirely at the Double-A level. He owns a career 31-45 record and a 4.23 ERA over seven seasons, mostly as a starting pitcher.
He was expected to compete for a rotation spot with the Baysox, but instead will begin serving his suspension at the start of the season. Dodson was suspended 50 games in 2012 for the same violation.