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November 3, 2010

A free-agency primer

When San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded the final strikeout of the World Series on Monday night, it didn’t just set off a celebration in Texas.

It opened the floodgates for 142 major leaguers to officially be released from the bondage of their previous contracts. They are free agents at last.

Here’s a quick primer on 2010-11 free agency:

Q: How is this year’s free agency different from the past?
In previous years, players had to file for free agency. It was just a formality; basically everyone who was eligible filed. That process has been eliminated, and now all those who are eligible immediately became free agents Monday night, even those who may soon re-sign with their old clubs. Also, the period of exclusive negotiating rights with a player’s old club has been shortened from 15 days to five. That means the open bidding process begins Sunday at 12:01 a.m., 10 days earlier than usual. Theoretically, there should be more signings before December’s winter meetings than there have been in the past.

Q: What do the changes mean for the Orioles?
Probably nothing. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said in September that he expected all the club’s free agents to test the market, so a five-day or 15-day exclusive negotiating period doesn’t alter those thoughts. The Orioles can now pursue free agents quicker, and they’ll likely touch base with a couple of agents soon after they are allowed to Sunday. But MacPhail isn’t a big believer in the bum rush; in the past, he has expressed his interest and then initiated dialogue as he deemed appropriate. Buck Showalter may do some recruiting on his own, but don’t expect the Orioles to have their cart full before late December, if not January.

Q: Who are the Orioles’ free agents, and will they re-sign any?
The seven are: infielders Ty Wigginton, Cesar Izturis and Julio Lugo; pitchers Kevin Millwood, Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson; and outfielder Corey Patterson. Wigginton, Uehara and Izturis are the most likely to return.

My guess is Izturis will re-sign, and the other two are 50-50 right now. Wigginton’s return depends on the intensity of the market for him while the Orioles seek out other corner-infield options. Uehara’s fate is probably tied more to his contractual demands and whether he would take an incentives-based deal. Lugo and Millwood are definitely out, and given the current roster construction, Patterson likely goes elsewhere, too.

Hendrickson, 36, wants to return, and the Orioles might be amenable, depending on what their bullpen looks like in January. They’ve already declined his $1.2 million option for 2011.

Q: Whom will the Orioles be targeting as free agents?
Their biggest need is a power bat in the middle of the lineup, and one that preferably plays corner infield. They’ll have money to spend and likely will pursue, at least on some level, third baseman Adrian Beltre and first basemen Victor Martinez, Paul Konerko, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Adam LaRoche and Carlos Pena, among others.

They’ll also look for a veteran starter and a bullpen arm or two, but don’t expect them to make a real run at the three most coveted free agents this winter: Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.

Q: When and where are the winter meetings this year?
Dec. 6-9 at the Swan and Dolphin Resort near Orlando, Fla.

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Posted by Dan Connolly at 7:00 AM | | Comments (34)


Please re-sign Uehara, Patterson, Izturis(there is no defensive equal available, but it would be nice to have a better bat instead).

Go get Dunn and either Beltre or Tejada.

Go get the best veteran pitcher you can. That may come down to Millwood.

Give up no prospects.

It appears that McPhail looks at things objectively and an objective look would show that Izturis is the least productive shortstop offensively in baseball. Yes, he's good -- not the best -- in the field. Izturis won't have a lot of suitors. I hope the Orioles at least wait until after Dec. 2 before opting for Izturis.

What's the likelihood the Orioles would go after Prince Fielder? Would a package of one of our top young pitchers (Matusz/Bergesen/Arrieta/Tillman) one of our left fielders (pie/reimold) and lower level prospects be enough to pry away Prince? Maybe a package of Tillman, Pie, and 2 low level prospects?

You know what lets face it unless they sign two or three big names they wont compete. Cliff Lee wont help them win much and likely wont come to Baltimore. So you know what the Orioles should do and this may sound crazy - offer derek jeter a 3 year 75 million dollar deal. Do what it takes and sign the yankees captain away, if you want people to take you seriously that is the guy the orioles should target. And from all indications the negotiations could get messy with NY.

Crazy? Yes
Off the wall? Yes

But if the normal isnt working maybe crazy will

Hey Dan,

I know this question has been asked before due to differenct posts on the subject, but I still don't understand why you think "the most coveted free agents" won't be pursued aggressively. Do you believe it's a money issue or the old "they don't really want to come to Baltimore" reasoning? Every time free agents are discussed, it's usually the 2nd tier names that are made to seem more likely to sign here. I understand, to a degree, the money required to sign a top FA would seem to be prohibitive, but quality over quantity should be the rule rather than the exception. You can't make an above-average team, one capable to play in the post-season, with average players. That's where we're at and it's my belief we'll need to be very aggressive to achieve our goal of playing more than 162 games next season.

Please do not try to sign Derrick Lee, Lance Berkman or Adam LaRoche. They have demonstrated that they are past thier prime. The other names on the list, especially Beltre, VMart and Konerko are very dependable and in Konerko's case a real leader in the club house.

I certainly hope you are mistaken, Dan.

If the Orioles plan on being competitive in 2011 they MUST go after Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltrie and a legitimate first baseman.


(1) I believe there were certain guarantees to Buck Showalter for MacPhail to legitimately go after the best free agents available. Buck did not come to Baltimore to not have a legitimate opportunity to win.

(2) The Orioles' farm system has NO bonifide position players worthy of a major league baseball team. And that won't improve until Machado comes of age.

(3) Orioles' fans have had their fill of 2nd and 3rd tier free agents. If the Orioles put junk on the field again this year they can expect zip, zero, nada in the stands.

We should sign Cliff Lee and Crawford....Then trade Berken, Lugo, and a single A prospect for Adrian Gonzales..........Huh?....ohhhhhh so the free agents would have to agree to come here too.... and you say the other team would have to agree to the trade as well.....hmmm....bummer. But for a second there I did feel like I was smarter than Mcfail. Guess it's not as easy as everyone on these boards thinks

Why is Millwood definitely out as an Oriole? It seems to me that this staff needs a veteran, and the general feel seems to be to get a vet to add. Why not keep this one? Despite his rough season, he maintained his dignity, and has been cited by several of the younger pitchers as a positive influence.


What do you think MacPhail's logic is in letting the Oriole free agents the team wants to resign test the market when we can negotiate excusively with them for five day. It does not make sense to me. Of course, lots of Andy's moves don't make sense to me!

The O's "need" a Top Tier Free Agent?

Didn't the Giants just win the World Series? And they didn't add a Top Tier free agent. The Giants highest paid player was left OFF the Post Season roster...Barry Zito.

Seattle did go bananas last year in the Off Season with Free Agents and trades. They finished WORSE than the O's. The M's lost 101 games.

Didn't the O's win with Buck? Did they O's add a Top Tier Free Agent after Buck was hired?

Izzy is a top tier Defensive 2 in the AL, top 3 in MLB. Izzy had his worst Offensive year as a pro, and is 30...not even close to "old" for a guy like him. His defense can bee seen in the ERA of the young starters. Andy nailed that. Defense up the middle is as important as middle of the line-up guys.

And Andy deserves the credit of Bringing in the ONLY Gold Glovers of the team. Izturis and Jones. Apparently Andy does know more than most folks.

Izzy hit 1 HR this year. It was off of Cliff Lee.

Resign Izturis!!!!!!

Hate to say it, but this isn't the offseason for the Orioles to make a big splash in free agency. The names out there simply don't justify the expense, and the team probably isn't ready to compete in 2011 any way.

The best thing the O's can do is avoid sinking too much money into someone like Dunn or Beltre, and instead focus on figuring out who can be pieces of the puzle going forward. They'll have to bring in some stop-gaps, sure ... LaRoche isn't a bad option. But MacPhail shouldn't be handing out any long-term deals to this class.

Unless, that is, they could get someone like Adrian Gonzalez and sign him up long-term. But A-Gon will cost a haul in major league talent.

Izturis is the NOT the least productive shortstop.

He is the least productive bat in ALL of baseball. And it isn't even close. His OPS is 50 points worse than the 2nd to last non-pitcher.

That is unacceptable - his glove cannot compensate for that kind of futility.

Being bad is one thing, but being the worst is something else. However, being the worst by wide margin is not something this team needs to strive for.

jayslick, I completely agree. I'm glad someone else sees this. I think too many people have gotten used to playing video game general manager and don't realize that it's different in real life.

The Derek Jeter suggestion is hilarious. I'm sure he wouldn't come here considering his current team has one multiple World Series rings since the last time we had a winning season. At least you acknowledge that it's a crazy idea. I have to respect that.

My question for Ed is: if you trade away two of your starting pitchers for Prince Fielder, who will you get to replace them? You can't just trade away young talent and not have a viable solution. And who would play left field if you trade Pie? Remember, Reimold spent last season in Triple A. Why would a team take Pie, Tillman (who spent much of last season in the minors) and two low level prospects for Fielder? Here's an idea: if you would rather have Fielder than that group of players, don't you think Milwaukee probably feels the same?

Hear hear, Paul Hamilton. Time to bring up the AAA shortstop and free up some money for a bat. Let CI go.

In fact, if AM resigns him then the Orioles will have another losing season. Because then I know he truly has no idea what he is doing. Surely Buck can talk some sense into him.

Why would Brian Wilson's final strikeout of the World Series set off a celebtation in Texas? Did they look forward to losing?

Unless there is a new NFL-style rule against enjoying oneself or perhaps some old thinking desperately in need of some politically correct revision, I'm wondering if San Francisco would not be a more lgical place to have a celebration.

I would go get Dunn. Don't have to give up talent, and he has a big bat.

He may be a liability at first but Prince Fielder isn't much better and he is fat! May be a problem in a year or two.

Pena or Ortiz would make a good DH if we could get either of them.

whenever I see Prince Fielder I think of Mo Vaughn...remember him....fell off the earth when the girth became a problem...and his fall was fast and complete...stay away

If I see another post about trading for Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez I am going to throw my laptop out the window. You don't deserve the right to even call yourself a fan if you don't get how stupid it would be for the Orioles to trade their top pitching prospects for 1 year of a slugging first baseman.

Pena is a gold glove 1st basemen, why would he make a good DH?

The O's should trade for Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez. Editor's note: this is another post about trading for Fielder or Adrian Gonzalez.

Justin, whip that MacBook laptop out the window right now.

Just to keep your cred on this board.

+1 to Justin and Dave.

Big time free agents don't come to 13 time losers. I'm not sure why that's such a difficult concept.

AM needs to find a better option at SS, which is tough to do because good SS are in short supply around the majors. Too bad Nakajima won't be posted. One can hope the Twins don't tender JJ Hardy, but the Twins aren't a dumb organization, so that's doubtful.

Dunn doesn't want to play the position he is best suited for, so I would avoid him. VMart is a good hitting catcher, which would make him only an average first baseman, and thusly not worth the coin he will get (at least from an Oriole perspective). Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena are interesting buy low targets.

And offer Koji arbitration and hope he signs elsewhere. Apparently there are these things called sandwich picks. I think the last time the Orioles got a sandwich pick was for BJ Ryan.

This team needs someone who can blast left-handed pitching. We suck against lefties. V. Martinez and Konerko are great against lefties. Konerko getting way up there in years so I would try for Victor. Beltre beyond a one year contract will lay an egg. He just does well in last year of contracts. We should try hard for Cliff Lee. If we dont get him the Sox or Yanks will. He would make our staff a stellar one.

Does anybody remember a guy named Showater? Buck Showalter? I seem to remember no "we need adrain gonzalez'es or Prince Fielders or whoever. So im just confused. Can anybody help me understand why we need improvement on like sweeping the red sox, actually winning a few game against those *@*** yanks? Or winning more games in the last two months under buck showalter then the four months...having a winning record in august for the first time since 1997. Really, everybody. The list goes on, and on, and on. I still agree with everybody that a team always needs improvements but i see no reason at ALL to get Prince Fielder , or Adrian Gonzalez or Cliff Lee(because of what Paulie said; Izturis's one Hr was off him:)
So i bet a fair amount of people will not agree with me. But i hope to at least some i make a fair point. But, i still do agree that maybe a new shortstop, or something like that would help. Gosh darn it i hope at least one person agrees with me.


1. Cesar Izturis..... not a better SS in the majors right now..... and we need the defense up the middle.

2. Adam LaRoche..... D'backs declined his $6M option for 2011, so I'm guessing he could be signed for three years for $21M. LaRoche hit 25 home runs, drove in 100 runs for the lousy Arizona team, and hit over .300 with RISP in 2010. He's only 31 as opposed to Konerko (who will be 35) and Huff (34) and Berkman (37), and Lee... who is basically washed up.

3. Ty Wigginton.... there's not a more potent and versatile all-in-one player in the major leagues right now.

4. Koji Uehara..... He showed what he can do when used properly. I'd sign him for another two years at the same price as before. It's not like we don't have the money..... and he'll be a great closer.

5. Arthur Rhodes..... Can still bring it at 42 and would provide some needed vet leadership in the bullpen with the departure of Hendrickson.


1. Adam Dunn..... A very one-dimensional player who thinks he's a first-baseman and strikes out an awful lot.

2. Cliff Lee.... Why can't this guy stick with a team ? I think there are problems behind the scene with him. Plus, let him sign with ANY other American League team. The Orioles own him.

3. Derek Lee.... This guy is finished. He had his prime time. Now it's over.

4. Victor Martinez..... We already have a catcher. And Victor, who can barely catch, doesn't want to play first base.
That's just as well, since he's not very good at that position, either.

5. Carlos Pena..... Stick a fork in him.
If he still had anything, the Rays would try to keep him.

6. Jayson Werth..... He should go to the Giants. That way he can keep his scruffy look and be happy. He's another Burrell. Won't be any good away from Philly.


1. Prince Fielder.... It's just a matter of time before this fat slob starts having back and joint problems..... just like Sabathia already has.

2. Any "veteran" starting pitcher.....
Why do we think we need to acquire such a commodity ?
Jeremy Guthrie is ready to become the Dean of the staff. Let him take his rightful place there and make way for the youngsters to fill in the 2, 3, 4, and 5 spots.


If Vladimir Guerrero is on the FA market next week at less than 9 million then he is the best MLB FA player for the cleanup spot in the Oriole 2011 lineup. But I can't imagine Texas not re-signing him by Saturday. But next week, the Orioles might be able to get him with a 2 or more year deal. Luke Scott would return to LF. Then could be competition at 1B(Reimold, Synder, Fox) and 3B(Bell, Synder, Fox).

Bear the birdfan has it all backward.

paulie -

If you can guarantee that Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen will be just as good in 2011 as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner were in 2010, then the O's don't need to go after any big free agents. Unfortunately, you can't guarantee that. Heck, you can't even hope for that. If you do, you're setting yourself up for failure.

Bear -

Adam LaRoche has a lifetime line of .271/.339/.488. He strikes out in 25% of his at bats. He walks in 9% of his plate appearances. He turns 31 on Saturday.

Adan Dunn has a lifetime line of .250/.381/.521. He strikes out in 33% of his at bats. He walks in 16% of his plate appearances. He turns 31 next Tuesday.

I'm not even going to talk about defense, because, when it comes down to it, first base defense doesn't matter. First base is where you stick your guy who hits 35 home runs. And, for the Orioles, that guy is named Adam. And his last name isn't LaRoche.


The last time Jeremy Guthrie was the "Dean" of the staff, he put up a 5.04 ERA and gave up 35 home runs. It's beyond obvious that he can't handle the pressure of the "#1" tag.


When it comes to defense alone, I'll take Troy Tulowitzki, Stephen Drew, Alexei Ramirez, Brenden Ryan, Alex Gonzalez and Elvis Andrus over Izturis. And all of those guys, aside from Ryan, give you a ton more with the stick than Cesar.

That said, you're right that he needs to stay. Unless we can get someone better (Drew? Jose Reyes?) via trade.


I'm not sure where you got the idea that Victor Martinez won't play first base. He's played 146 games there over the past six seasons. He's got some starts at DH as well. And that flexibility isn't a bad thing.

Wieters obviously isn't ready to catch every day. And even a catcher who is normally only plays 130 to 140 games behind the plate. Guys like Kurt Suzuki are the exception, on the rule.

I say, do what it takes to sign Martinez and Dunn and then you've got two guys who can catch, two guys who can play first and three guys who can DH.


I'm still not sure why you're questioning Cliff Lee not being able to "stick with a team". The Indians traded him because they were hopelessly out of contention and his value couldn't have been higher. The Phillies traded him because they were convinced that Roy Halladay was their savior. The Mariners traded him becuase they were hopelessly out of contention and he was set to become a free agent.

I mean, seriously, Lee is probably the best lefty starter in the game and there's never been even a whisper of an attitude problem or anything like that. So just look at the circumstances of the teams that traded him. If you can't figure it out, I don't know what to tell you.


I'm 100% with you on Werth and Derrek Lee. I'm 50% with you on Fielder.

That is all.

Pena's .196 average comes along with the 28 homers. Yikes.

I totally agree with trying to sign Jeter...I do not think its dumb at all...It's just getting him to come here...Look at the stats, in the worst year of his career, he put up better numbers than Izturis has in any year of his career...Its a fact that Izturis is a piece of garbage, wow it really pisses me off that the Orioles want to keep trash like him...unbelievable.

Okay, I've got an idea. How about we go after Victor Martinez (after talking it over with Matt W.) and offer him 75-80 games at catcher and 75-80 games at DH. Offer the same to Matt Wieters. Then, we have no offensive lapse when our everyday catcher takes a day off. We always have a fresh set of legs behind the plate and we keep both bats in the lineup. And, give ourselves an advantage over Victor's other pursuers, who most likely want him to play first. Then move Luke Scott at 1st from day 1 in spring training.

Sign Dunn (1B) and trade for Reynolds (3B) and you have two big bats to go with our young core players. This could be a pretty potent lineup.


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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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