20 Former O’s Remain on Free Agent Market

Although the offseason has been mostly quiet around Major League Baseball, a few familiar names have found homes via free agency this winter, like Tim Beckham with the Seattle Mariners, Zach Britton with the New York Yankees, and Brad Brach with the Chicago Cubs, to name a few.

However, there are plenty of former O’s still without jobs for 2019.

It’s very possible that none of these 20 players will reappear in Baltimore, but it’s certainly interesting to look into, especially since some could fill needs around here. So, let’s look into the possibilities.

Here I’ve broken it down by position, with players listed in order of how many games they played in their previous stints in Baltimore.

There’s a decent chance that Mike Elias will continue to add veteran arms on minor-league deals for depth purposes and that he’ll roll with young guns heading into the season.

However, if he’s looking to add a free-agent starter or reliever for cheap in order to not only take stress off the younger pitchers, but to serve as a mentor and hopefully pitch well enough to become a decent midseason trade chip, there are a few from this list who could make sense.

The ones I’m going to go ahead and scratch off the list are Jeremy Hellickson, Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman. For the majority of these four, underwhelming results in an Orioles uniform could be unattractive for both the club and the pitcher to reconnect going forward. Wade Miley could fit this description as well, seeing as how he started having success again once leaving Baltimore, so he may not be looking to return. However, I could see Elias expressing some interest here.

This leaves Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Bud Norris, and Jim Johnson as the other possible candidates.

Jackson has now pitched for 13 teams in his major-league career. He had three unappealing outings out of the bullpen in 2017 for the O’s, but he got back on track as a starter with the Oakland Athletics in 2018, posting a 3.33 ERA in 17 starts. He might find better opportunities elsewhere, but if all else fails, a return to the now analytically-equipped Orioles for a cheap price tag wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Hammel spent 2012 as the O’s ace and 2013 as an at-best back-end starter. He later had three successful seasons combined with the Athletics and Cubs. However, the following two years featured disappointing results for the right-hander in Kansas City. After the Royals declined his 2019 option, I doubt many, if any, competitive clubs are going to be giving him a call to offer a major-league job. He should be looked at as a low-risk move who could eat innings, or at worst, be on a cheap enough salary that’s easy to cut if he doesn’t bounce back.

Norris had a decent beginning to his Orioles career after he was dealt from the Houston Astros in 2013. He posted a 4.80 ERA for the O’s in 2013, but had arguably the best season of his career in 2014 with a 3.65 ERA over 28 starts. His 2015 season may have been his worst, and that’s what ended his tenure in Baltimore. However, his transition to the bullpen has been good for prolonging his career, as he’s posted a 3.91 ERA and 10.60 K/9 over the last two seasons. If the O’s want a veteran in the bullpen, he’s not a bad option to look into.

Lastly, Johnson was once known as a very good Orioles closer in 2012 and a decent one in 2013. Since the O’s traded Johnson prior to the 2014 season, though, his numbers have been fairly inconsistent. His strikeout rate has increased, but his once-great groundball rate has declined to just good. Coming off a 3.84 ERA season with the Angels, he’s worth a look to be a cheap-salary veteran in the bullpen.

To be frank, I don’t think any of these three will be back with the O’s in 2019, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it did happen.

Nick Hundley was with the Orioles for the majority of the 2014 season after Matt Wieters was put on the shelf for the season. He split time with Caleb Joseph and did so efficiently. Since then, he has been very serviceable as a part-time backstop, most recently with the San Francisco Giants. I think he’ll find a similar role elsewhere in 2019, and I think he doesn’t fit the exact defensive profile the O’s are looking for in a veteran catcher.

Joseph, in my opinion, is the most-likely to return of the three, as he is also the most probable to ink a minor-league deal. He’s been worth 0.4 fWAR over the past two seasons combined, but he’s also the best defensive catcher of this group, providing some veteran presence for Austin Wynns and Chance Sisco.

Wieters has had a couple disappointing seasons with the Washington Nationals, but he may be looking to try and start somewhere in 2019. I’m not sure he’s an everyday starter anymore, but he’s probably looking for a place to bounce back. If the O’s are focusing on the development of Wynns and Sisco, Wieters probably isn’t a match in Baltimore.

Well we know Manny Machado is long gone, that’s for sure. The Orioles have a long list of first basemen or DH types, so Danny Valencia and Mark Reynolds would just make the logjam even bigger.

Ryan Flaherty seems like the most likely to return of the four, but only on a minor-league deal. The O’s may be able to use some depth, but I think they’d rather look at Rule V additions Richie Martin and Drew Jackson on the big-league club.

Finally, this is a section that provides all legitimate possibilities for the Orioles.

Orioles fans may not want Jose Bautista, and he may not be the greatest of fits, but it could be a decent deal for both sides if he comes on a one-year deal. Elias is looking for a veteran outfielder to fill a hole while the prospects develop, and I’m not sure the O’s are sold on Renato Nunez and Rio Ruiz holding down third base, where Bautista has major-league experience. Bautista could rotate around from left field, right field, and third base while trying to put on a showcase for contending clubs to look to trade for him at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Gerardo Parra looked like an exciting acquisition for the O’s in 2015 – well, at least I was optimistic about it – but he turned out to be a dud. Since then, he’s played three seasons in Colorado, putting up a .283/.320/.407 slash line. He may be the kind of fit that could either start every day for a rebuilding club or be a perfect bench outfielder once the prospects break into the big leagues.

Craig Gentry may be the least likely to return of the four, simply because he’s basically what the Orioles already have in Joey Rickard. If he’s fine with returning on a minor-league deal, I don’t have an issue, but I’d imagine both sides are looking for a better fit.

And lastly, the favorite: Adam Jones.

It may be surprising to some that Jones is still looking for a home. But with a free-agent market looking ever so slow with Machado and Bryce Harper still waiting to sign somewhere, Jones may have to wait even longer to find a home.

It’s tough to get a read on how likely on unlikely it is that Jones could return. If the O’s are indeed searching for a veteran outfielder, he definitely wouldn’t hurt the club. He’s been the undeniable leader in Baltimore for years, and he can be a good mentor for the young outfielders. He may hold out for a contender as well as everyday playing time, but this could be a way for him to mostly start throughout the first half of the season, and eventually be traded to a contender at midseason. But then again, the O’s interest in him could shift in either direction on how likely it is that Jones would waive his no-trade clause, because a rebuilding club could certainly look to deal the veterans in July.

How likely is it for any of these 20 to come back to Baltimore? Probably not that likely, but from a prediction standpoint, here are my top-five most likely to return to Baltimore:

  1. OF Jones
  2. OF Parra
  3. RHP Johnson
  4. C Joseph
  5. RHP Norris

Who would you like to see back in Baltimore in 2019 for the rebuilding O’s?

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