Don't hold your breath, there's no savior in the bunch
By Christopher Heun
Even if Orioles owner Peter Angelos wants to open up his checkbook this winter, the crop of free agents is weak. Here’s a look by position:
Besides the two jewels, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee, the options for left field are either too old (Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, Luis Gonzalez), too injury prone (Cliff Floyd, Shannon Stewart) or just not worth getting excited about (Jay Payton, Preston Wilson, Jose Cruz Jr.).
The Orioles probably have better chances with Frank Catalanotto and David Dellucci, who are similar lefty hitters with some pop who would be less expensive than Soriano and Lee.
Soriano could be intriguing in an Orioles uniform, but he’d have to agree to stay in the outfield and give up batting in the leadoff spot, his preference in D.C.
Lee is a good hitter, but like I said before (see previous post), he’s not an elite player. Yes, he’s on his way to his fourth consecutive 30-homer season, but Baseball Reference says his most similar player the past two seasons has been George Bell, who had a couple monster years for the Blue Jays in 1986-87 but then fell off dramatically and was out of baseball by age 33.
If Jay Gibbons follows in Javy Lopez’s footsteps and struggles to make a new home at first base, then that’s another hole the team will have to fill. Again, the options are limited. Shea Hillenbrand is a malcontent. Sean Casey has lost his power while Phil Nevin has rediscovered his home run stroke at the expense of his batting average. Mike Piazza will probably want to catch in 2007 (and stay on the West Coast to do it). Nomar Garciaparra might also want to stay close to his California roots or even move back to shortstop.
That leaves Craig Wilson, who might be the best bet. He’s a versatile player, a slightly better version of Jeff Conine. Aubrey Huff, who’s struggled this season, is also an option.
There’s only three top of the line starters: Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt and Mark Mulder. Think the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox and a dozen other teams won’t be interested?
The other so-called elite pitchers don’t make sense in Baltimore, because of either age, injury or established ties to other cities: Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Brad Radke and Kerry Wood.
Here’s a list of the other arms that will be available (“team option” means that the player’s team may exercise an option on a 2007 contract). As far as starters, it’s basically just a bunch of very average 30 year olds:
Tony Armas Jr.
Mark Buerhle (team option)
Chan Ho Park
There are a few relievers would could be helpful next season (Riske, Speier, Cordero) but it's a little early to be lining up next year's bullpen. Nevertheless, the choices are:
Francisco Cordero (team option)
Ray King (team option)
So there you go. Even if General Manager Mike Flanagan were to pull off a “power shopping” spree, as Peter Schmuck likes to call it, and signed Lee, Wilson and Meche – an optimistic but conceivable turn of events – I doubt that’s enough to make much of a dent in the standings in 2007, much less the postseason.
mlbtraderumors.com has done a meticulous job of evaluating the available talent by position.
For a comprehensive list of free agents including pitchers, check out www.mlb4u.com.