Friday's nontender deadline resulted in several new names being inserted into the offseason free-agent pool, and the Orioles will undoubtedly take a look at the crop of players that have now become available.
The past two offseasons, the Orioles signed players who were nontendered. Last year, the Orioles signed catcher Welington Castillo to a one-year, $6 million deal (with a player option for the second year that Castillo declined) after he was nontendered by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Two years ago, the Orioles signed Pedro Alvarez after the Pittsburgh Pirates nontendered him.
This season, the Orioles' main priority it to rebuild a starting rotation that returns just two pitchers -- right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman -- and more starting pitching did become available Friday.
The best fit for the Orioles among the nontendered player might be former Houston Astros right-hander Mike Fiers. The Astros reportedly tried to deal Fiers in the days before the nontender deadline, but couldn't work out a trade, much like the Pirates tried to do with Alvarez two years ago before he was nontendered.
The 32-year-old Fiers logged 1531/3 innings last season for Houston, which would have been fourth most on the Orioles staff, and went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA. His 1.9 homers per nine innings and 3.6 walks per nine were both career highs, and could warrant fair concern that he's trending downward.
But before last season, Fiers posted a 3.88 ERA from 2012 to 2016 pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers and Astros. He was projected to make $5.7 million this season, according to MLBTradeRumors.com, after making $3.45 million in 2017. Given the Orioles' desperate need for starting pitching -- they don't only need three starters to make the rotation but could use additional depth -- and Fiers' track record for providing innings, he could be a worthwhile sign.
The most intriguing are players coming off major injuries that would likely have to wait through the offseason to get deals. Left-hander Drew Smyly and right-hander Tom Koehler both underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction last season, so they were nontendered by the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively, and aren't expected to be ready until midseason.
The Texas Rangers nontendered three starting pitchers -- right-handers A.J. Griffin, Nick Martinez and Chi Chi Gonzalez. Gonzalez is coming off Tommy John surgery and Martinez underwent sports hernia surgery last month, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. He's made 68 starts for the Rangers over the past four years, but has recorded ERAs north of 5.00 in each of the past two seasons. Griffin posted a 5.94 ERA in 18 games (15 starts) in 2017 and had a 58.3 percent fly-ball percentage that would be downright scary at Camden Yards. None of the three pitchers were projected to make more than $3 million in arbitration.
The Orioles always need left-handed pitching, and former Cincinnati Reds reliever Kyle Crockett is a 25-year-old who isn't yet arbitration-eligible. He was nontendered by the Reds just days after he was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Crockett fits the mold of someone the Orioles would be interested in. He is a former high-round draft pick (2013 fourth round) and he has a strong minor league pedigree. He spent most of last season at Triple-A Columbus, where he held lefties to a .176 average. He's out of options, though, so he'd have to make the team out of camp or have to clear waivers again.
Right-handed reliever Jared Hughes, who was nontendered by the Brewers on Friday, owns an impressive 61.2 percent career ground-ball rate that could play well with the Orioles. He was projected to make $2.2 million this season, which might be a lot for a middle reliever, but the Orioles have a penchant for creating value out of pitchers with Hughes' tools.
Infielders such as Ryan Goins ($1.8 million projected salary) and switch-hitter Danny Santana ($1.1 million) could still be pricey for what they provide, but the Orioles need a utility infielder to replace Ryan Flaherty and both are left-handed options the club is seeking.
Keep in mind that most of these players can contribute to a major league club, but some were nontendered because they have diminished roles or no longer have minor league options, which creates a roster flexibility challenge. That flexibility is something that holds great value for the Orioles in assembling their roster for next season, especially among bench pieces and building a pitching staff.
(c)2017 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.