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Will Orioles be aggressive in early free agency?


Will Orioles be aggressive in early free agency?

Twenty players were given $15.8 million qualifying offers by Friday afternoon, the most in the four-year history of the system. Three of them were Orioles, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.

There weren’t many surprises among the 17 others, but would the Orioles consider losing their first round draft choice to sign one, or perhaps two of them?

A few of the names on the list are intriguing. There are some starting pitchers who conceivably could fit into the Orioles’ price range: Brett Anderson, Marco Estrada, Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy, John Lackey, Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann.

Daniel Murphy, star of the first two rounds of the postseason is on the list, and so is Justin Upton, who had been linked with the team at the trade deadline.

The Cubs' Dexter Fowler and Kansas City’s Alex Gordon are on the list, too.

While Zack Greinke and Hisashi Iwakuma were given qualifying offers, they are not likely to be Orioles targets. Greinke would prefer to stay in the National League where he can hit, and Iwakuma is seen as re-signing with Seattle.

Others on the list: Ian Desmond, Justin Heyward and Howie Kendrick either play positions where the Orioles don’t have a great need, or in Heyward’s case, will likely be too expensive.

The other name on the list is Colby Rasmus, who turned down the Orioles’ one-year contract offer a year ago, and will probably not get another one.

Some of the more intriguing names on the free agent market are Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist. Both were traded to the Kansas City Royals in July and not eligible for a qualifying offer.

It will be interesting to see how aggressive Dan Duquette is in the early weeks of free agency. In the past, he was never a serious early pursuer. His biggest conquests, Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez, didn’t come until spring training 2014.

That year, several names on the qualifying offer list went unsigned for months. Last year, that wasn’t the case, but this year there are so many more that there may be a few names still unsigned come late January.

Late signings don’t faze Scott Boras, who represents Chen, Davis and Wieters. It will be interesting to see if Boras, as he has in the past, holds his clients back from signing in the early part of free agency.

While the Orioles are eager to re-sign Davis and will make a competitive offer, would they wait until January if Boras continues to survey the market?

They’ll have to make a decision on 2016’s first baseman, and they may not want to wait until mid or late January since there isn’t a logical successor to Davis on hand.

The most interesting thing about the players on the qualifying list is that many aren’t necessarily seen as top tier free agents. While some fans may want the Orioles to take a run at David Price, who doesn’t have a qualifying offer attached to him, he’s likely out of their price range.

But absent Greinke, Heyward and Upton, it doesn’t seem that many here are out of their market.

It will be interesting to see if they make more than a token offer to Wieters, who will likely reject the offer and move on. He’s been linked in print to the Nationals, but multiple people with knowledge of the team’s workings say that they don’t see a fit there.

Friday morning, Peter Gammons tweeted that the Braves, who were widely seen as Wieters’ landing spot, were not going to pursue him.

The Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers have been mentioned as possible homes for Wieters.

There weren’t any relief pitchers on the list, but Darren O’Day figures to be a prized commodity. He’s in a great spot, probably the best relief pitcher on the market, and coming off four stellar years with the Orioles.

O’Day, who just turned 33, could sign with the Dodgers. While there has been talk he could sign with the Nationals, they’ve been reluctnat to sign a reliever for three or four years, which is what O’Day might be able to get elsewhere. And for now at least, the Nationals say they intend to keep both Jonathan Papelbon and Drew Storen.

Washington is a possible destination for the only Orioles free agent who wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer, Gerardo Parra. The Nationals tried to get him at the trading deadline, but the Orioles beat them to it.

While we await the countless rumors and rumors of linkings for Chen, Davis, O’Day, Parra and Wieters, there is some good news.

Other than Brian Matusz, who may be traded this offseason, there are no Orioles currently eligible for free agency next year.

MORE ORIOLES: Orioles make qualifying offers to Chen, Davis, Wieters

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Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

USA Today Sports

Orioles round out starting pitching rotation, finalize 4-year contract with Alex Cobb

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Alex Cobb's comfort and familiarity with the AL East was the deciding factor in his decision to sign with the Baltimore Orioles.

"They used the AL East and the success I've had in it to their advantage," the 30-year-old right-hander said Wednesday after finalizing a $57 million, four-year contract. "They kept challenging me with it and I love the challenge of pitching in this division and they know that over the times we talked. They did a really good job of making me feel like this is where I need to be."

Cobb gets $14 million in each of the first three seasons and $15 million in 2021, and he would earn a $500,000 bonus in each year he pitches 180 innings. Baltimore will defer $6.5 million from this year's salary and $4.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He gets $2 million of the deferred money on Nov. 30, 2022, and $1.8 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2023-32. If he doesn't pitch at least 130 innings in 2020, an additional $5.25 million of the final's year salary would get deferred, payable $1.75 million annually on Nov. 30 from 2033-35.


Cobb has a full no-trade this year, then can list 10 teams from 2019-21 that he cannot be dealt to without his consent.

He had spent his entire six-season big league career with Tampa Bay and was the last big-name starting pitcher available in a slow-moving free agent market. He joined Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, who were signed last month, in a revamped rotation that includes holdovers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Cobb was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA in 29 starts last season. He pitched 179 1/3 innings in his first full year back after missing nearly two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

He had turned down the Rays' $17.4 million qualifying offer in November, and Baltimore pursued him from the start of free agency.

"They didn't stop bothering me the whole offseason," Cobb said. "They were very persistent, and I think that you notice that confidence they have in you just by the way they speak to you and the questions you ask and not questioning anything that's gone on. Everyone's got flaws that they come with and potential things you could really harp on that might not be your strong suit, but they never went down that avenue. They always told me how much they like certain aspects of what I do on and off the field, and just kept repeating how well I fit in here."


Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 in six big league seasons. Baltimore will lose its third-highest draft pick, currently No. 51, and the Rays get an extra selection after the first round as compensation.

Jose Mesa Jr. was designated for assignment Wednesday to clear a roster spot.

Baltimore opens on March 29 at home against Minnesota, but Cobb won't be ready to pitch then. He has agreed to be optioned to a minor league affiliate to help build up innings.

"I'm going to be pushing it as quick as I can," Cobb said. "That's going to be up to them. They've invested in me for a four-year period and as much as we know how much every game matters even early in April, we're going to have to look out for the overall future of this whole thing and whole contract and whatever they determine to be the way to protect me and my feedback from the bullpens I'm going to be throwing here in the next few days will probably determine the timeline."

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Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

USA Today Sports

Orioles agree to one-year deal with pitcher Chris Tillman, according to reports

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A person familiar with the negotiations says pitcher Chris Tillman and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract.

The deal includes performance bonuses, the person told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday because the deal had not yet been announced.

Tillman was 1-7 with a 7.84 ERA in 19 starts and five relief appearances last year. He would be the second starter added by the Orioles in the past week after right-hander Andrew Cashner.

Tillman likely would join right-handers Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman and Cashner in the rotation.

The 29-year-old right-hander lives in Sarasota and had been working out at the Orioles' facility before spring training. Manager Buck Showalter watched Tillman throw and was impressed.

Tillman began last season on the disabled list with right shoulder stiffness.

"Better than he did last year at this time. I think he's got the chance to pitch well for somebody this year," Showalter said. "A lot of the challenges he had last year -- this time last year -- aren't there. Somebody's going to reap the benefits."

Tillman's is 73-55 with a 4.43 ERA in nine major league seasons, all with the Orioles. He won 16 games in both 2013 and 2016.

"He's a guy when he's healthy you can bank on him giving you 200 innings and keeping his ERA between a 3 and a 4," Gausman said. "That in the AL East is always going to be very valuable."