Free agency is coming, and the Orioles are getting ready. With that in mind, here are some free agents the team ought to consider and some they shouldn’t.
Five to look at:
1) Maicer Izturis
The Orioles had a good experience with Cesar Izturis, so why not take a chance with his brother?
There’s a hole at second base and it’s possible that Jonathan Schoop could fill it in a year. It’s also possible that Schoop, who’ll probably start next year at Norfolk is a better shortstop.
Izturis could be an affordable stopgap at second base. In 29 games at second base for the Angels in 2012, Izturis didn’t commit an error. He has 10 in 246 career games at second.
If Robert Andino isn’t back, the 31-year-old Izturis could fill the “superutility” role that Andino was supposed to play.
2) Kelly Johnson
He strikes out a lot, but with Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis, the Orioles don’t seem to be afraid of players who fan. Johnson also hits home runs, 63 in the past three seasons.
A durable player, Johnson has played more than 140 games in five of his seven years. That’s what the Orioles got from Brian Roberts at second base before 2010.
At 30, Johnson could command a multi-year contract, and the Orioles may be reluctant to offer one. Johnson made $6.375 million with Toronto last year.
3) Jeff Keppinger
He may be a cheaper Johnson. Keppinger will turn 33 next April. He’s bounced around a lot, six teams in eight years, but in 2012, had his best year with Tampa Bay.
Keppinger batted .325 in 115 games with the Rays. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he’s committed just 14 errors in 307 games at second base.
He made $1.525 million last year which might make him attractive to the Orioles.
4) Kyle Lohse
He’s 34, but Lohse seems to be getting better. He was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in a career high 211 innings for the Cardinals. That’s what the Orioles need.
His age may scare some suitors off, but a three-year deal for a durable starter seems acceptable. A three-year $40 million contract for a 34-year-old starter may scare the Orioles away.
5) James Shields
The Rays may want to trade him. They may not want to exercise his $9 million option for 2013. If they want to trade him or if he’s a free agent, the Orioles should snap him up.
Tampa Bay probably won’t want to trade him within the division, but Shields who struck out 15 Orioles just a few weeks back, is one of the better right-handers around. He could be the ace the Orioles are seeking.
Five to keep away from:
1) Zack Greinke
Greinke is talented and will be a highly sought-after free agent. The 29-year-old has anxiety issues and is high maintenance. The Orioles don’t need a potentially disruptive player like him in their easy-going clubhouse.
He seemed to do better in low pressure markets like Kansas City and Milwaukee. Baltimore might also fall into that category. He was 6-2 after a trade to the Angels, and only a big market team might offer him a five-year $100 million deal.
2) Erik Bedard
In the past few years, there’s been some talk about bringing him back, but the Orioles should ignore that.
Bedard won 28 games in 2006 and 2007 his last two years with the Orioles. He’s 12-23 in his last two seasons.
The moody left-hander was traded to Seattle for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and George Sherrill. That was a great trade. Bringing him back wouldn’t be such a great move.
3) Jeremy Guthrie
Enormously popular with fans, he was less popular with Orioles management. Guthrie has finally reached free agency.
He’ll be 34 just after Opening Day. His trade to Colorado was a good one for the Orioles, a bad one for him. After the Rockies dumped him, Guthrie was 5-3 with a 3.16 ERA for the Royals.
While it would be intriguing to see him pitch for a good team, the Orioles can better spend their money elsewhere.
4) Joe Blanton
The Orioles wouldn’t give up Schoop for him, so the Phillies sent him to the Dodgers instead. He gives up way too many home runs to be effective at Oriole Park.
5) Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton = Albert Belle
The Orioles regret the enormous five-year contract they gave Belle. The angry slugger played two seasons before he broke down.
Hamilton hit four home runs in Baltimore in May, but has all sorts of personal issues. He was criticized by Rangers team president Nolan Ryan, who said Hamilton picked a bad time to quit smokeless tobacco. He looked lost late in the season.