The Orioles will undoubtedly look different next year. There will be some popular and valuable players missing.
Here are five key possible departures:
1) Joe Saunders
Saunders wasn’t an Oriole for long this season. He was acquired in late August from Arizona, and was thrilled about it.
He was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts. Saunders won the Wild
Card game and pitched well in Game 4 against New York.
At 31, Saunders was a devoted Orioles fan the last time the team was in the post-season. A Northern Virginian, Saunders would love to stay with the team, but it might not be in either side’s best interest.
Saunders earned $6 million this season and the Orioles may be reluctant to pay him that much or more in 2013 and beyond. With lots of young starting pitching, it would be nice to have another veteran on hand, but perhaps not at his price.
Unless Saunders agrees to give the Orioles a hometown discount or there isn’t a huge market for him, the left-hander probably ends up elsewhere.
One possible destination is Seattle. Saunders, who pitched six seasons for the Angels, is 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in nine starts at Safeco Field.
2) Nate McLouth
Two years ago, McLouth made $7 million from Pittsburgh. This season, the one-time All-Star earned a quarter of that.
McLouth had a superb 2008 season with the Pirates, leading the league in doubles, but two years later he was in the minors. After Pittsburgh let him go in May, he was signed to a minor league contract by the Orioles, and was generally unimpressive at Norfolk.
Tides manager Ron Johnson implored manager Buck Showalter to take a look at McLouth, who had an opt-out clause.
McLouth was surprisingly effective, showing some power and speed for the Orioles. He was the club’s leading hitter againsnt the Yankees and his defense shored up left field.
If McLouth re-signs, he may have to platoon with Nolan Reimold in left. He may want to test the market, though he may need more than a strong two months to get a long-term deal.
3) Mark Reynolds
In early August, Reynolds looked to be in his final weeks with the Orioles, but his offense perked up and his defense at first picked up.
He’s become a solid first baseman, and while the Orioles may not exercise the $11 million option in his contract, they have no real inn-house candidates to replace him, and the free agent candidates aren’t impressive.
The Orioles don’t want Chris Davis or Wilson Betemit as their everyday first baseman. In a time when nearly every available body was recalled during September, Joe Mahoney wasn’t.
It’s likely the Orioles will make a deal to keep Reynolds around for at least another year, maybe two.
4) Robert Andino
The Orioles’ second baseman for 2013 is probably not currently with the team. Andino filled in acceptably the last two years, but he’s best suited to the “superutility” role that Showalter envisioned for him last spring.
The problem with that role is it doesn’t exist. J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado are the shortstop and third baseman for next season, and Andino really isn’t an outfielder.
If the Orioles want to keep Andino around as a backup infielder while they acquire another second baseman, that would be fine, but in arbitration, Andino would probably get a hefty raise from his $1.3 million. That might make him overpriced for his value.
Look for the Orioles to explore a deal for him.
5) Pedro Strop
Strop feel out of favor with Showalter after his shaky final six weeks of the regular season. He was impressive against the Yankees, but if a team wants to make Strop its closer, the Orioles may be willing to deal him.
He has a big-time arm, and while Darren O’Day supplanted him as the bridge to Jim Johnson, Strop could get that role back next year.
Strop may want to be a closer, and as long as Johnson’s around and effective, that isn’t going to happen.
He may be the most valuable trade chip around and if the Orioles can use him to get a quality second baseman, Strop may be moved.
The team may also try and move Luis Ayala, whose $1 million contract makes him very attractive.