Facing a tough offseason ahead, Dan Duquette and the Baltimore Orioles will need to find creative (and in some cases, cheap) ways to fill open holes on their team. With a number of major free agents, the O’s caught a huge break, when catcher Matt Wieters accepted his $15.8 million qualifying offer. With names like Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day, and Gerardo Parra testing their values on the open market, Baltimore must look for alternatives to fill the potential voids left behind.
One of the voids that currently sits in the Orioles lineup, is in the outfield. Gerardo Parra, was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers at the trade deadline in July. Parra enjoyed a career-resurgence last year in his stints with the Brewers and Orioles. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the resurgence also means a major increase in his payday, which he’ll likely find elsewhere. This leaves a hole in RF, that the O’s need to fill.
As Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reported earlier tonight, the Orioles may have found their guy, as they’ve engaged in trade negotiations with the Cincinnati Reds for right fielder Jay Bruce. Morosi went on to add however, that there was “no momentum” toward a deal, at least….not yet. Bruce has been an intriguing player to track, over the past few seasons. He’s shown signs of struggling at times, and currently sits on a Reds team, that is in rebuild mode. Entering his age-28 season, the slugger is set to make a tick over $7 million this season. In his eight Major League seasons, Jay Bruce has failed to reach the 20 home run milestone only once, during the 2014 season.
Bruce would be a good fit in Baltimore, as he’d provide a potentially weak Orioles lineup with a surge of power. With the potential departure of “Crush” Davis, the Orioles would return only two starters that crossed the 20 HR threshold last season in Adam Jones and Manny Machado. While it remains unclear what the Orioles could, or would even give up to land Bruce, one could speculate that the Orioles may be willing to part with one of their young arms (Mychal Givens, Tyler Wilson, etc).
In addition to an outfield void, the potential departure of Chris Davis would leaving a glaring gap at first base. While searching Baltimore’s roster, it’s difficult to find a concrete replacement for both Davis’ position and power.
That brings us to the next rumor, Neil Walker to the Baltimore Orioles.
The current second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is arbitration-eligible this season. He could make up to $10 million, and it seems that could be too rich for the Pirates’ blood. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports! reported earlier this evening, that Pittsburgh was indeed shopping the 30-year-old infielder. In his seven MajorLeague seasons, Walker has compiled an average of 18 homers per season, and has routinely kept his batting average hovering at .250 or higher.
While the Orioles targeting Walker may sound strange, it’s important to know that he did spend some time at first base during his time in the minors. So, while the transition from second base to first base may be challenging, it’s not impossible, especially for a player, familiar with that position. Transitioning Walker to first base, would help counteract the possible departure of Davis, while allowing Jonathan Schoop to keep his position as everyday second baseman.
With Chris Davis expected to demand a contract north of $20 million per year, and Gerardo Parra to see a significant raise in his salary, it may be smart for the Orioles to pursue cheaper options. Walker and Bruce represent just a few of many cheaper options, that are currently on both the free agent and trade markets. As the Hot Stove grows warmer by the day, Baltimore’s moves may need to become even more creative than first thought, as the markets could be drastically altered at a moment’s notice.