By Matthew Michaels
If you are not the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, it is tough to receive media attention in the AL East. Under a guise of silence, the Baltimore Orioles actually had a busy and productive offseason that makes them a playoff contender.
Going into the offseason, it looked as if the O’s were on the verge of losing four key contributors to free agency. However, only Wei-Yen Chen signed with another club, preferring Miami’s more lucrative offer. Baltimore was wise to show restraint with Chen, who is almost assuredly not worth the $80 million over five seasons that the Marlins will pay him.
Catcher Matt Wieters became one of the first players to accept a qualifying offer, inking a deal worth $15.8 million for 2016. This gives the Orioles its catcher for another season without the need to search for a replacement. His performance has been questionable the last couple of seasons, but it is a low risk deal that does not lock him up for years to come.
Chris Davis did not accept the qualifying offer like Wieters did, to no one’s surprise. Davis owns one of the league’s best power bats and has led the league in home runs in two of the last three seasons. What could have become a vacuum in the Orioles’ lineup had Davis left, become one less hole to fill when Davis resigned. The first baseman did not receive much interest from other teams and, although Baltimore over-paid by bidding against themselves, they are happy to have a source of plenty of dingers on the roster again.
Darren O’Day was coming off the best season of his career, a year in which he made his first All-Star appearance. His WAR has exceeded two in the last four seasons and in six of the last seven, no small feat for a relief pitcher. Signing O’Day off of a career year would be quite the task, but the Orioles put the money where its mouth is and the two parties agreed to a four year contract.
Aside from retaining its current players, the Orioles had a fairly quiet offseason, but as time wore on and many free agents were still unclaimed, Baltimore attached itself to Yovani Gallardo. Following a couple weeks of negotiation, the Orioles finally pulled the trigger and signed the pitcher to a three-year deal worth $35 million. Not only is Gallardo’s contract cheaper and less of a time commitment than the deal Chen got from the Marlins, but he is more of an established starter and will likely outperform Chen. All in all, the move upgraded the Orioles’ starting pitching.
The Orioles may not be done just yet as internal discussions have been focusing on outfielder Dexter Fowler. Although signing him would cost a second-round draft pick, it is more than worth it to strengthen outfield defense and the top of the lineup. Should Fowler come to Baltimore, he would join the outfield with Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold.
According to Orioles’ tradition, this offseason featured no splashy moves for superstars. However, Baltimore flew under the radar by keeping a talented core and adding Gallardo to the pitching staff. They now are legitimate contenders in the American League, and if they can secure Fowler, it would be the cherry on top.