The free agent market is off to a slow start, and the Orioles aren’t expected to be major players anyway. Instead, the Birds may have to look to add talent via trades. The Miami Marlins have made it well known that they are looking to trim a lot of their payroll, including home run king and MVP outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Could there be a match between the two clubs?
Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter are the new sheriffs in Miami. According to the Miami Herald, the new ownership group plans to slash the MLB payroll from $115 million in 2017 (a franchise record) to $90 million, which would have ranked 26th in baseball a season ago.
With an inflated salary like Stanton’s on the books, it seems as simple as just trading away the MVP. However, with arbitration-eligible players included, Miami could see their payroll reach $140 million if they stand pat. That means that yes, Stanton will have to go, but several other significant pieces could join him on the way out the door if the club hopes to reach that $90 million mark.
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
2017: .281/.376/.631, 59 HR, 132 RBI, 165 OPS+, 7.6 WAR, NL MVP
Contract: $285 million through 2028
Forget about Stanton. He’s not going to be an Oriole, and you know exactly why. He’s too expensive and the contract is way too long. Not to mention, he has full no-trade protection and seems set on moving to the west coast if anywhere at all. Ok, glad we got that out of the way
Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
2017: 9 G, 2-1, 33.0 IP, 3.82 ERA, 107 ERA+, 0.5 WAR, multiple injuries
Contract: $52 million through 2021
If he were healthy, Chen reuniting with the Orioles would make a lot of sense. He has struggled in Miami and could possibly be had for relatively little in return. Alas, it doesn’t look good for the Taiwanese southpaw. He had elbow trouble throughout the year and it’s not clear he will be ready for Opening Day, or even the entire season.
Christian Yelich, OF
2017: .282/.369/.439, 18 HR, 81 RBI, 117 OPS+, 3.9 WAR
Contract: $43.2 million through 2022
Yelich is really good and has the ability to play all over the outfield. He would immediately become the best Orioles outfielder and slot in near the top of their lineup. However, his availability isn’t clear. His salary isn’t obscene and he will just be turning 26 in December. The O’s would need to give up a lot to land Yelich, and it just doesn’t seem likely.
Junichi Tazawa, RHP
2017: 55 G, 3-5, 55.1 IP, 5.69 ERA, 71 ERA+, -0.7 WAR
Contract: $7 million through 2018
Miami may have to pay a team in order to take on Tazawa. He was really bad in 2017, striking out a career low 38 and walking a career high of 22 in 55.1 innings. However, the 31-year-old was good in his career prior to last season and he has extensive experience in the AL East out of the Red Sox bullpen. The righty could be worth a look for a low-level prospect.
Marcell Ozuna, OF
2017: .312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBI, 145 OPS+, 5.8 WAR, All-Star
Contract: 2nd-year arbitration eligible, free agent in 2020
The Orioles have enough pieces to get this trade done if they really want Ozuna. The Dominican-born outfielder will remain relatively cheap for two more season before hitting free agency, and he is coming off back-to-back All-Star appearances. The Marlins could be looking for a package involving Austin Hays, Chance Sisco and/or Hunter Harvey. That would be mortgaging the future in favor of one last ride with Manny Machado, but it’s possible.
Brad Ziegler, RHP
2017: 53 G, 1-4, 47.0 IP, 4.79 ERA, 85 ERA+, -0.7 WAR
Contract: $9 million through 2018
Trading for Ziegler could be the type of low-risk, high-reward sort of move the O’s need to bolster their bullpen. The 38-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2017, and it could be the beginning of the end for him. But up until that point, he had been a well above-average reliever in MLB for a decade. Miami may be willing to pick up part of his salary for 2018, but would the Orioles want Ziegler and co-submariner Darren O’Day in the same unit?
Justin Bour, 1B
2017: .289/.366/.536, 25 HR, 83 RBI, 139 OPS+, 2.3 WAR
Contract: 1st-year arbitration eligible, free agent in 2021
Bour seems unlikely to move. He just had a solid season and will remain cheap and under control for another couple of seasons. Plus, he doesn’t seem like a good fit for Baltimore right now. He would be a great offensive addition, but where does he play? Chris Davis and his beefy contract will be at first. Both Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini can DH. If a trade happens involving any of those three, this move would pick up steam.
Dee Gordon, 2B/SS
2017: .308/.341/.375, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 60 SB, 16 CS, 94 OPS+, 3.1 WAR
Contract: $37.9 million through 2021
This would be a fun addition. Gordon would bring an element of speed and on-base ability to the top of Baltimore’s lineup. And his contract isn’t too bad or too long for a guy with his skillset. But the trade for Tim Beckham last summer eliminates any place for Gordon on the Orioles. If a Machado trade emerges (doubtful) then there could be a spot at second base (Jonathan Schoop could play third), but don’t hold your breath.
Martin Prado, utilityman
2017: .250/.279/.357, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 70 OPS+, 0.1 WAR
Contract: $28.5 million through 2020
A knee injury thwarted Prado’s performance in 2017. But after a full offseason of rehab, the 34-year-old should be ready for Opening Day. The Orioles need a utility infielder following Ryan Flaherty’s departure in free agency, but Prado would be an expensive replacement. This is another case where the Marlins would need to eat some of the money in order to get a deal done, but it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility.
What to expect
Miami’s front office will need to deal a lot of players if they truly hope to reach that $90 million threshold on payroll. On most of the top tier talent (Stanton, Yelich, Gordon) the Orioles will be on the outside looking in.
But never count Dan Duquette out when it comes to finding a broken bargain. The Marlins have quite a few of those (Chen, Prado, Ziegler, Tazawa) and it shouldn’t surprise you if the O’s make a run at them if the return is right.