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Friday Bird Droppings: Orioles fans are getting impatient

The free agent market has been absolutely on fire everywhere, it seems, except Baltimore.

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Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game One
Kyle Gibson remains the Orioles’ only major league signing of the offseason.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

After a madcap few days of free agent action during this week’s winter meetings, the baseball hot stove continued to churn yesterday even as most GMs returned home. The day began with the shocking news of Xander Bogaerts’ middle-of-the-night deal with San Diego, marking his departure from the Red Sox after 10 stellar seasons. The Padres might regret the last few years of that contract, which will run until Bogaerts is 40, but anything that makes the Sox a worse team and infuriates their fan base is fine by me.

And last evening, another big-name free agent went off the board, as outfielder Brandon Nimmo re-signed with the Mets on an eight-year, $162 million pact. Nimmo’s deal blew away the expectations for his contract on FanGraphs, where writer Ben Clemens estimated a five-year, $110 million deal. For that matter, Bogaerts’ 11-year contract also far exceeded FanGraphs’ predictions (seven years), as did Trea Turner’s with the Phillies (predicted nine, actual 11), Jacob deGrom’s with the Rangers (predicted three, actual five), and others.

That’s a sign of how much more explosive the free agent market has been than anticipated, with teams willing to shell out big money for game-changing stars. Four players — Turner, Bogaerts, Nimmo, and Aaron Judge (who re-signed a nine-year deal with the Yankees) — have signed deals for eight years or longer. Judge, deGrom, and Justin Verlander (in a two-year deal with the Mets) will each make at least $37 million per season.

In that context, it’s understandable that the Orioles aren’t comfortable wading into the deepest waters of the free-agent pool — although with an estimated payroll of just $53 million right now, you’d think they’d have the financial flexibility to add a big contract or two. But as even the second- and third-tier free agents start getting snapped up by other teams, O’s fans are getting antsy, wondering where and when the Orioles will turn to fill the holes on their roster, particularly in the starting rotation. Kyle Gibson is a start, but the Birds have plenty more work to do this winter.

The Camden Chat staff just concluded a 21-part series of posts about potential Orioles free agent targets, some more realistic than others. Will the O’s end up signing even a single one of them? Already off the board are Verlander (Mets), José Abreu (Astros), deGrom (Rangers), Willson Contreras (Cardinals), Turner (Phillies), José Quintana (Mets), Andrew Heaney (Rangers), Masataka Yoshida (Red Sox), and now Nimmo (Mets).

Still available: Carlos Rodón, Kodai Senga, Nathan Eovaldi, Carlos Correa, Michael Brantley, Chris Bassitt, Andrew Benintendi, Ross Stripling, Christian Vazquez, Zack Greinke, Andrew McCutchen, and Brandon Belt.

There are certainly some combinations of players on that second list who would make for a successful O’s offseason. And if the Orioles decide none of the prominent free agents fit their price point, there’s always the trade market, where they could use some of their organizational depth to deal for a quality, cost-controlled player.

In any event, let’s hope something happens soon. The Orioles took a giant leap forward this season but need a little more help to push them firmly into contention. This winter, for the first time in years, is a prime opportunity for the Orioles to be aggressive and find those missing pieces to the puzzle.


The Orioles’ offseason isn’t over. But a defensive week doesn’t change that it’s OK to be frustrated by it so far. — Maximizing Playoff Odds

Connolly: Air is out of Orioles liftoff if Mike Elias can’t — or won’t — spend much - The Athletic
Jon Meoli and Dan Connolly both offer their thoughts on the Orioles’ lack of activity this winter. In summary: Mike Elias has done a lot of great things to get the organization to where it is now, but it’s fair to wonder why ownership isn’t yet opening the checkbook to supplement the team.

Kyle Gibson Offers Orioles Stability, and Perhaps Stagnation, Too | FanGraphs Baseball
Alex Eisert analyzes how Gibson’s pitch mix with the Phillies led to some struggles last year. I’m betting the Orioles are already aware of this and have a plan for how to fix it. They’re smart like that.

Gibson: “I’ve always enjoyed playing in Baltimore” - School of Roch
Gibson’s attitude is a refreshing contrast to the last pitcher the O's got from the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson in 2017, who was basically like, “I hate pitching here.” Here’s hoping that Gibson will continue enjoying, and succeeding in, Baltimore.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Five former Orioles were born on this day, including former first round pick Hunter Harvey (28), who’s now employed by the regional rival Nationals, as well as Tony Batista (49), Tony Tarasco (52), Darold Knowles (81), and the late Billy Klaus (b. 1928, d. 2006).

Today is the 57th anniversary of the greatest trade in Orioles history, the franchise-altering deal that sent Reds superstar Frank Robinson to the Birds for Milt Pappas, Dick Simpson, and Jack Baldschun. Robinson was one of the game’s greatest players at the time, a former MVP, Rookie of the Year, and six-time All-Star — and future Hall of Famer — but Cincinnati’s foolish decision to part ways with the 30-year-old was a wonderful gift for the Orioles. In his first year in Baltimore, Robinson won the Triple Crown, was named AL MVP, and led the O’s to their first World Series championship, immediately cementing his place as an Orioles legend. Thanks again, Reds!

The Orioles made another awesome trade on this date in history, if not as monumental as the Robinson deal. In 2010, they acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Twins for a pair of relievers. Hardy went on to a strong seven-year career with the Birds, stabilizing the infield with his brilliant defensive work at short while providing some power in his early seasons, and was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame in 2021.