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Saturday Bird Droppings: The free agent pool is filling up

Option decisions are made, dreaming about the offseason ahead, and ranking bunts.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

This is a weird in-between time on baseball’s off-season schedule. Free agency has—technically—begun. But the only players that teams can sign are those that were on their roster last year. From a player’s perspective, it makes little sense to re-sign with your most recent employer when you could just wait a few days and see what the 29 other clubs have to say about you.

For the Orioles, that means the elite batch of names they could be talking to right now is Aaron Hicks, Jack Flaherty, Adam Frazier, Shintaro Fujinami, and Kyle Gibson. It would be somewhat surprising to see any one of those players back in Baltimore for 2024, but it would be particularly shocking to see them re-sign this weekend.

Atlanta Braves pitcher Joe Jiménez appears to be the rare exception here. The pending free agent did decide to head back to Atlanta, signing a three-year deal earlier this week. Once again, the Braves demonstrate their unmatched ability to negotiate.

But in the absence of any other big movement, the only transaction news we have to examine is the accepting and declining of options, opt outs, etc. Most—if not all—of these are going down as expected.

Some of the headliners so far: Cody Bellinger declined his mutual option with the Cubs. Justin Turner turned down his player option for the Red Sox. The Dodgers declined to bring back Lance Lynn on his option. Jorge Soler opted out with the Marlins. And the Twins exercised their options on both Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco to bring them back to Minnesota. This news will keep rolling in over the weekend

Of the names there that are going onto the market, Bellinger is one that could really make sense for the O’s. The former NL MVP had fallen on hard times late in his stay with the Dodgers, but he entirely revitalized his career last year in Chicago. His 133 OPS+ was his best since that 2019 MVP season. It included 26 home runs, 29 doubles, and an .881 OPS. On top of that, he plays some nice defense at both first base and centerfield. Of course, they would be far from the only interest suitors, so the odds of a marriage coming to fruition seem limited.

Several more important dates will come and go between now and when teams actually get serious about roster building for 2024. But at least the final free agent pool is starting to take shape. A few more intriguing names will enter the free over the next two weeks as qualifying offer decisions are made, Rule 5 protections are dished out, and players are non-tendered.

In many off-seasons it culminates at the Winter Meetings. They get going on December 3 in Nashville this year. It is at these meetings that Trea Turner, Justin Verlander, and Arson Aaron Judge all signed in 2022. Perhaps similar splashes are coming this year. Will the Orioles be involved? We won’t get our hopes up.


More Orioles mailbag leftovers | Roch Kubatko
Roch mentions extensions a couple times. Specifically, he says that he has heard nothing about players getting extended and doesn’t expect to hear anything either. Joy!

Commentary: Acquiring the Orioles is Baltimore’s best solution | Baltimore Banner
This would be great. Will it happen? Well, no of course not. As has been covered here, we cannot have nice things.

3 designated hitters — including Shohei Ohtani — the Orioles could sign | Baltimore Banner
Does it make sense to sign a DH when you already have Anthony Santander? Of course, the O’s could look to trade Santander if they feel they could get a haul for him. But to then turn around and sign someone for more money (which is what all of these options would likely require) than what Santander will make doesn’t smell like something the Orioles would do.

Every Bunt of the 2023 Postseason, Ranked | FanGraphs
The Orioles did not bunt at all in their three-game playoff stint. But we can still enjoy how other teams handled this rarely used tool of the sport.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • Larry Bigbie turns 46. From 2001 through 2005, he was an up-and-down outfield option for the O’s. He was dealt to the Rockies at the 2005 trade deadline in exchange for Eric Byrnes.
  • Doug Corbett is 71 today. He pitched in 11 games for the 1987 Orioles.
  • The late Tito Francona (b. 1933, d. 2018) was born on this day. His 15-season career started with two seasons in Baltimore from 1956-57.

This day in O’s history

1975 - Jim Palmer wins the Cy Young Award for the second time. He had led the junior circuit in wins, shutouts, and ERA.

2002 - Orioles pitcher Rodrigo López finishes second in the voting for AL Rookie of the Year. Blue Jays slugger Eric Hinske wins it.

2014 - Three Orioles win Gold Glove awards: third baseman Manny Machado, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and centerfielder Adam Jones.