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Which Orioles Free Agents Will Return In 2014?

November 8, 2013

The MLB free agency period has begun, with teams now ready to begin the bidding for the latest batch of available players. The Orioles are no exception, as general manager Dan Duquette will be carefully eyeing the free-agent market for possible supplements to the Birds' roster. But what about the Orioles' own free agents? Will any of them re-sign with the O's this winter ... and if so, which? Let's take a look at the Birds' current list of free agents and weigh the odds of each one returning to the Orioles in 2014.

Orioles 2013: Brian Roberts (thumbs up)
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

2B Brian Roberts: Roberts isn't the integral table-setter of the Orioles' lineup that he was during his glory days, but he's perhaps the most interesting free-agent question facing the Birds. At 36 years old and racked by injuries during recent years, Roberts is on his last legs as a player; he hasn't played more than 77 games during a season since 2009. But he was something of a comeback story in 2013, staying healthy for the entire second half and providing adequate production at second base, showing a disciplined plate approach, which is often lacking in the O's lineup. Roberts has spent his entire 13-year career with the Orioles. Will sentimentality -- and a dearth of alternatives -- convince the O's to bring back Roberts on an incentive-laden deal? I'd say there's a better-than-even chance.
Chances of returning: 75 percent 

LF Nate McLouth: If it seems like just one year ago that the O's were in a similar position with McLouth -- it was. Last winter, McLouth -- coming off a resurgent 2012 with the Orioles -- perused the market for a multi-year contract before returning to the Birds for one year. His 2013 season wasn't quite as strong thanks to a second-half slump, but McLouth provided speed (a team-leading 30 steals) and a capable bat against right-handers. Again, McLouth, 32, will be looking for a multi-year contract and again, the O's are unlikely to give it to him ... but if he's willing to settle for another one-year pact, he could find himself as the Birds' left fielder again in 2014.
Chances of returning: 60 percent 

RHP Scott Feldman: Feldman gave the Orioles' rotation a boost after they acquired him from the Cubs during the 2013 season, slotting as a durable back-of-the-rotation starter. Feldman, a 30-year-old veteran, isn't going to blow anyone away with his stuff, but he kept the O's in the game more often than not, and seemed to be a favorite of manager Buck Showalter. The Orioles likely are interested in re-signing Feldman, but would their interest wane if he insists on a multi-year deal? Much will depend on how the market for starting pitching plays out.
Chances of returning: 50 percent 

RHP Jason Hammel: Hammel's stock crashed hard during the 2013 season, as he plummeted from Opening Day starter to roster afterthought, finishing the season by pitching out of the bullpen. Hammel was unable to replicate his breakout 2012 year and might no longer be a fit for the Orioles. A change of scenery would probably be best for Hammel at this point, but never say never. If he strikes out elsewhere on the free-agent market, he could return to the Birds on a low-cost deal. The Orioles value stockpiling pitching depth, and perhaps new pitching coach Dave Wallace could find a way to restore Hammel to his 2012 form -- or something close to it.
Chances of returning: 20 percent 

OF Michael Morse and RHP Francisco Rodriguez: I'm grouping Morse and Rodriguez together because they have one main thing in common: there's practically no chance that either one will be returning to the Orioles. Both were midseason trade rentals in 2013, and neither was a good fit in Baltimore -- with an injured Morse going 3-for-29 and Rodriguez pitching to a 4.50 ERA in mostly unimportant relief situations during their stints with the Orioles. Expect them to look for work elsewhere.
Chances of returning: 1 percent 

Backup catcher Chris Snyder is also a free agent, but he played such an insignificant role in 2013 (nine games, 20 at bats) that he's not worth putting odds on.

Overall, the chances are good that the O's will re-sign at least one of their own free agents -- I'd put Roberts as the odds-on favorite -- just as there are almost certainly a couple who will be saying their goodbyes to the Birds.

And just wait until next offseason, when an even more notable batch of Orioles will be eligible for free agency, including shortstop J.J. Hardy and closer Jim Johnson, with Nick Markakis, Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O'Day potentially joining them if their 2015 options aren't picked up. It'll be interesting to see how much turnover the Orioles will undergo during the next two winters.