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Which Orioles Free Agents Will Return In 2018?

September 13, 2017
As the regular season nears its end, the Orioles have big decisions to make regarding 10 players who are eligible for free agency. Here's a look at who's likely to return and who's likely to be moving on.

Wade Miley
 
While fans may not be excited about the prospect of keeping Miley -- the rotation's only left-handed starter -- the Orioles have control over whether he stays or goes.
 
Miley has a $12 million club option, and while an 8-12 record with a 4.96 ERA may not seem attractive, the Orioles have just two sure starters for 2018 -- right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
 
The crop of starters on the free-agent market isn't all that attractive, and for $12 million, the Orioles may not get anyone much better than Miley, who's pitched better of late.
 
Chances of returning: Probable
 
Chris Tillman
 
From 2012-2016, the veteran right-hander was the team's most dependable starter. But this season has been a nightmare. After missing the first month with a shoulder injury, Tillman is 1-7 with a 7.82 ERA.
 
Even though the team needs more starters and they're familiar with Tillman, it's likely he finds a more attractive offer elsewhere and both sides get a fresh start.

However, Tillman has a home in Sarasota, Fla., -- where the Orioles have spring training -- so if he hasn't signed with another team by February, he could return to Baltimore.
  
Chances of returning: Unlikely
 
Ubaldo Jimenez
 
The Orioles aren't likely to spend $50 million over four years for a starting pitcher -- as they did with Jimenez -- anytime soon. Fans often exaggerate his ineffectiveness, however, and the right-hander has remained healthy as an Oriole. The Orioles probably wouldn't have made the postseason in 2016 without his strong, late-season push.
 
Someone will take a flyer on him, but it won't be the Orioles.

Chances of returning: Highly unlikely
 
Jeremy Hellickson
 
In eight starts since he was acquired by the Orioles, the right-hander has been erratic, with a 2-4 record and 6.54 ERA. Hellickson won't equal the $17.2 million he made with a qualifying offer, but in a weak free-agent market, he might still get a multi-year offer elsewhere.
 
While bringing Hellickson back isn't a terrible idea, he's looking for more than the Orioles are willing to pay.
 
Chances of returning: Unlikely
 
Welington Castillo
 
Castillo has been a quietly effective player, both offensively and defensively.
 
Despite playing in just 85 games due to injuries, the catcher has 19 home runs and 49 RBIs. He's also thrown out a major league-leading 49 percent of runners trying to steal.
 
Castillo has a $7 million player option, and in an unexciting group of free-agent catchers, he stands out.
 
The guess here is that he declines the option and finds a multi-year offer elsewhere.
 
Chances of returning: Possible
 
Seth Smith
 
While he hasn't been a disappointment, the quiet right fielder hasn't done much to earn a big payday. Smith is batting .261 with 13 home runs, but he has just 31 RBIs.
 
Smith will be 35 later in September, and he seems unlikely to equal his $7 million salary in the final year of a three-year contract.
 
With several young outfielders on the horizon for the Orioles, there doesn't seem to be room for Smith.
 
Chances of returning: Highly unlikely
 
J.J. Hardy
 
Though the Orioles activated him from the disabled list Sept. 8, the veteran shortstop -- who lost his job to Tim Beckham -- hasn't played since June 18 when he suffered a broken right wrist.
 
Hardy, 35, would like to continue to play, but it won't be with the Orioles, who have a $14 million option that would have vested with 600 plate appearances.
 
Chances of returning: Highly unlikely
 
Ryan Flaherty
 
Orioles manager Buck Showalter has always liked the versatility of Flaherty, who can play all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. However, Flaherty -- who missed three months with a shoulder injury -- may want an opportunity to play more than he has the past two years.
 
Should Flaherty leave, the Orioles will have to search for a replacement because there isn't anyone in the system who appears to have his skill set.
 
Don't be surprised if Flaherty re-signs with the Orioles late during the offseason if he doesn't get a suitable offer elsewhere.
 
Chances of returning: Possible
 
Craig Gentry
 
Gentry, 33, has provided Showalter with speed and good outfield defense. While the Orioles are likely to have a bevy of younger outfielders next year, he's so valued that he could return -- perhaps on a minor league contract.
 
Chances of returning: Probable
 
Pedro Alvarez
 
Despite strong power numbers, Alvarez hasn't found a robust market for his services during the past two offseasons. He showed power at Triple-A Norfolk, but his outfield experiment was quickly ended. Since Alvarez was called up Sept. 1, he's only had three at-bats.
 
Chances of returning: Highly unlikely

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox