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Orioles' Best And Worst Free-Agent Signings In The Dan Duquette Era

December 15, 2017
With free-agent season here, let's examine the Orioles' best and worst free-agent signings since Dan Duquette became executive vice president of baseball operations in November 2011.

BEST

1. Adam Jones re-signs for six years, $85.5 million.

In May 2012, the Orioles, who were showing signs that they could be competitive after 14 straight losing seasons, re-signed their star center fielder, who could have become a free agent at season's end.

Since the extension took effect for the 2013 season, Jones has averaged 29 home runs and 88 RBIs.

"The dude rang the cash register every time he hit a home run," Duquette cracked at the time of the signing.

Not only has Jones produced on the field, but he's been a great presence in the community.

2. Nelson Cruz signs a  one-year, $8 million contract.

In February 2014, spring training had already started and this slugger was still on the free-agent market.

The Orioles scooped up Cruz, and it was a bargain. He led the major leagues with 40 home runs and drove in 108 while the Orioles handily won the American League East.

Cruz, who played left field and served as the club's principal designated hitter, helped keep the offense potent when third baseman Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters were lost to season-ending injuries and first baseman Chris Davis to a suspension for using amphetamines without a prescription.

After Cruz's one-year contract with the Orioles, he declared for free agency and signed with Seattle, where he has hit 126 home runs and batted .292 during the last three seasons.

3. Wei-Yin Chen comes to Baltimore via Taiwan and Japan.

In January 2012, the Orioles desperately needed starting pitching, and Duquette signed a 26-year-old Taiwanese left-hander who was pitching in Japan to a three-year contract for $11.3 million. A $4.75 million option for 2015 was included.

Chen was 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in four years with the Orioles, and the team made the postseason in 2012 and 2014.

Since he left the team after the 2015 season, Chen has pitched in just 31 games for the Miami Marlins due to injuries. He has an $80 million contract with Miami that has three years remaining.

4. Miguel Gonzalez is signed to a minor league deal.

No one had heard of the right-hander, who was toiling in the Mexican League when the Orioles signed him during spring training in 2012.

Gonzalez had only pitched in one Triple-A game before he was signed, and after he came up in May 2012, he became a dependable starter.

In four seasons with the Orioles, Gonzalez was 39-33 with a 3.82 ERA.

He was released in April 2016.

5. Nate McLouth's career is revived after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

McLouth had been an All-Star and won a Gold Glove for the Pirates in 2008, but early in 2012, Pittsburgh released the outfielder, and the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal.

He was hitting .140 when the Pirates let him go, and after a few weeks at Triple-A Norfolk, McLouth joined the Orioles.

Playing left field, McLouth became the leadoff hitter after right fielder Nick Markakis suffered a broken left thumb in September.

In his final 30 games of 2012, McLouth hit .280 with five home runs and stole six bases while playing an excellent left field.

He re-signed with the Orioles for 2013. Injuries truncated his career with the Washington Nationals a year later.

WORST

1. Chris Davis signs record-breaking six-year, $161 million extension.

Davis had just led the majors in home runs for the second time in three years, and after protracted negotiations, the first baseman signed by far the biggest contract in team history.

He hit 47 homers and drove in 117 runs in 2015, but in the two seasons since signing in January 2016, his production has dropped off sharply. While showing some power (64 home runs, 145 RBIs) over the past two seasons, Davis has hit just .221 in 2016 and .215 in 2017 while striking out 414 times.

Still smarting from the losses of Cruz and Markakis to free agency after the 2014 season, the Orioles overpaid for Davis, and the contract runs through 2022.

2. Ubaldo Jimenez signs four-year, $50 million contract.

Prior to February 2014, the Orioles had never given a four-year contract to a pitcher from outside the organization, but they thought the right-hander was worth it.

In four seasons from 2014 through 2017, Jimenez was 32-42 with a 5.22 ERA. He was healthy and considered a model teammate, but only pitched well during much of 2015 and the second half of the 2016 season.

We'll see if bad memories of the four-year deal prevent the team from pursuing top-tier free-agent pitchers this offseason.

3. Yovani Gallardo signs a two-year, $22 million contract.

Like Cruz and Jimenez, Gallardo was still available during spring training, and the Orioles wanted another starter in 2016. They originally had an agreement with the right-hander for three years and $35 million, but medical concerns prompted a renegotiation.

In 2016, Gallardo was 6-8 with a 5.42 ERA in 23 starts and missed nearly two months with a right shoulder injury.

The team sent him to the Seattle Mariners in January 2017 for right fielder Seth Smith. That deal worked out reasonably well for the Orioles, as Smith had a decent season while Gallardo was 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA.

4. Mark Trumbo comes back to the Orioles on a three-year deal.

Because they clearly missed the production provided by Cruz and Markakis in 2015 and were afraid that Davis would sign elsewhere, the Orioles were only too happy to obtain Trumbo from the Mariners when Seattle was eager to shed salary.

The move looked brilliant when Trumbo led the major leagues with 47 home runs in 2016.

Over last winter, the right fielder/DH found a tepid free-agent market, and in January he signed a three-year, $37.5 million contract.

Trumbo, who had never hit more than 34 homers before 2016, experienced a marked drop-off in production in 2017. He hit 23 homers and drove in 65 runs.

The Orioles would love to move that contract and find pitching in return, but it's going to be hard to find a partner.

5. Orioles attempt to make a splash by signing Tsuyoshi Wada to two-year contract.

Duquette's first major free-agent signing was a 30-year-old Japanese left-hander who was eager to try the major leagues. The Orioles signed Wada to a two-year, $8.15 million contract in December 2011.

Unfortunately, Wada never pitched for the Orioles. He needed Tommy John surgery early in the 2012 season and didn't pitch well enough for Norfolk in 2013 to merit a recall.

Wada pitched briefly for the Chicago Cubs, and he beat the Orioles at Wrigley Field in August 2014. He's now back in Japan. 

Issue 240: December 2017