Walking down a few aisles in the free agent market

It wouldn’t be the hot stove season without names of free agents being thrown against a wall to see which ones stick.

It’s speculation city, baby. Population: Everyone.

I’ve started a drinking game. I’m doing a shot every time I read that the Orioles “may,” “could” or “should” sign a player. I’d stay sober if it only required “will.” But it’s that time of the year. Enjoy it. Just don’t try to walk a straight line.

The Orioles have certain needs, which have been well-publicized. (So do I, which also have been well-publicized.) They are viewed within segments of the industry as having money to burn. And this is why they will be attached to just about every free agent this winter. Again.

Well, I’m not going to waste your time with names like Robinson Cano and Shin-Soo Choo. It’s not happening. It’s not a reasonable expectation.

I’d be shocked if Cano left the Yankees. They will do what it takes to keep him, and that includes paying him $200 million.

Do you see the Orioles going to that extreme?

Choo would be ideal for the Orioles. He could play left field, bat leadoff, flash his .423 on-base percentage. He hit 21 home runs last year. Nate McLouth and Nick Markakis, the primary corner outfielders this summer, combined for 22. But Choo would cost the Orioles a draft pick. He’s represented by Scott Boras. And MLBTradeRumors, while ranking him as the No. 3 free agent on the market, says the 31-year-old South Korea native “should require a contract in excess of Hunter Pence’s five-year, $90MM deal.

Do you see the Orioles going to that extreme?

Same here, so I’m not referencing him again. One and done.

The Orioles want to sign a pitcher to slot behind Chris Tillman, someone who can take the ball every five days and log 200-plus innings. They’d like to bring back Scott Feldman, and MLBTradeRumors projects that he will return on a two-year deal. Sounds right if he actually settles for a two-year deal, but there’s got to be teams willing to go three.

Broken record alert: The Orioles like southpaw Jason Vargas. Pitching coach Rick Adair would continue to push hard for Vargas if he hadn’t been replaced. They talked to the Angels about him at the non-waiver deadline, but uncertainty over his return date from a blood clot under his left arm caused the Orioles to back off.

Trivia question: Name the only pitcher to make at least 32 starts per year from 2005-13.

It’s Bronson Arroyo. Nice try, though.

Arroyo will be 37 in February. Is he a No. 2 starter? On this staff, yes, but other teams would slot him in the backend of the rotation. He won’t cost a draft pick. He has ties to new pitching coach Dave Wallace. Keep an eye on him.

Ervin Santana went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA in his final season with the Angels in 2012. He goes 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA with the Royals this year, and now he’s regarded as one of the top free agent pitchers on the market.

I love this game.

Santana has exceeded 200 innings five times. He’s made 30 or more starts in four straight seasons, and five of six. But he will cost a draft pick and is projected to receive a four- or five-year deal. The Orioles would have to change their philosophy regarding long-term contracts for pitchers in order to secure Santana.

It won’t happen. No sense bringing up his name again.

The Orioles have expressed past interest in pitcher Ricky Nolasco, but he’s not a fit if he’s really in line for a four-year deal, as MLBTradeRumors projects.

One of the more intriguing free-agent possibilities is Kendrys Morales, a 30-year-old switch-hitter who could fill the DH role. That’s his best position. It’s not even close.

Morales would cost a draft pick, but we can debate whether he’s worth it. Put me down for “yes.” Go with the surer thing.

Boras represents him, so yeah, it won’t be a bargain. But man, his bat would fit nicely in that lineup. Keep an eye on him.

Do the same with second baseman Mark Ellis if the Orioles don’t re-sign Brian Roberts. I still think Roberts returns, but if not, Ellis would make sense while Jonathan Schoop gets more at-bats at Triple-A Norfolk. The Orioles need someone to keep the seat warm. Ellis could do that while providing plus-defense.

Omar Infante could land a three-year deal, which may not appeal to the Orioles if they truly consider Schoop their second baseman of the near future.

I’ve been asked about Mike Napoli. The Orioles didn’t want to give him three years last winter, before he was diagnosed with avascular necrosis in both hips. They won’t want to give him three years this winter. And he will cost a draft pick.

In closing, I should point out that any big-ticket free agent represented by Boras will be discussed at some point, most likely at the Winter Meetings that begin Dec. 9 in Orlando. Orioles executives will be sitting down with him, in part to discuss possible extensions for Chris Davis and Matt Wieters. Boras will promote his other clients. The Orioles will listen. And then you’ll likely read how the Orioles are “in on” a few of them, simply based on these talks.

I love this game.

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