Deciding which free agents to keep

When manager Buck Showalter was asked late in the season about his timetable for announcing which coaches would return in 2011, he said it would be "sooner rather than later." It's my fault for not getting a clear definition. This week would be considered "sooner," as opposed to after the World Series, which would fall into the "later" category. Showalter underwent the first of his two knee surgeries on Tuesday. He was supposed to return to Baltimore before the second procedure. Just so you know, Showalter isn't having his knees replaced. Only his corner infielders. The Orioles have seven pending free agents: Pitchers Kevin Millwood, Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson, infielders Cesar Izturis, Ty Wigginton and Julio Lugo, and outfielder Corey Patterson. I've already stated that Izturis is the most likely of the bunch to return, according to my bracket. Izturis is my Duke, as opposed to Lugo, who's more like Coastal Carolina. It's October Madness! Showalter is a big Izturis supporter, and it's not just lip service for the media. I'm not basing that opinion strictly on Showalter's post-game comments.
Izzy is highly regarded in the eyes of Showalter and the members of the media, but will he be back?

This doesn't mean the Orioles already have taken themselves out of the market for a shortstop. It just means the odds favor Izturis more than the others. Uehara and Wigginton fall into the second tier, according to my rankings. I'm never sure about Hendrickson. I misread the Orioles' signals last winter - that blinker meant they were making a U-turn - and I won't try again. Hendrickson and Patterson want to return next season. That much was evident as we said our goodbyes in the clubhouse after the final game. But the Orioles must decide whether there's room to carry Patterson in the outfield - and whether he's too similar to Felix Pie - and whether they want to change multi-purpose left-handed relievers, perhaps giving Troy Patton a shot instead. If you've got a few minutes to spare, go ahead and rank the seven free agents in the order that you'd want to keep them. Which ones, if any, should be priorities? And how much would you be willing to offer? It's easy to say that the Orioles need to re-sign Uehara and make him the closer from the first day of spring training, but at what cost? In this instance, it's your money.
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