SARASOTA, Fla. - As the free agent market was set to open, I listed left-hander Wei-Yin Chen as the least likely of the six Orioles to re-sign with the team.
Chen yesterday became the first to leave, though Gerardo Parra followed so closely, he almost stepped on his former teammate's heels.
This isn't so much an I-told-you-so as a reminder that the Orioles don't normally spend lavishly on starting pitchers. It was quite a reach giving Ubaldo Jimenez four years and $50 million. Chen was assured of trumping that deal with tremendous force.
The Orioles weren't going five years and they weren't going to approach $100 million. Agent Scott Boras figured to get a huge deal and he did it.
Chen wasn't eager to leave the Orioles despite the flap over his temporary assignment to Single-A Frederick. He wasn't a fan of the move and made it pretty clear to some folks at Harry Grove Stadium, from what I've been told, but he put it behind him upon returning.
It came down to money. It usually does. And it's not like the Orioles were in the bidding and just fell short.
They didn't hold much interest in retaining Parra, the opinion on him seeming to change over the final weeks of the season. He batted .237/.268/.357 with 12 doubles, five home and 20 RBIs in 55 games after the Orioles acquired him from the Brewers on July 31 for pitcher Zach Davies. He also didn't come as advertised defensively, taking some poor routes on balls and throwing to the wrong base.
I wouldn't have minded his return. He's a right fielder, a left-handed bat, someone who could hit at the top of the order. He's better than what he showed in Baltimore. And it's easier to swallow the loss of another young arm if you keep the player obtained in the trade.
At this point, I'd settle for John Lowenstein or Jim Dwyer.
The Rockies now have a surplus of outfielders and the Orioles are engaging in trade talks. Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson reportedly are on the table. All of them bat from the left side.
Ding, ding, ding.
Here's the rub, of course: The Rockies have long coveted Kevin Gausman, who isn't on the table. What exactly do the Orioles have to offer that can get a deal done? Is there a match here? If not, who cares that the sides are talking?
The conversation may as well start with, "What are you wearing?"
If the Orioles are serious about working out a deal, they need to act aggressively because they're not the only ones. Make your best offer, make it again and move on if it's not good enough. But don't tiptoe into the waters or you're going to be left dry.
Blackmon is a career .334/.386/.501 hitter in five seasons in Colorado and a .241/.283/.370 hitter on the road. That's not just a red flag, it's a tarp.
The bottom line is the Orioles still need a left-handed hitter, preferably an outfielder, and at least one starting pitcher. The free agent market on starters is getting really thin, leading some fans to suggest trading Gausman to plug the hole left by Chen. Except, of course, that it creates another hole.
Makes no sense to me.
Also, the Orioles already have lost Davies, Jake Arrieta, Eduardo Rodriguez, Josh Hader, Stephen Tarpley, Steve Brault and Tim Berry over the past few years, just to name a handful. Five in that group are southpaws. One is a Cy Young Award winner.
Go ahead and grow the arms, but be careful which ones you tear out at the roots.
The Orioles are in a bind. They can' t offer as much in trade as other teams and they don't show an inclination to spend as much, unless it's to re-sign Chris Davis. So now what?
Notes: The Orioles' eight arbitration-eligible players filed last night as expected: Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Ryan Flaherty, Miguel Gonzalez, Manny Machado, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Mark Trumbo.
The sides will exchange figures on Friday and hearings will be set up next month if agreements can't be reached.
The Rays announced that they signed former Orioles pitchers Dana Eveland and knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa to minor league deals with invitations to spring training.