Light free agent winter workload for Orioles

Part of a team’s offseason agenda is attempting to retain its own free agents. Hold onto the players who are deemed irreplaceable and affordable.

The Orioles won’t be bogged down by this type of business.

The current list of Orioles free agents is a brief read. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc and third catcher Bryan Holaday are the only ones assured of hitting the market.

The $3.5 million option on shortstop José Iglesias’ contract is going to be picked up unless there’s a monumental, earth-shattering shift in organizational thinking. Otherwise, Iglesias receives a $500,000 buyout and a hug on his way out the door.

The next hug is coming as he arrives for spring training.

Iglesias is keeping the position warm until one of the prospects is ready, whether it’s Gunnar Henderson (if he stays at shortstop), Adam Hall, Jordan Westburg, Anthony Servideo, Terrin Vavra, Darell Hernaiz or Cadyn Grenier - the latter conspicuous by his absence from the fall instructional league.

Or if it’s Richie Martin.

Or if Ryan Mountcastle moves back to shortstop.

I’m kidding.

Keeping Iglesias makes sense because of what he offers at the plate - professional at-bats that manager Brandon Hyde loves almost as much as his family - and stellar defense when able to move freely in the field. And because he’s an actual trade chip.

The Orioles can attempt to deal him at the deadline if he’s healthy. Much easier to do if the back, quadriceps and wrist are pain-free and he’s playing every day at shortstop.

Thumbnail image for leblanc-pitch-orange-home.jpg.jpgLeBlanc signed a minor league deal on Feb. 1, made the opening day roster, posted an 8.06 ERA and 1.567 WHIP in six starts, and went on the 60-day injured list with a stress reaction in his left elbow.

Left-handed hitters were 3-for-16 (.188) against LeBlanc and right-handers were 24-for-76 (.316). All six home runs came from right-handers.

The industry sense is that the Orioles will move on from LeBlanc - and spend the winter looking for a similar pitcher. A veteran on a minor league deal who can offer experience and hopefully innings while another prospect or three gradually filters onto the major league staff.

Tommy Milone fit the profile and actually brought back two players to be named later from the Braves who haven’t been revealed. He registered a 14.90 ERA and 2.483 WHIP in three starts before going on the injured list Sept. 10 with left elbow inflammation and the Braves released him.

Holaday likely is eager to test the market and find a better gig than No. 3 catcher who is used almost as much at first base. Not that he was complaining this summer. He signed a minor league contract in January and was viewed as depth behind Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns, but moved ahead of the latter.

The Orioles selected Holaday’s contract from the alternate camp site on Aug. 1 rather than risk losing him. Holaday could have opted out and I heard that the Giants expressed interest.

Expanded rosters made it easier for the Orioles to carry Holaday. We have no idea what changes are coming in 2021.

The importance of an extra catcher is diminished with the implementation of taxi squads on the road. But again, we don’t know if Major League Baseball is going with the same arrangement next summer.

Others could enter free agency depending on whether arbitration-eligible players are non-tendered. Renato Núñez is attracting some early speculation. Of course, none of it comes from inside the organization.

That’s why we’re here.

Shawn Armstrong could become too expensive in Baltimore, which doesn’t throw cash at relievers, but he was outstanding when healthy. Infielder Hanser Alberto’s first arbitration raise last winter set his salary at $1.65 million and he’s getting another bump after upholding his reputation as a killer of left-handed pitching but slashing .283/.306/.393 overall in 54 games and .215/.241/.291 in September.

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