Wondering whether a winter Orioles report resurfaces

The sorting of fact from fiction, of rumor from real, is one of the most taxing but necessary activities of the baseball offseason. A winter wonder which.

I discovered that the Marlins had interest in Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander prior to the 2021 season, but it didn’t go anywhere. Santander was the reigning Most Valuable Oriole and despite losing his arbitration hearing, his salary jumped from $572,500 to $2.1 million. It made sense to keep Santander and it made sense to check the market for him and consider any deals that aided the rebuild.

Same with so many other players in the organization.

Santander went 9-for-29 with two doubles and 10 walks in spring training, but was limited to 13 games due to soreness in his side that carried to the end of the exhibition schedule. The Orioles were being careful after his September shutdown due to a left oblique strain, having him swing on the back fields at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.

Thumbnail image for Santander-HR-Swing-White-Sidebar.jpgA sprained ankle on April 20 in Miami hindered Santander for most of the regular season and he batted .241/.286/.433 in 110 games after missing a month. He also went on the COVID-19 injured list in July and didn’t play after Sept. 26 due to a sprained right knee.

Shoulder and oblique injuries caused Santander to be shut down the past two Septembers as well. And the .286 on-base percentage disappointed, after the Orioles made plate discipline a priority for Santander. He was much better with it in camp.

Super Two status gives Santander arbitration eligibility until free agency arrives in 2025. Team control is an attractive quality. The yearly raises ... well, not as much, as the Orioles trudge through their rebuild.

Santander is a switch-hitter with power, his 18 home runs ranking fifth on the club in a lot fewer at-bats. His 24 doubles ranked fourth. He was a Gold Glove finalist in the American League in 2020 and right field remains open to him, with Yusniel Diaz unable to remain healthy this summer and debut in the majors.

MLBTradeRumors.com projects that Santander’s next raise will place his salary at $3.7 million. That alone leaves him vulnerable to non-tender speculation. But I’m revisiting the Marlins interest last winter because of a recent report from MLB.com’s Jon Morosi that Miami is looking for outfield and catching upgrades and would be willing to deal from its surplus of starting pitching, which the Orioles obviously need.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. But we’re still in November, a month short of the scheduled Winter Meetings. Never too soon to kick around a few ideas and check whether there are connectable dots.

The Orioles can’t assist the Marlins in the catching department. The cupboard is pretty much bare, especially with Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove winner Adley Rutschman untouchable. But the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson believes that the Marlins will acquire two outfielders.

Morosi wrote that the Marlins are considering whether to trade one of their controllable starters, with Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernández locked up through 2024 via arbitration.

Alcantara made $630,000 this year and MLBTradeRumors.com projects a raise to $4.5 million. Ouch.

López made $595,000, with a projected raise to $2.5 million. Hernández made $579,000 with a projected raise to $1.4 million.

Now we’re trending in the right direction.

The Marlins might not have the same interest in Santander this winter. They might not want to trade one of those starters for him. The Orioles might have other ideas regarding their rotation and payroll.

But when a team is identified as being in the market for an outfielder, with a previous offseason link to Santander, and has an excess of starting pitching, a rumor seed can be planted and perhaps bloom into something real.

Or it dies on the vine. Let’s find out.

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