Rebuilding Orioles need to look within, not at free agents

As baseball free agency gets going, we know the Orioles will not be playing in the deep end of the pool. No chance of a Manny Machado reunion or a run at one of the top starters out there, such as Patrick Corbin or Dallas Keuchel.

But should the Orioles even stick their toe into the shallow end of the pool?

There certainly will be players to be had on one-year contracts who could help a club. The Orioles could use a sound defensive shortstop, and there are a few available. While José Iglesias might get a two-year deal, Adeiny Hechavarria, Freddy Galvis, Jordy Mercer and Alcides Escobar all have some defensive skills worth considering, and each of them might be amenable on a one-year deal.

Villar-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgThe Orioles have to decide if they will non-tender Tim Beckham, whose defense at short has been inconsistent. Even the rebuilding Orioles could use an upgrade. Jonathan Villar could play short next year. He made 18 starts at that position for Baltimore in 2018 and he’s actually started more games in his career at shortstop than at second base.

Would the Orioles consider bolstering their rotation by signing a veteran to a one-year deal to eat some innings? A few who might be had on one-year deals include Drew Pomeranz, Jeremy Hellickson, Tyson Ross, Marco Estrada and maybe even former Oriole Miguel González. Heck, we can start the annual Doug Fister-to-the-Orioles rumor.

While I might consider a short-term stopgap at shortstop, I think I’d probably pass on the pitchers. The 2019 Orioles need to keep looking at some of their own pitchers, don’t they? How about longer looks for David Hess, Josh Rogers, John Means, Luis Ortiz, Yefry Ramírez and/or Jimmy Yacabonis. That group should include Dillon Tate, who is expected to get added soon to the 40-man roster.

Two pitchers who threw well this season could start knocking on the door in 2019: Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer. And both have to be added to the roster in December 2019 anyway, in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. So the Orioles have a few pitchers they can look at.

Sure, one of the veteran free agents could prove useful, but could also bomb out. Either way, why take innings away from a young pitcher for this team at this point?

The Orioles, perhaps more than at any time in their history - certainly their recent history - may be in a position to throw some things against the wall, player-wise, and see what sticks. Time to learn which players can help and which can’t.

Eventually, the same applies to position players. Some, such as Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart, got to the big leagues last year. Others are getting closer, including Ryan Mountcastle, Yusniel Díaz, Austin Hays (who got called up in September 2017) and Ryan McKenna.

The next phase of the rebuild, which is still in the infancy stages, will be getting looks at some of the organization’s own players. The much maligned farm system will get a chance to show its stuff.

But for now, for this current free agent season, there seems little reason for the Orioles to be very active in the market.

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