No one is expecting the Orioles to be very active at the top end or even in the middle tier of the new free agent market. For the second year in a row, in MLBTradeRumors.com’s projection of its top 50 free agents, none are predicted to head to Baltimore.
This is not surprising, of course, and was indeed expected.
Predicting where free agents will land might be harder than you think. Who had Manny Machado to San Diego? All O’s fans heard and had to deal with for years were rumors that the Yankees would certainly land either Machado or Bryce Harper - or, gulp, both. This had been speculated for a long time. They got neither.
Heading into last winter’s free agency, MLBTR had Harper as the No. 1 free agent and predicted him going to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 14 years at $420 million. He wound up with Philadelphia for 13 years and $330 million. Machado was ranked No. 2 and the prediction was that h would go to Philly for 13 years and $390 million. In the end he didn’t sign until Feb. 21 with San Diego for $300 million over 10 years. Harper signed with Philadelphia on March 1.
Will the free agent market be as slow moving this year?
The prediction for this class by MLBTR has Houston right-hander Gerrit Cole as the No. 1 free agent and going to the Los Angeles Angels for eight years at $256 million. The No. 2 free agent is third baseman Anthony Rendon, who they project re-signs with Washington at $235 million over seven years. No. 3 is Stephen Strasburg and he is also projected to remain a Nat at $180 million over six years. Nats fans are sure hoping they are right.
The Orioles have no free agents listed among the top 50, which is no surprise. Their only major league free agent was Mark Trumbo. He is certainly not expected to return to Baltimore and we don’t even know whether he will continue to play in 2020 or choose to retire.
Speaking of Trumbo: It’s been said before, but he sure made a mark in the clubhouse during his time as an Oriole. After the club acquired him in a deal late in 2015 for Steve Clevenger, Trumbo led the majors in homers in 2016 as the Orioles made the playoffs. It was a great first year with the club and Trumbo homered in the American League wild card game in Toronto.
His 2016 season netted him a new year three-year deal worth $42 million with the Orioles. But injuries and lesser production would follow. The deal looked pretty good when first signed, less so as it went on.
In a live interview on MASN during one of the final games of 2019, Trumbo basically said an on-air classy goodbye to the club.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to be it,” said Trumbo. “I’d be surprised if it went the other way. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The fans have been tremendous. The coaching staff and team has been tremendous and I’m going to have some great memories of being an Oriole.”
I didn’t know Trumbo was such a great teammate until his own teammates often very willingly provided me examples. Trumbo was always working to help anyone in the clubhouse and was a solid leader, mostly out of the spotlight. Every Orioles player and coach respected how hard he worked to come back from major surgery last year and he made it back in September.
I’ll always remember how much he guided Trey Mancini during his earliest days as an Oriole. Mancini had a great role model.
Speaking of John Means: OK, we weren’t, but let’s do so. Kudos to Means for making the American League Rookie of the Year final three. Quite an accomplishment for a player most of us didn’t expect to make the opening day roster.
Before long, his changeup was confounding some of the top right-handed hitters in the division and league. He went on to go 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA that was the lowest by a Baltimore starter since Wei-Yin Chen posted a 3.34 mark in 2015. That ERA would have ranked seventh in the American League if Means had thrown seven more innings to qualify for league leaders.
Means was named to the 2019 AL All-Star team, making him the first homegrown Orioles starter to make the All-Star team since Hall of Famer Mike Mussina, who made five All-Star Game appearances with the Orioles, the last in 1999. The last O’s lefty starter to make the All-Star team was Jimmy Key in 1997.
Among AL pitchers throwing 150 or more innings, Means rated fifth in walks/nine, sixth in WHIP, eighth in ERA, 12th in strikeout/walk ratio and 15th in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement at 3.0.
Means finished the home season with a 2.74 ERA, the best by a first- or second-year Orioles pitcher since Mussina (2.65 ERA) in 1992, the team’s first season in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In 16 games versus the AL East, he was 7-4 with a 3.97 ERA.
With that changeup, he might prove to more than a one-year wonder. The arm slot and arm speed were so good on the pitch hitters that knew it might be coming still struggled to square it up. Will Means be strong again in 2020?