As the Orioles end an unexpected and frustrating season, the organization can now shift their focus to a decisive 2016 offseason. The O’s have several key players set to enter the free agent market that include Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Gerardo Parra, and Steve Pearce. This offseason will determine if the Orioles intend to contend or rebuild next year. Notable players throughout the league set to enter free agency include David Price, Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jordan Zimmerman. So, without further ado, here are my five bold predictions for the Orioles 2016 offseason.
1. Chris Davis will return to the Orioles
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has made it clear that re-signing Chris Davis is a top priority for the Orioles this offseason. The Orioles have enough money and flexibility to keep Davis, but history has shown that Duquette prefers to develop the team from within instead of pursuing big name free agents. It’s known that Davis’ agent, Scott Boras, will assure Davis receives the major contract he deserves. The past few seasons, the Orioles have continued to lose valuable players such as Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Jake Arrieta, and Andrew Miller. Davis, who led the league in home runs 2 of the 3 past seasons, is too meaningful for this team to lose. Duquette and company will recognize Davis’ worth by granting Davis a significant multi-year contract.
2. Starting pitcher Scott Kazmir will sign with Orioles
For the past decade or so, the Orioles have continuously been in need of quality starting pitchers and this year is no different. Duquette has emphasized that the Orioles must enhance their pitching staff to be a playoff team in 2016. It’s doubtful the Orioles will retain Davis and sign another top-tier free agent such as David Price. As a result, the Orioles will turn their attention to a proven veteran pitcher in Kazmir. The Orioles have already expressed interest in Kazmir the last couple of years in free agency and trade talks. This makes sense for the Orioles as their top pitching prospects Bundy and Harvey continue to deal with ongoing injuries.
3. Matt Wieters signs with Nationals
Prior to Wieters undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014, the 3-time all-star catcher was destined to be an Oriole for life. After the majority of 2014, Wieters has spent this season working his way back to form. Showalter was extremely cautious with Wieters and refused to start the catcher more than 2 consecutive days. Rumors have been swirling for the past few months regarding the Nationals having a strong interest in Wieters. Prepare for the Nationals to undoubtedly present Wieters with a convincing contract as the Orioles show little to no attempt to maintain him.
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4. J.J. Hardy traded, making way for Machado to start at shortstop
Orioles will indeed be active in trade talks this winter as they look to trade fan favorite J.J. Hardy. The shortstop saw his numbers plummet in 2015 and later revealed to the team he’s been playing through a torn left labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder. Hardy has shown major signs of aging the past two seasons as he’s seen his home run totals drop significantly. After hitting a combined 77 home runs his first three seasons with the O’s, Hardy has only managed to hit a total of 17 home runs the last two years. This trade will open up the door for Machado to move to his natural position at shortstop.
5. Chen, Parra, Pearce will not return as O’Day signs a multi-year contract to stay in Baltimore
The Orioles will part ways with Chen, Parra, and Pearce as they look for new talent to bolster their roster. On the other hand, O’Day will remain in Baltimore as the set-up man and backup closer when called upon. Pearce failed to return to his 2014 breakout year, so expect Duquette to look elsewhere in the free agent market to a utility player. Free agent to be, Daniel Murphy, will be on the Orioles radar and would be a quality addition for the Orioles moving forward. Even though improving the Orioles pitching staff is high on the O’s offseason list, Duquette will look at Dylan Bundy or Hunter Harvey to fill Chen’s spot in the starting rotation.