Not yet the time for Orioles to spend

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Thanks in large part to the flood of talent brought in though the Erik Bedard trade, things are certainly looking up for the Orioles. Matt Wieters is going to be a superstar behind the plate, the Nolan Reimold-Adam Jones-Nick Markakis outfield should be plenty productive and is under complete control through 2013 and Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are two of the game’s very best pitching prospects.
It isn’t yet, though, the time to try to surround the impressive young core with quality veterans. The Orioles needs simply don’t mesh with this year’s free-agent market. Matt Holliday and Jason Bay wouldn’t make nearly as much sense as Mark Teixeira did a year ago. Top talents such as John Lackey and Chone Figgins would have to be overpaid to come to Baltimore, and besides Aroldis Chapman, there isn’t much in the way of younger free agents with upside.
The Orioles aren’t one or two players away from toppling the Yankees and Red Sox, so biding their time will continue to be the right strategy. At the rate the team is developing talent, Baltimore could soon again become a preferred destination for free agents. With several top pitchers potentially available, the club might actually have a shot at Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb or John Beckett after next season.
In the meantime, the Orioles should look to go short term with a late-game reliever, a middle-of-the-rotation starter and a corner infielder. It’d be awfully nice if Adrian Beltre fell into their laps, but Carlos Delgado, Hank Blalock and Troy Glaus are interesting one-year options to help out at first or third. Try Jim Johnson as a starter and sign Kevin Gregg or J.J. Putz to battle Koji Uehara and the youngsters for the closer’s role. Look into Justin Duchscherer and Todd Wellemeyer as cheap rotation options.
It’s 2011 that the Orioles should be thinking about. Wieters will be established as one of the game’s top-five catchers, and with any luck, they’ll have come up with three effective starters from the group of Matusz, Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Johnson, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta and Troy Patton. That’s a team that might be just one or two veterans away from threatening the AL East’s elite.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.