The Baltimore Orioles need to improve their outfield and offense after losing Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis via free agency. The Seattle Mariners, who acquired Cruz this week, are also searching for one last addition to their outfield.
It's still fairly unclear if the Orioles are willing to spend in free agency, however they can't really be judged in that respect for letting Cruz and Markakis walk. Cruz is a 34-year-old who is slated to be a designated hitter for most of his remaining days and Markakis' health was found to be a question now that he's considering undergoing surgery for a bulging disk in his neck. Cruz signed with Seattle for four years and $58 million and Markakis went to Atlanta for four years and $44 million.
Orioles' executive vice president Dan Duquette is likely looking to spend the team's money as wisely as possible, which is why he told the Baltimore Sun that "he will head to next week's winter meetings in San Diego looking for external options to upgrade the outfield by either trade or free agency. Adding bullpen depth will be another priority."
However, right now, the Orioles would start the 2015 season with Adam Jones, Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza in the outfield, which isn't a bad cast. The losses of Cruz (.271 batting average with 40 home runs and 108 RBIs) and Markakis (.276 batting average with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs) are a lot for one offseason and they'll need a bit of an upgrade to come close to matching their offensive production in 2014. The team previously expressed interest in Torii Hunter, but he signed with the Minnesota Twins, and they're currently looking at free agent Michael Morse as well as Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp (for a potential trade).
As for the Mariners, they're also linked to Matt Kemp in trade talks, perhaps further along than the Orioles, but that's no guarantee because the Dodgers want a starting pitcher in return for Kemp and the Mariners may not be willing to do that. The team's acquisition of starter J.A. Happ was believed to heat up such trade talks, but nothing has developed since. Additionally, Kemp carries $107 million over five years on top of having to be traded for, so Seattle might be looking elsewhere.
According to Jerry Brewer of The Seattle Times, the Mariners must continue to be aggressive in free agency, especially to acquire a right fielder. He believes Melky Cabrera is that guy if they can get him at the right price.
"The Mariners would be better off trading for a star such as Kemp than giving Cabrera five years," he writes. "But if he ultimately settled on a three-year deal in the $30 million to $36 million range, that's quite manageable. He has many suitors, including teams even more desperate for his services, such as San Francisco and Baltimore. But if the Mariners could acquire Cabrera, he could be the last significant piece in a lineup overhaul that has taken two years. And the pitching staff wouldn't be any weaker."
He's got a good point. ESPN Insider Jim Bowden projected Cabrera would land a four-year, $68 million contract, which would be pricey, but he would fill a much needed void and join a lineup that consists of Robinson Cano (who he played with in New York), Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson, Cruz and other solid players.