Spring training is only a week away, but the Orioles appear far from finished building their 2016 roster.
With multiple reports indicating movement toward striking a three-year deal with veteran starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo, the Orioles are also reportedly interested in free-agent outfielder Dexter Fowler. Both free agents rejected qualifying offers from their previous clubs at the start of the offseason and would require forfeiting a draft pick to sign, but executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Baltimore could be willing to sign each using a strategy we witnessed two years ago.
In February of 2014, the Orioles forfeited the 17th overall pick of that June’s draft to sign Jimenez, a move that received mixed reaction and hasn’t worked out in the first two seasons of a four-year, $50 million contract. However, the Jimenez signing prompted Duquette to ink outfielder Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million deal that only required the club to surrender its second-round pick (55th overall) since the first-round choice had already been relinquished. Needless to say, that deal worked extremely well as the slugger hit 40 home runs to help the Orioles win the American League East that season.
If the Orioles were to forfeit the 14th overall pick to sign Gallardo, they would only need to part with the current 29th overall selection awarded to them for losing Wei-Yin Chen in order to sign Fowler. Though that would be a bigger sacrifice than the pick given up to sign Cruz two years ago, the switch-hitting Fowler owns a .363 career-on-base percentage and would fill an obvious need at a corner outfield spot.
In 2015, Fowler hit .250 with a career-high 17 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .346 OBP to help the Chicago Cubs to the National League Championship Series. His addition would also allow manager Buck Showalter to lower Manny Machado to more of a run-producing spot in the batting order.
Even if the thought of parting with their first-round pick to sign Gallardo to a pricey three-year deal isn’t appealing, the Orioles could recoup some of that value by adding Fowler for a lesser pick to improve a shaky corner outfield situation currently flanking All-Star center fielder Adam Jones.