Inbox: Orioles long-term rebuild, FA options

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers fans' questions

November 24th, 2020

It’s an excellent time to dust off the ol’ inbox and tackle a fresh batch of your Orioles questions. On your mind this time: an intriguing international free agent, the starting pitching market, trade bait and more.

Some context for those hearing this name for the first time: the speculation here regards Ha-Seong Kim, a 25-year-old shortstop for KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. Kim is younger than most Asian professional players are traditionally when posted, which Kim is expected to be in the weeks after Thanksgiving. He is an advanced hitter with both power and speed and the ability to play multiple positions. He is expected to be one of the more intriguing names on the free agent market this winter.

Do the Orioles pursue Kim? There is a chance, but it looks like a long shot from a timing standpoint. The O’s just brought back to play short, and have drafted middle infielders heavily in recent years. Then there is the financial uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact is that the O’s remain in the cutting (not adding) phase of their very public rebuild.

MLB Trade Rumors projects Kim landing a five-year, $40 million deal, plus a projected $7.625 million posting fee. You can argue that Kim’s age makes him more of a fit for a still-rebuilding team like the Orioles, who remain a few years away from contention but could offer him everyday playing time at a variety of positions. But I expect Kim to court several suitors, and don’t see the O’s shelling out that kind of money on anybody this winter.

You’re right, there are a good number of bounce-back options already, from veterans like Michael Wacha and Alex Wood to Gio Gonzalez, Chase Anderson and other low-cost reclamation projects. The industry is also expecting a flood of non-tenders to present more buy-low opportunities, particularly for rebuilding clubs like the Orioles. The O’s need depth, but with five Top 30 pitching prospects that are big league ready or close, they probably won’t need to offer too many big league deals to acquire it. I have them taking a flier on maybe one, and sprinkling in a few Minor League deals too.

Still up in the air. needs to prove he can stay healthy, and needs to show he’s more the impact defender he was in 2020 than the non-factor he was in '19. 2021 should be a big year for both of them, especially with Ryan McKenna and likely in the fold and jostling for playing time at the position as well.

The cold, hard truth: it probably doesn’t outlast Adley Rutschman’s arrival. The question is: do the Orioles explore ’s trade value this winter? I think they have to. Severino’s second-month slide prevented him from emerging from 2020 as the breakout star the O’s hoped he’d be, but he’s still only 27, a roughly league-average offensive player and improving behind the plate. There is value there in a catching market that routinely ranks among the sport’s thinnest.

Those are two good bets. It’s still a bit unclear which Orioles affiliates will be affected for 2021 and beyond, but look for the O’s to be more aggressive placing prospects who made the biggest impressions at their secondary site and instructional camp this year. Rutschman and (especially) Gunnar Henderson fit that mold, as do No. 7 shortstop Jordan Westburg, No. 28 righty Kyle Bradish and others. As a recent college draftee, Westburg in particular profiles as someone the O’s can be a little more comfortable challenging a little quicker.