O's won't rely on free-agent market, but window shopping can't hurt

Just looking

September 02, 2007|By DAN CONNOLLY

1. Alex Rodriguez

New York Yankees, third baseman

Technically, he is not a free agent, but he can opt out of his final three years (and $81 million) by Nov. 10. He says he loves New York, but he's booed when he missteps and is a constant tabloid target. Look for Rodriguez, 32, to be elsewhere in 2008.

Orioles factor: They dealt with agent Scott Boras once this year and agreed to a contract outside their comfort zone ($6 million bonus to first-round pick Matt Wieters). Don't bet on it happening again this winter.

2. Torii Hunter

Minnesota Twins, center fielder

Hunter, 32, started the year as the third center fielder on this list, but the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki re-signed and the Atlanta Braves' Andruw Jones has struggled. One big league general manager predicts Hunter, a premium defender with a potent bat, will be a better buy than Jones.

Orioles factor: With Corey Patterson a pending free agent, the Orioles will need a center fielder. And MacPhail was general manager of the Twins when they drafted Hunter in 1993. But Hunter has played away from the spotlight his entire career and wants to go to a big-market winner where he'll get more exposure. That's not Baltimore.

3. Andruw Jones

Atlanta Braves, center fielder

Sure, Jones, 30, barely hit his weight this season and there's been speculation his tremendous defense is declining, but all teams could use his power bat and the nine-time Gold Glove winner's defense. Boras will secure him a hefty contract based on Jones' body of work.

Orioles factor: Money aside, he's the perfect fit for the Orioles. A power bat with a winning background who would be a rare defensive upgrade over Patterson. But he wants to be on a contender, and the Orioles won't grossly overpay to change his mind.

4. Mariano Rivera

New York Yankees, right-handed pitcher

Yes, he's 37, his save totals are down and he's no longer automatic. He's still a near-certain Hall of Famer who would stabilize any bullpen. The Yankees recognize this, so don't expect him to go anywhere.

Orioles factor: The team needs a fill-in closer while Chris Ray recovers from injury, but no way Rivera parachutes down in the standings in his final years, not while he's still effective, anyway.

5. Curt Schilling

Boston Red Sox, right-handed pitcher

He turns 41 in November, and he's no longer the workhorse he once was. But he's the surest bet in a free-agent starting pitching class that is filled with injured (Bartolo Colon, Kenny Rogers, Freddy Garcia) or inconsistent (Carlos Silva, Paul Byrd, Randy Wolf) options.

Orioles factor: It would be intriguing to get him back where he debuted and have him tutor the young staff. Plus, his wife is from here, and that helps. It's a long shot but not inconceivable.

6. Francisco Cordero

Milwaukee Brewers, right-handed pitcher

The only legitimate closer on the board, excluding Rivera. He's 32 and, with the exception of one blip for the Texas Rangers in 2006, has been fairly consistent for several years.

Orioles factor: He would be terrific insurance for Ray, but it's unlikely the Orioles will pour more mega-dollars into the bullpen. Look for a bargain buy to fill Ray's absence.

7. Jorge Posada

New York Yankees, catcher

He's 36, well past his prime in catcher years. But he still hits, handles pitchers and leads with the best. The Yankees have no better alternatives, so it's hard to see him out of pinstripes.

Orioles factor: With Ramon Hernandez the present and Wieters the future at catcher, Posada is not a consideration.

8. Aaron Rowand

Philadelphia Phillies, center fielder

Rowand is this year's benefactor of a career season at the perfect time. A hard-nosed gamer, he has always been solid. But he's set a career high for RBIs this season and might do the same in homers, runs and on-base percentage.

Orioles factor: Under the old regime, Rowand would have been a key target. He could be a poor man's Hunter, but he won't be a poor man. He'll get a big deal and should have plenty of options. The Orioles would have to be aggressive to land him.

9. Mike Lowell

Boston Red Sox, third baseman

Two years ago, the Florida Marlins couldn't give him away. Now, he'll be coveted. He has a great attitude and plays a position even thinner than first base.

Orioles factor: With a no-trade clause, third baseman Melvin Mora isn't likely to go anywhere. Besides, the Orioles rejected Lowell in 2005 as part of A.J. Burnett trade talks, and surely Lowell remembers that.

10. Kosuke Fukudome

Chunichi Dragons, outfielder

Fukudome, the reigning Japanese Central League Most Valuable Player, is the wild card here. A two-time batting champion with power and speed, he could be a primary target if his injured right elbow is healthy. He's only 30 and should be an unrestricted free agent.

Orioles factor: They've had almost no presence in the Asian market in the past. That's not expected to change.

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