There’s been a good bit of early action this baseball off-season with several trades taking place, a few signings of quality free agents, and the Baltimore Orioles are nowhere to be found as all this takes place. Over the last week I’ve spoken to baseball analysts such as Steve Melewski, Joe Posnanski, and Dan Szymborski on my radio show about where the Orioles are at as an organization and what they need to do to build upon that core.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The general consensus seems to be, which I happen to agree with, is that the core this team has in place is capable of winning 85 games or so without any major improvements from the players already on the roster and also if the organization were to add any significant players to the roster. However, 85 wins does not a playoff team make. Improvements are necessary to not have to rely heavily on luck in 2014 to get back to the postseason and it seems like Dan Duquette is going to allow the off-season to pass him by.
We have already witnessed players that would have likely been good fits for the Orioles needs get signed by other organizations.
Starting pitcher Jason Vargas recently signed with the Kansas City Royals for $32MM over four years, or roughly $8MM per year – which is a bargain for a starter who can provide you with nearly 200 innings per season and above league average production.
Outfielder Chris Young signed a one-year contract with the New York Mets for $7.25MM, which is on my list of smartest signings of the winter so far. Young is a guy that could rebound to hit around .260 with an on-base percentage in the .360 range, while also popping off for 25 home runs. Add in his gold glove caliber defense and the length and amount of his contract seems like a grand bargain.
They also missed out on David Murphy, who signed for a reasonable two years and $12MM, Tim Hudson was snatched up by the San Francisco Giants for two years and $23MM, and then of course there were the two international free agents they should have been in on but weren’t.
Power-hitting first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu was signed by the Chicago White Sox for $68MM over six years, which could turn out to be a pretty favorable contract if he lives up to the hype offensively, and they completely missed out on the one player they should have been in on from the get-go in second baseman Alexander Guerrero, who signed a reasonably four year contract worth $28MM with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers also signed Dan Haren to a one-year deal worth $10MM and the Orioles missed their window to try to work out a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals for some of their top-tier pitching talent in exchange for J.J. Hardy, who is no longer a fit for them now that they’ve signed Jhonny Peralta.
That right there is a list of seven different players that this team should have been targeting and going after with a degree of seriousness not seen since they pursued, and signed, Miguel Tejada and also missed working out a deal with an organization that they matched up with quite well. Each one of them would have filled specific holes and met very specific needs in the starting rotation, left field, designated hitter, and second base.
Instead, the team is focused on adding depth by claiming players off waivers such as second baseman Cord Phelps and acquiring guys like reliever Brad Brach. What, you don’t know who those players are? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
These are the types of acquisitions that have highlighted the Orioles winter plan thus far and while adding depth in the bullpen and middle infield is nice, it’s not going to be enough to get this team over the hump. I’m not saying they are a mere one player away, but two quality signings in the mold of Scott Kazmir, Corey Hart, or even Kendrys Morales if the organization was feeling especially daring would do enough to help this team go from 85 or 86 wins to right around 90 with Buck Showalter at the helm.
If you can get to 90 wins without having to rely on luck a good chunk of the time then you’ve got something really special and that’s what the fans should be able to reasonably expect. However, the effort and the plan of simply having a plan isn’t cutting it right now.