The unexpected success that the Baltimore Orioles had this past season has had such an impact on the Oriole fan base that they actually expect the organization to make impactful moves to sustain it. To actually do something with the goodwill the team has somewhat earned back from the long-suffering fans of the team, kind of pay it forward a bit by making a concerted effort to just keep the winning going. And to put it bluntly, I’m a bit agitated that Orioles General Manager Dan Duquette hasn’t done more – at least not yet.
Maybe I’m just being impatient, maybe he’s still “working” on something, but at this point it doesn’t matter because your biggest move of the off-season has been re-signing left fielder Nate McLouth. Now, don’t misunderstand me because I like the McLouth signing. He brings something to the team that we simply don’t have enough of – an ability to get on base and wreak a little havoc on the bases. But he cannot be all that you do.
If there was ever a time for the Orioles to make a legitimate run at a free agent worth taking a chance on, in regards to money and years, then this is definitely the time to do it. If there was ever a year for the Orioles to make a concerted effort to acquire a middle of the order bat, one that is worthy of trading away a young pitcher or two to make it happen, then this is definitely the time to do it. Why is now definitely the time to do something more substantial than you have since Miguel Tejada?
Now is the time because for once, and I don’t expect this to stay this way for more than a year or two, the New York Yankees are not partaking in the big spending festivities of free agency. Never mind the fact that their five highest paid players are a collective 266 years old, or the fact that their magnet for constant criticism/judgment/second-guessing Alex Rodriguez is about to have a second hip surgery which will likely only speed up the end of his career.
Now is the time because for once, and it won’t take them long, the Boston Red Sox are “re-tooling” themselves after their big spending spree of the last few off-seasons didn’t bare the fruit they were hoping for. They tried to hang with the Yankees and got away from what made them so great over the last decade to begin with – actually having a team identity that identified them with the types of people that worked hard, that went out of their way to help one another, those that were basically the anti-Yankee type of players. They went for style over substance and it crushed them and it’ll likely take them a year or two to pick up the pieces, but they have the resources to do it quickly.
The Toronto Blue Jays made that huge mega-deal and while it remains to be seen whether it has more style than substance, although I have a pretty good idea how that could turn out for them, they’ve mortgaged their future beyond 2014 to “win now”. This mega deal doesn’t really do much more for them than they already had because they’ve essentially acquired two high-priced players where one could get eaten alive in the rough and tumble American League East and the other played his first full, healthy season since 2008.
I wouldn’t exactly call the Blue Jays move earth shattering by any means and let’s not crown them champions of any kind either. Unless of course we want to describe them as the paper champions for now and wait to see how much of that paper is left by the end of the 2013 season.
At any rate, the Tampa Bay Rays are really the only team that the Orioles ideally have to seriously contend with as they have the pitching to compete in just about every single game all season long. They’ve consistently played solid defense year-to-year and have just enough offense to support their routine pitching gems. However, while pitching and defense can win you a great number of games the Rays are still a team that are just one position player injury away from having it handicap their season. Remember what happened to them after Evan Longoria went down?
What all of this means is that the Dan Duquette is allowing the Orioles to basically stand pat during a critical moment in the American League East where they have a prime, and I do mean prime, opportunity to position their selves to be the team at the top for years to come. With the young players that have come through the system already (Manny Machado and Chris Tillman), to the ones that are pretty close to contributing (Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and Jonathan Schoop), as well as the core already in place (Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters), it wouldn’t take more than one or two key moves to secure the Orioles spot at the top of the division for the foreseeable future.
Make the trade for that big bat – guys like Mark Trumbo or Mike Morse would do just fine filling that role. Take a chance and sign that starting pitcher who appears to be on the rise, or would be a pretty safe bet to really help your team – Anibal Sanchez would be worthwhile investment, or even Francisco Liriano would be a risk worth taking at this point.
The fact of the matter is you risk causing more harm to the long-term sustainability of the competitiveness of this team by not taking a calculated risk in free agency or on the trade market than you do by actually going for it. I’m not saying to mortgage your future like the Blue Jays, or invest all of your money into long-term contract so you end up with aging, past their prime, stars like the Yankees, or even try to snatch up a few high-priced free agents or soon to be expensive players via trade and wreck your clubhouse identity like the Red Sox. All I’m saying is to be smart about the gambles you take and do take one or two.
For the sake of the continued success of this franchise and for the sake of the goodwill the fans have granted you with this past season’s success – take a shot because this is the only opportunity that will be granted to you in the unforgiving American League East in a long time.