The Baseball Winter Meetings officially begin tomorrow at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, FL.  You can follow all of the news and rumors at the BSL Message Board here.

Some Orioles thoughts as the Meetings begin:

1) MASN’s Steve Melewski wrote an article yesterday, speaking to the growing impatience of the O’s fan-base.

“So what is Duquette thinking right now? He appears calm and confident that moves are coming, moves that will be met with fan approval. He has promised to reinvest Jim Johnson’s 2014 salary and we all should hold him to that. I think it would be great PR for the club right now for someone to come out and say the O’s are willing to spend $110 or 120 million on players for next year. Increasing the payroll to that level seems reasonable to me.”

I’m in full agreement with Melewski here. The O’s should be held to reinvesting Johnson’s 2014 salary into the O’s 2014 payroll. I don’t think there is much question that they will. We’ve argued previously that the O’s 2014 payroll should be at the $115M level. Without even discussing the revenue of MASN, the O’s (and every other MLB team) will be enjoying the benefits of the new 2014 National TV Contracts.

At some point, hopefully we will see the Orioles asked on the record about that additional National TV revenue, and why it does not appear that revenue will be directly rolled into the 2014 payroll.

2) Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette had interviews this week with MASN’s Melewski (which you can read here), and Roch Kubatko (which you can read here).

Duquette’s commented,“I don’t think, frankly, it’s productive to talk about payroll. I don’t think the fans want to hear about it. I really don’t. We have enough resources here to field a competitive team. We’ve done that the last couple years and we plan on doing it again next year.”

Duquette has made similar statements numerous times, and I continue to disagree. It is just not accurate. Fans will no longer be interested in discussing payroll, when salary issues no longer impact the construction of the roster. I don’t see that ever changing, so fans will continue to be interested.

Beyond that, I found Duquette to pretty forthcoming in his comments to MASN. To me, it seems pretty apparent that the O’s have a $100M budget for 2014.

Is Duquette under orders to reduce the payroll?

“We’re not reducing our payroll,” he said. “The payroll was $82 million at the end of 2012 season, and last year it was over $95 million, so our payroll will be upwards of that this year. If somebody believes that the team is reducing the payroll, the team isn’t reducing the payroll. The team is reallocating resources. If you have 100 marbles and you have to give 10 to your closer, then you have 90 for the rest of your team, right?”

If they are not going to end upwards of $95M, there is no real reason for Duquette to say that. It also isn’t exactly some tough-to-decipher code about having 100 marbles. Of course, I guess one could argue that ‘100 marbles’ is just a round number, and could mean $95M+ in short-hand.  Regardless, +/- a few million, it gives you a real sense of the O’s intentions. If the payroll is going to be roughly $100M, that means the O’s have +/- $15M available to them after the signing of Ryan Webb.

If $100M is the Orioles internal cap, it is hard to envision how they address adding the Starting Pitcher, Closer, LF, and/or DH they have made known they would like to add; without the removal of other pieces off the existing roster.

Or maybe the O’s vision of a ‘shopping spree’ will be John Axford, Paul Maholm, and Raul Ibanez, and they will make that fit.

3) If Baltimore’s 2014 payroll was $115M, what could the Orioles do with that additional spending? They could pursue Choo and Garza. Or instead of pursuing Choo in Free Agency, they could go after Matt Kemp as a trade target. While Garza would be the preferred Starting Pitching target (especially with no draft compensation tied to signing him), the O’s could also look at Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon, and AJ Burnett.

The point being that what becomes clear is that if the O’s were willing to go $115M, there would be numerous options still available to them. Enough viable options to  where they should arrive in Spring Training, and everyone would be able to legitimately look at them as a 90 win team. If the O’s fail to capitalize on these available options, that is a failure of the organization.

The O’s were an 85 win team last year. They’ve lost the contributions of Jim Johnson (fWAR 0.9), Nate McLouth (fWAR 2.5), and Scott Feldman (fWAR 1.0 with the O’s). Even if their replacements equal their production, the O’s still have to find a way to improve the roster. A team built to win 85 games could easily win 90 games if things go right (or fall back to 75 wins if things go wrong). The goal should be building a team which should win 90+ games, without everything having to go right.

4) I mentioned Matt Kemp above, but the LA Dodger OF they continue to be tied to is Andre Either. I’m not opposed to Either. He has his limitations, but at this point he would be a nice upgrade in expected performance vs. the current available options in LF for the O’s.

5) Duquette was interviewed on MLB Network Radio today, and stated the following about Masahiro Tanaka: “The Orioles don’t agree with the posting system. We don’t agree with paying money to another ballclub like that.” I find that position to be rather infuriating. Numerous teams are going to take advantage of the new MLB / NPB Posting Agreement . Numerous teams will submit the $20M fee, and then negotiate with Tanaka as if he was a Free Agent. It doesn’t really benefit you as an organization to take a stand against the posting system, when your peers will take advantage of it. Some MLB team is going to sign the best available Starting Pitcher this Winter, while the Orioles have made it clear that they are out of that game before it starts.

6) Last Friday, ESPN’s Dan Szymborski made his weekly BSL Radio appearance on The Lance Rinker Show. There were a lot of good thoughts from Dan, with two quotes which really stood out.

A) Szymborski referenced The Simpsons to provide an analogy to the O’s. In the episode with Hank Scorpio, Bart is in class with the slow kids…  Bart is quoted as saying, “Let me get this straight: we’re behind the rest of our class and we’re going to catch up to them by going slower than they are? Coo Coo!”

Dan using that as a general illustration of the what the O’s approach seems like.

B) The second thought that stood out from Dan was, “I  can support the O’s trying and not succeeding, I can not support the O’s not trying.”

The Orioles need to improve the existing roster. Let’s see if some progress can be made in that regard during the Winter Meetings.

Chris Stoner
Chris Stoner


Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.