If Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett are to be believed, it seems that free agent pitchers are now opting to play in the National League as their first choices. As a longtime student of the game, this comes as a surprise to me. I suppose that I might understand a young pitcher looking for his first big contract wanting to be in the NL because he’ll get the opportunity to hit. However Arroyo and Burnett are veterans, and they’ve been around the block. Most guys in their shoes are looking for a “cushy” American League gig (if such a thing exists) where they can just focus on pitching and not have to worry about anything else.
So is this just lip service on their part to cover up the fact that they don’t want to come to the Baltimore Orioles? It certainly could be for all I know, however the O’s were apparently a finalist in the Arroyo sweepstakes last week. While that in truth means they were the first loser, Arroyo certainly gave them serious consideration. As has Burnett since the winter meetings, mind you. However if guys are now preferring to pitch in the National League, does this not put teams like the O’s at a disadvantage?
Personally I liked the idea that was thrown out by MASN’s Roch Kubatko. In essence, the Orioles should make a strong offer to the likes of Burnett; one that probably blows away anything he might have on the table. This would in effect force Burnett to either take the offer, or turn it down in favor of taking less money to stay in the NL. And of course if he opts for the NL option, the Orioles would then need to go public with the offer they made. This amounts to a PR blitz, and as I’ve said before I’m not a huge fan of PR. However perhaps something like that
is necessary, because the fallout would be that fans would blame Dan Duquette, Peter Angelos, and anyone who’s name they could think of in the front office. I’m sure that there would also be several national writers who would also be taking stabs at the organization as well. Down the road, the idea that the Orioles keep getting jilted at the alter in a sense could also affect future free agents’ opinions of the team and on coming to Baltimore.
But the question here is why are players now favoring the National League? My personal theory is that it’s more the AL East than anything else. Guy see that they’ll be having to play in parks like Fenway and Yankee Stadium, and not to mention Camden Yards (in this case as their home park). In Arroyo’s case he went to Arizona, who plays indoors and in a pitcher’s park at that. In the NL West, you also have San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco…all parks that favor pitchers. I would submit that does in fact make a difference, especially perhaps to a guy in the twilight of his career. And that’s just the AL East; obviously you’d also potentially have to pitch in places such as Cleveland and Texas – both hitter’s parks.
Again, this is why the Orioles probably do need to be a bit more aggressive when it comes to pursuing these players. Would someone turn down an extra $2 or $3 million per year to not have to play in the AL East? This is all a tough sell for sure, and the only thing we can say for certain is that Bronson Arroyo isn’t going to pitch for the O’s this year. One way or the other, the Orioles either need to get someone signed quickly or make the commitment of heading to camp with what they have and seeing if it’s feasible.