GM Dan Duquette has indicated that there’s always the possibility that the Baltimore Orioles will sign a free agent after the beginning of camp. I’ll be very honest; I’m not sure how comfortable Orioles’ fans should be with that comment or that idea. I’m a firm believer in the concept of “camp,” along with exhibition games. We see NFL preseason games come under fire much more so than we do MLB spring training, and that’s probably due to the nature of the respective sports. (It also has to do with the fact that many fans don’t want to go to preseason games, where as spring training is a destination.)
However I would submit that regardless of the sport, exhibition games along with training and drills are very important. It all allows
players to get their timing back before the bullets start flying for real. It also allows the team to gel together as a unit. While players nowadays train all year around, the point is that exhibition season brings everyone together as a unit and begins to prepare them for the season in a uniform manner across the board. So if a member of that eventual 25-man roster isn’t in camp when it begins, is that not potentially counter-productive?
I would say yes. However in fairness to the Orioles and Dan Duquette, the market for free agents has been very slow to develop this year. I’ll be honest that I’m shocked at the number of players who are still out there and available to sign, with most teams’ pitchers and catchers reporting later this week. Certainly this applies in and around Birdland with some of the things we’ve seen, but also across the league itself; it’s simply been a strange off season. And quite frankly as more teams look to find value on the free agent market as opposed to the big splashes for big money, perhaps this will become the new normal.
However all of that aside, Dan Duquette is preparing fans for the potential that the final pieces of the team might not be on the roster on Friday when pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota. Again, I’m a believer in the concept of the team being complete and ready to go on day one of spring training. However as I said, that’s simply how the market has played out this winter. If the Orioles made the decision to take the plunge and sign Ervin Santana (surrendering their first round pick in the draft), would it really matter if he signed next Monday as opposed to today? Perhaps, but probably not. In the same respect, we see trades mid-year where guys change teams. None of the “team-building” argument goes into that, so perhaps it’s not as big a deal as I might make it out to be. However if for no other reason than having one’s ducks in a row, I would submit that everyone involved would rather see the Orioles’ roster being quasi-complete come Friday morning as opposed to some point in the future.