What does “overpaying” even mean in professional baseball these days? Seemingly every off-season brings new contracts for players that fans consider to be overspending. These contracts set the tone for players with similar skill sets and continue the ongoing evolution of the average MLB paycheck. Though I must say, I personally believe almost every professional athlete is overpaid, considering they pull in more money than many of our country’s doctors, law enforcement officials, and so on. Personal thoughts aside, I can’t seem to understand why teams (and even fans at times) let the idea of overpaying scare them from adding important pieces to the puzzle.
The Orioles are in the midst of letting themselves yet again fall victim to this overspending phobia (which may be a case of Albert-Belleophobia with regards to the Orioles). The team doesn’t want to overspend on a pitcher, despite it being their biggest need, yet I rarely hear criticisms about the contract Nick Markakis currently has in place.
In 2013, Markakis had a -0.1 WAR (48th out of all MLB right fielders) and had a line of .271/.329/.356. Yet, with his below average performance in 2013, he will be the highest paid Oriole (as of now) in the 2014 season at a whopping $15.35 Million, good for fourth most in MLB at the position. Don’t get me wrong, I think Nick is among the most important pieces to this team. But for a team that seems so unwilling to take a risk on a starting pitcher, despite its obvious significance, it boggles my mind that the Orioles would be alright with overspending on hitting, but not overspending on pitching.
The Orioles had no problem giving Brian Roberts his significant pay raise several years ago (which they would later regret), or even the contract to Miguel Tejada way back in 2004 (which they would later regret). Big contracts are risky, yes, but when you are a potential contender with such obvious needs, it seems odd to be apprehensive about filling those needs. Markakis’ contract is a perfect example where the Orioles overspent, but are still happy to have him in in the lineup.
Bronson Arroyo’s $23.5 Million, two-year deal with the Reds (first reported by FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal) was likely a case of a team paying for a proven commodity (which can also be translated to paying him for his past performance, and not necessarily his future performance). Reports have indicated that the Orioles were outbid by the Reds. Though Arroyo may have preferred to pitch in the pitcher-friendly NL, and it is rumored that the Orioles’ two medically-nixed deals scared Arroyo, the Orioles should have cured their case of Albert-Belleophobia and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. At the very least, that would have showed potential free agents, as well as the Oriole fan base, that the Orioles are serious about taking this team to the next level.