Since pitchers and catchers reported over a week ago, there’s been no team that’s been more active in free agency than the Baltimore Orioles – FACT. It would stand to reason that the O’s are finished for the most part; or are they?! There are multiple reports out there saying that the O’s are still interested in Erwin Santana for the starting rotation. A signing as such would be icing on the cake for the Orioles at this point, as they’ve already beefed up their roster and their odds of competing big time. However there are a few reasons why I think the Orioles would serve themselves well to sign Santana.
- Urgency of today - First and perhaps foremost, Santana would help the Orioles win in 2014. There’s no question that the O’s would be a better team with Santana in the rotation.
- Keep-away - The other team that’s been rumored to be hot on Santana’s trail are the
Toronto Blue Jays – an AL East foe of the Orioles. Would it not make sense for the Birds to pick up a pitcher that would help them and at the same time keep him away from a division foe? Let’s take this a step further; we know Toronto’s interested in Santana, but who else might be? Boston of course lost Ryan Dempster last week, who decided to sit out the season for both physical and personal reasons. Boston claimed they aren’t in the market for another starting pitcher, however do we think they wouldn’t be interested in picking up a pitcher like Santana (and thus keeping him from two division foes)? And the fact is that we know they have the funds to pay him whatever he might ask.
- Depth - If the Orioles sign Santana, that probably pushes someone else into the bullpen or back to Norfolk. It gives the Orioles depth, and it also earmarks a few guys as potential trade bait (perhaps before the season or at the deadline). Obviously the Orioles are probably inclined to keep guys such as Zack Britton who they drafted and so forth, however there does come a point where players are worth more to the organization on the trade docket than they are on the roster.
- The Future - Santana indicated that he might be game for a contract similar to what Nelson Cruz got (from the Orioles). If the Birds were to work a similar one-year deal with Santana and he declined a qualifying offer from the Orioles after the season, they’d be in line to get another compensatory pick from a team that would potentially sign him next year (unless of course he re-signs with the O’s). The Orioles are already in this position with Cruz, so if they signed Santana for one year and he goes elsewhere in 2015, the O’s would be in line for a pretty stacked draft (in terms of number of picks) next year. Granted it would merely compensate for losing a couple of picks this year, however the fact is that they’d have the opportunity to re-stock their minor league system in a sense. And going back to my point above, better the Orioles have that opportunity than Boston.
Ultimately the Orioles should sign Santana because he’s a solid starting pitcher that can help them to win in 2014. For the most part you don’t really need to look much further than that; all of those other points are almost superfluous. But don’t think that those points don’t figure into the thinking being done as we speak by Dan Duquette.
Grapefruit League - The O’s announced yesterday that Chris Tillman would get the ball first in Friday’s Florida Grapefruit League opener, and he’ll be followed by Zach Britton. Tillman will pitch the first and second innings, and Britton the third and fourth. No word yet on who will follow Britton, but presumably we’ll see the normal slew of relievers being worked in and out of the game. Provided that he doesn’t have any other issues with back spasms, Miguel Gonzalez is expected to start Saturday afternoon’s home opener at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota against Toronto. My prediction was that we’d see Ubaldo Jimenez on Saturday so as to showcase him to the viewing audience watching the game back home on MASN, however it appears that Buck Showalter wants to give Miguel Gonzalez the work as a starter.