As the 2013 MLB winter meetings begin, Orioles fans are coming across as incredibly restless. On one hand I suppose I can understand that; while NY was busy signing Jacoby Ellsbury, Seattle signing Robinson Cano, etc., the Orioles were trading Jim Johnson for Jermile Weeks. However I would submit that therein right there lies the issue; most people saw a “staple” like Johnson traded for someone of whom they had never even heard. That in and of itself seemed to rile up the fan base. Then later in the week when the likes of Ellsbury, Cano, Saltalamacchia, etc. started to fall…fans got really cranky.
Again, on one hand I can’t really blame people. Furthermore I also know that people are angry for the right reasons in that they want to win. However we also need to remember that the Baltimore Orioles are two things: a sports franchise AND a business. Does it really pay to give $10 million to a guy that pitches one inning? (To take that a step further, closers pitch one inning in situations where the team is up by three runs or less in the ninth inning.) And for those who didn’t read MASN’s Roch Kubatko’s column on Saturday afternoon, the O’s allegedly walked away from a four-year contract extension worth a reported $45-$50 million (requested by Johnson’s agent). So throw the $10 million number out the window for a moment; do fans really want to be paying a closer THAT much money over four years?
Similarly to Johnson, fans are also riled up about Nate McLouth going to Washington and Scott Feldman to Houston. Again, you have to look at the business side of things also. McLouth is a guy that speaking for myself, I would have liked to have had back on the O’s. However I think that sometimes people just assume that price is not an option. McLouth signed for somewhere between $10-$11 million over two years…as a fourth outfielder. The Nats being in the NL can’t even DH him; so do people really want to pay someone approximately $5 million to be a role player? As for Feldman…I suppose you can take him or leave him. He signed in Houston for three years at $30 million. Feldman went 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA for the Orioles after being traded from the Cubs. He wasn’t horrible and he certainly contributed something to the second half of the season; but do fans really think he’s worth $10 million?
Again, I think that a lot of the criticism is simply fans being frustrated by the fact that so many things are happening around the Orioles and the Orioles appear to be doing nothing. Before fans simply write off the 2014 Orioles as another failure, let’s keep in mind that the likes of Tillman, Wieters (for the time being), Davis, Hardy, Machado, Jones, and Markakis are all still on the team. Those are core players at key positions, and those are the guys that are delivering most of the team’s production in games. That aside, if people want to complain that NY wants to win because it’s signing guys like Ellsbury and the Orioles aren’t…keep in mind that Ellsbury plays a position that the Orioles don’t need to fill. (The same is true of Curtis Granderson, although at four years, $60 million the Mets got a bargain.) Robinson Cano obviously plays a position at which the Orioles do have a major question mark for the time being. But…would Orioles fans really be comfortable giving a 31-year old ten years at $240 million? My point here is that while the Orioles do need to increase payroll, they need to do it intelligently. Throwing money around for the sake of throwing money around is not spending wisely.
In terms of free agency starting pitcher Matt Garza is still on the table, which could be a good match for the O’s. However I wouldn’t be surprised if a trade or two goes down this week. If that
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trade involves Matt Wieters, you can bet that it’ll be analyzed over and over by fans, and then analyzed more. My personal opinion is that if the O’s are going to part with Wieters, it’s only a good trade if it involves a #1 or #2 starter. To me that’s the biggest area of need for the Orioles at the moment, and trading a player like Wieters might be the only way to get someone of that caliber. Dan Duquette has always said that he’s not going to allow other teams to undervalue his players, and if Wieters is traded that edict will be put to the test. However I think it would be difficult to undervalue a perennial all-star and a two-time gold glove winner, however rival GM’s will point to his lower offensive production in 2013. (And my point would be that with the caliber of defense he provides, who cares?)
Whether or not the O’s trade Wieters remains to be seen. I maintain that their best course of action would be to sign him to an extension, however we all know that might not be possible until he’s truly a free agent. (And realistically he could be a Boston Red Sox or a Washington National before Dan Duquette even wakes up in the morning. – That’s not a knock on Duquette as much as it is on the way that agents like Scott Boras are allowed to manipulate things.) The Orioles did make another signing over the weekend, inking former San Francisco Giant Francisco Peguero for one year, $550,000. Peguero, who’s mainly played in the minors, is expected to be compete for a fourth outfielder spot.