Orioles sign Balfour, wave Roberts bye-bye
By Steve Katz
As much a shame as it is to see a player who endured that much losing with so much grace and character accept the offer that Brian Roberts got from the New York Yankees (of all teams), pragmatically speaking, less is more, in terms of the mass of humanity at second base.
Brian Roberts runs out a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 23. Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Now Jemile Weeks and Ryan Flaherty get longer auditions, and no one has to look over his shoulder about losing at-bats to a player who had no future with the Baltimore Orioles anyway. It makes a roster decision less muddled.
It seemed as though the $2 million New York offered for one year was the baseline figure Dan Duquette would have given Roberts eventually, but Brian Cashman beat him to it, if that’s the right expression. Duquette may not feel like he was beaten to it, because he may not have wanted Roberts back. Not making Roberts any kind of offer to this point may have been Duquette’s response to Roberts having delivered so little, and been available so seldom, for the $10 million that Duquette was contractually obligated to pay him.
Had Duquette already made up his mind to cut ties? We may never know. In the baseball business, there’s always the reason you give the papers (when a town had more than one newspaper), and the reason you play close to the vest.
Judging by fan reaction, the only part most people don’t like is that Roberts went to the Yankees and will be able to come to Camden Yards and help the pinstripes beat the team with whom he suffered for 14 years. Even before now, large numbers of people had lost their patience with Roberts and gone over to the “let’s just cut ties now” camp.
If Flaherty proved last season that consistent at-bats are the tonic for his hitting, giving him the second base job would be fine. It must be a relief to a lot of people that the Yankees, at long last, don’t win the matchup at second base by a mile, and that Robinson Cano has left the American League East for good.
The Orioles followed up losing Roberts by signing Oakland’s Grant Balfour to replace Jim Johnson as closer. Balfour got two years at $7.5 per, with some deferred, so Duquette saved about $3 million, depending on how you look at what he would have had to offer Johnson. He joins Ryan Webb, signed two weeks ago, as a new face in the bullpen.
The losses of Johnson, Roberts, and last week Nate McLouth and Scott Feldman, will give the club a substantially new look, and if the Orioles can improve on those performances, of course there won’t be as many tears. Orioles fans have this thing about lamenting the loss of, as the saying goes, good guys, because losing quality people is never good.
Let’s remember in addition to being relieved of the eventual $10 million it would have taken to keep Johnson, Roberts’ departure means another $10 million goes off the books and can be spent on someone else. One fan I’ve heard from called Roberts’ last four years a $40 million vacation, which is either cynical or hits the nail on the head.
If various parts of my body hurt as much as his did over that time, I probably wouldn’t call it a vacation, but I must admit that’s a lot of coin for an employer to be on the hook for, and now to be relieved of. Or of which to be relieved. I am, after, an English teacher.