Baltimore Orioles: Risk it all for someone like Nelson Cruz?
I still expect the Baltimore Orioles to win the AL East this year. Yeah, I know…crazy, right? But ask yourself…who else is out there who can win the division? The O’s still have the best team in the division top to bottom, IF they play up to their potential. Of late they haven’t been doing that, which is why teams with less talent have leapfrogged them in the standings.
However that aside, the big differences between this year’s and last year’s teams are the departures of Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. At the time they signed with their respective teams, I said that while the Orioles were better with them they also signed contracts that were incredibly player-friendly. And Orioles fans shouldn’t blame those guys by any means; if someone wants to pay you $20/hour to do a job worth $10/hour, are you not going to take that?
Keep in mind that Cruz’s contract in Seattle was voted the worst of the off season for any team. That’s pretty incriminating to Seattle’s management if you ask me. He’s also living up to his potential thus far, hitting well over .300 and having hit 18 home runs. Does one not thing that the Orioles could use that type of production right now? Heck, does one not think the Orioles might enjoy even a fraction of that?
As for Markakis, he’s hitting over .300 as well, and getting on base at an alarming rate also. He hasn’t homered yet this
Photo: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
season, but home runs haven’t been a large part of his game since the first few seasons of his career. The Orioles would certainly love to have him hitting at some point in front of a guy like Cruz at the moment. And I think there’s no question that things would be different right now if that were the case.
So my question is should the Orioles have just bitten the bullet and paid these players? To answer that, you first have to answer another question: how much is instant success and gratification worth to you? As I said, my personal opinion is that the Orioles still have the best talent and the most upside in the division. There will be some who will laugh at that, and that’s fine. But I’m just saying that in my opinion, that’s the case.
Nevertheless, if winning the division in a “pretty” manner like the Orioles did last year is how you define success, then you’d probably say that it’s priceless. Then you’d argue that there’s no excuse for the Orioles not keeping Cruz and Markakis. However also bear in mind that savvy baseball fans also look at value when it comes to players.
This goes in lockstep with the whole discussion about not watching baseball the way you watch football. You can’t live and die with each game given that there’s a game everyday. The reason I say that is because while the Cruz contract probably looks like a great signing for Seattle now, what happens in the final year when his power has diminished a bit? At that time you might even hear fans saying that it was a bad deal they never should have made. Again, you have to look at the entire picture as opposed to just having a narrow view.
This is not to say that the O’s should just stay the course. I do think they need to make a few changes, and perhaps even a few difficult decisions. If that means having to eat more salary by DFAing another player, they might have to do that. The O’s have outfielders such as Nolan Reimold in the minors who would help this team immediately; but due to the logjam on the roster they can’t get them here. Time will tell.
Next: Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter, In A Tough Spot