Baltimore Orioles Off-Season: Uneventful But Not A Failure


Let me start by saying, I had every intention of bashing the Baltimore Orioles front office about half way through this off-season.  Then as the new year began, winter kicked in and then teams started packing for warmer climates, I started thinking; what were we really expecting from a team that hasn’t spent money in the free agent market at any point in the last few years?  Sure they had money to blow and sure they may still end up dropping some cash on one of the remaining free agents, but if we look at what they’ve done, can we say they’ve gotten worse?  Probably not.  They just haven’t really improved that much, and in a division full of big time spenders and some of the smartest minds in the game, standing pat probably just doesn’t get it done.

Let’s take a look at what they’ve done this off-season.

Traded Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for Jemile Weeks.  This was a salary dump and in it, they got back a 27 year old second baseman who at one point looked like the second baseman of the future for the A’s.  I liked everything about this move as there is no need to pay a closer more than a $5 million (unless they’re named Mariano Rivera) and a guy like Weeks is the kind of buy low, bounce back, change of scenery guy the Orioles need to find.  I don’t think that Weeks will be an All-Star but he’s a viable option at a position where the Orioles are the weak.

Signed Ryan Webb to a 2 year, $4.5 million dollar contract.  Another move I liked as it gave them a back of the bullpen option to battle the likes of Tommy Hunter for the 9th inning role.  Webb’s numbers were pretty solid last year and were comparable to some pretty big names.  If he has the skin to be a closer, he’ll slide into the 9th inning role at a little less than 20% of the cost of a guy like Jim Johnson.

Acquired David Lough from the Royals for Danny Valencia.  David Lough, Nate McClouth, Nolan Reimold, Henry Urrutia are all the same player.  Some may play defense better than the other, some may hit and run the bases better than others and one can’t seem to stay healthy.  The Orioles were right to let McClouth go, in my opinion, because the other three guys can probably do what he did for the most part.  The problem is he didn’t do much and the Orioles needed more.

Signed Delmon Young to a Minor League Deal.  He’ll be gone by July.  Guy is a DH who can’t really hit anymore.  This guy shouldn’t occupy a Major League roster spot because he’s not even replacement level since I’m not sure he knows how to judge a fly ball anymore.  Moving on.

Other moves/ non-moves: Not resigning Scott Feldman for $10 million dollars a year over three years was a solid move, by the way.  Totally not worth the money.  Choosing to let McClouth go was another good move.  Not agreeing to terms with Grant Balfour (even if it was sketchy as hell) was a good move.  They’ve also made a ton of non-roster, minor league moves in anticipation of spring training.  To track them, click here.

Will these guys be enough to get Baltimore back to the playoffs?

Other than that, the Orioles off-season has been crickets.  Rumors are starting to swirl about a possible Kendrys Morales deal and Ervin Santana is still a free agent looking for a home, but that’s about all they’ve got.  The Orioles can’t deal from depth because they don’t have any, they seem unwilling (or are unable) to spend big money on any free agents, and I haven’t even talked about their pitching staff.  Yet, I can’t help wondering if this is exactly what we should have expected from the Orioles all along.  Hope was renewed two years ago when the Orioles made the playoffs by winning a ridiculous amount of one run games.  They enjoyed fantastic seasons from player after player, watched their bullpen win game after game for them and renewed interest in a team that had been pretty damn bad for a while.  For a while last year, it looked like the success may continue.  But you can’t keep winning one run games while surviving on five innings from your starting pitcher.  Injuries and regression made it very apparent that the Orioles weren’t nearly as talented as the rest of the AL East.

So, why isn’t this off-season a failure?  Well, for one, the Orioles still have Adam Jones and Chris Davis, two of the better offensive talents in the league.  They still have one of the best left sides of the infield in all of baseball, assuming Machado comes back healthy.  And we might get to see a full year of Kevin Gausman as a starting pitcher.  Not a bad deal when you start to think about it.  They’re not going to lose 100 games, but they probably won’t win 100 either.  They might get hot and find a way to duplicate their success from 2012.  Can’t be considered a total failure, right?

And there’s still time to improve.  Morales on a short-term deal could provide a legitimate DH, who when healthy can mash.  Santana would jump right to the top of their rotation and provide them with a pitcher who can go deep into games.  Kelly Shoppach could provide a true back up catcher for Matt Wieters.  The Orioles don’t need to break the bank to improve, they just need to be strategic.  The tough part is that they can’t blow through their extra cash because Wieters and Chris Davis are coming up on free agency and it’s going to cost the Orioles a ton of cash to retain two of their studs because their both Scott Boras clients.

Could these guys help the O’s now and in the future?

This team isn’t that different from the team that made the playoffs two years ago. I’m just not sure it’s going to be enough to revive that Oriole Magic and get them back to the playoffs.  Plus there’s not much on the horizon in terms of free agents for 2015 so today might be the right time to buy.

P.S. Late to the game, the Orioles have just agreed to terms with Suk-min Yoon on a three-year deal worth $5.75 million.  Another low budget move that could help shore up their bullpen.