This is one of a series of posts in which we grade each team’s wily hot stove maneuvers and tragic offseason blunders.
The Orioles are going to be terrible in 2008. They’re going to be worse than they were in 2007, when they finished 69-93. And they’re not going to get any better any time soon.
Baltimore just completed its club-record ninth consecutive losing season, all of them under the leadership of owner Peter Angelos, who gained control of the franchise in 1993.
Last season, a group of fans led by a local radio personality staged a walkout to protest Angelos’ rudderless leadership of the team. Here’s what one participant had to say about the O’s under Angelos:
“We are here to show our dissatisfaction with his role, and some of the stupid decisions he has made,” said 43-year-old fan Eric Hunter. “We want someone in there who will spend the money to do the things that will bring the fans back.”
Now, there’s no doubt that Angelos has been an awful owner and that he’s made terrible, terrible decisions. But I think this comment misses the point. The problem isn’t that Angelos isn’t spending enough money. It’s that he spends his money the wrong way. He hands out big contracts to the wrong players, like Albert Belle and Miguel Tejada, all the while ignoring the farm system. The truth is he will never be able to outspend the Red Sox and Yankees, so the Orioles need a strong group of cost effective young players in order to be effetive.
That’s why this offseason was such a revelation for the Orioles. Baltimore started this offseason on the right foot trading Miguel Tejada to the Astros for OF Luke Scott, pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, and third-base prospect Michael Costanzo. This was an awesome trade for the following reasons:
- Miguel Tejada was named in the Mitchell Report, told a congressional panel that he never used steroids and now faces the possibility that he could be convicted of perjury and deported.
- Costanzo is probably just as good a 3B right now as Tejada is (even though Tejada is going to try to play SS this year, he doesn’t belong there anymore)Last season in AA Reading, Costanzo put up an OBP of .368 and a SLG of .490. He hit 27 HR and drove in 86 runs to go along with that.
- All of the players Baltimore acquired combined make a fraction of what Tejada is paid.
The Orioles followed up the Tejada trade by trading ace pitcher Erik Bedard to Seattle. This one had to sting a little, since Bedard was home grown and still has many good (and two cheap) years ahead of him. But as we mentioned earlier, the Orioles aren’t going to be competative this year or next year, so there was no point in hanging on to Bedard. Moreover, in exchange for Bedard the O’s got top flight OF prospect Adam Jones, plus LHPs Georgeg Sherrill and Tony Butler and RHPs Chris Tillman and Kam “The Great” Mickolio (what a fantastic nickname!). Tillman, who was Seattle’s No. 3 overall prospect, struck out 184 in 166 innings but has just 20 starts at the high Class A level; Butler (No. 12) has yet to reach high Class A ball.In between blockbusters, the O’s have also made some smaller moves, like signing veteran SP Steve Trachsel to a minor league deal, just to fill out the roster.
It’s what the Orioles do next that will determine whether this was a great offseason or just a very good offseason. The team is reportedly considering trading all-star 2B Brian Roberts to the Cubs, but the deal is maybe (probably) being held up by meddling owner Peter Angelos. This trade needs to happen. Roberts is 30. He’s peaked. And he was just named in the Mitchell Report, so his PR value isn’t even what it used to be.
As of this moment, Roberts is still an Orioles. So here’s what Baltimore’s team will look like on opening day:
2B Brian Roberts .377 OBP
3B Melvin Mora .341 OBP
CF Adam Jones (rookie)
RF Nick Markakis 112 RBI
1B Kevin Millar .365 OBP
LF Luke Scott .351 OBP
DH Aubrey Huff 15 HR
C Ramon Hernandez 9 HR
SS Luis Hernandez .300 OBP
SP Jeremy Guthrie 3.70 ERA
SP Adam Loewen 3.56 ERA
SP Daniel Cabrera 5.55 ERA
SP Troy Patton / Garrett Olson
SP Steve Trachsel
Set-up Jamie Walker 3.23 ERA
CL Danys Baez / George Sherrill
Grade: B+ (will be an ‘A’ if GM Andy McPhail team trades Roberts).
The Orioles have some young players to build around. Markakis and Jones could anchor the outfield for years to come. Both Jeremy Guthrie and Adam Loewen have potential to be regulars in the O’s rotation, as do Tillman and Butler. Baltimore needs to continue to focus on youth, and only time will tell if Angelos has the patience for that kind of full-scale rebuilding. But this offseason was a step in the right direction.