This is one of a series of posts in which we grade each team’s wily hot stove maneuvers and tragic offseason blunders.

Peter AngelosThe 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. All of the players Baltimore acquired combined make a fraction of what Tejada is paid.

Brian Roberts needs to go.

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.

Hot Offseason Action Index

16 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Baltimore Orioles”

  1. Exclamation points are great!

    They’re free! And they make it seem like you’re excited!

    But don’t overuse them!!!! One is enough!

  2. Sarah Green says:

    See, Coley, clearly you have not read Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home, by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe. Because while you wouldn’t want such an exclamation mark in a press release, you would want one in an email. As the authors explain:

    “If you don’t consciously insert tone into an email, a kind of universal default tone won’t automatically be conveyed. Instead, the message written without regard to tone becomes a blank screen onto which the reader projects his own fears, prejudices and anxieties…The exclamation point is a lazy but effective way to combat email’s essential lack of tone. ‘I’ll see you at the conference’ is a simple statement of fact. ‘I’ll see you at the conference!’ lets your fellow conferee know that you’re excited and pleased about the event…Sure, the better your word choice the less need you will have for this form of shorthand. But until we find more time in the day—and until email begins to convey affect—we will continue to sprinkle exclamation points liberally throughout our emails.”

    The problem is, once the AP reports the quote as is, the need for the exclamation point has evaporated…and just makes the publicist look stupid.

  3. Don Mattingly sucks!!!

  4. Paul Moro says:

    Thanks, Doug. Good talkin’ to ya.

  5. FYI…Baez is out all year after having Tommy John surgery.

  6. Jon, you’re totally right. I forgot about Baez’s surgery. Well, now the O’s are really screwed.

  7. Really, Coley? You are ready to hand the Baltimore freakin’ Orioles an “A” if they would only trade Brian Roberts? Without even knowing who they might get in return?

    Is foolishly keeping Brian Roberts the only thing holding this team back from a World Series or something?

    I mean, it’s nice and all that the Orioles finally recognized that they suck and need to rebuild, after all those wasted years, and they did get some nice pieces in the Bedard trade, but it’s not as if they had some sort of stunningly brilliant offseason that completely turned this team around. They are still a long, looong way from contending for even third place in the AL East, and therefore I think this “B plus” is a stretch and an “A” would just be ridiculous. At best I think they might get some kind of probationary “B” for maybe sorta being on the right track.

  8. Coley Ward says:

    Nick, why so angry? Did you eat some bad sushi?

    Seriously, the Orioles have done everything this offseason that a practical fan could ask. I think what GM Andy McPhail has accomplished has been nothing short of miraculous – especially considering he’s got to get approval from Peter Angelos, who is almost certainly the worst owner in baseball and a candidate for worst owner in professional sports (maybe behind only Al Davis).

    Let’s compare the Orioles and A’s — two teams that are both taking the same tack this offseason cleaning house and stockpiling prospects.

    You gave the A’s a ‘B plus’, even though they didn’t get a single top flight prospect in the Dan Haren trade. The O’s landed Adam Jones and a closer in the Bedard trade, so I think they did a little better. And the O’s absolutely made out like bandits in the Tejada deal. I mean, if not for Ed Wade, would Baltimore have been able to get a similar deal anywhere else? I say no way.

    If the A’s got a ‘B-plus’ and the Orioles have done a better job of trading star players for prospects, then I think Baltimore deserves a higher grade. Don’t you? In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that I should umpbump Baltimore’s grade up to an A-.

    I’ll wait and see what the O’s get for Roberts before making up my mind, but if they get the pitching prospects that have been discussed, I think Baltimore will have earned its A.

  9. Coley Ward says:

    Also, I quote one Sarah Green, who described her grading criteria thusly:

    “I grade on three main criteria: the team’s goal, the team’s ability to progress toward that goal, and the team’s actual progress toward that goal.”

    The Orioles’ goal: to dump expensive contracts in favor of talented young players.

    The Orioles’ ability to progress: team was facing the biggest obstacle of all — Peter Angelos.

    O’s progress: Traded top pitcher Erik Bedard and declining 3B Miguel Tejada for the following players: OF Luke Scott, pitchers Georgeg Sherrill, Tony Butler, Chris Tillman, Kam “The Great” Mickolio, Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, 3B Michael Costanzo and CF Adam Jones. That’s ten for two, and one of them is a truly elite prospect.

    I submit that the Orioles would have been hard pressed to do better.

  10. Nick Kapur says:

    Your point about my A’s grade is well taken. Maybe the Orioles can merit a probational B +. But one thing I don’t get is how you can give the Orioles extra credit for overcoming (as much as is possible) the resistance of their own owner, Peter Angelos. Isn’t Peter Angelos part of the Orioles? If Peter Angelos roadblocks a rebuilding process, shouldn’t that impact the Orioles grade negatively, rather than positively?

  11. Coley Ward says:

    Nick, Peter Angelos is part of the Orioles the same way cancer was part of Lance Armstrong. He must be cut out and radiated to death so that the O’s can return to being champions and banging Olsen twins.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    Did Lance Armstrong really bang Olsen twins? I lost track after he and Sheryl Crow broke up. Now *that* was a cute couple.

  13. I wouldn’t give MacPhail too much credit for conducting a fire sale. Was it some great accomplishment to get valued prospects back for Bedard? I think not. Bedard is an ace pitcher with two reasonable years left on his contract, it’s possible he had more value than any other pitcher dealt this off season. Also remember that there wasn’t much value in the pitching free agent market either. One could argue that Bedard is a guy MacPhail should have kept to build his team around. It will remain to be seen if any of the prospects acquired will actually result in victories down the road. What reason do O’s fans actually have to come out to the park this season?

  14. Sarah Green says:

    Melissa, at least for 2008, O’s fans still have no reason to go to the park. Which is why they shouldn’t bitch about it when their park is periodically invaded by Red Sox fans. At least we’re contributing some much-needed revenue!

  15. Well, conducting a fire sale isn’t an accomplishment. Doing it well is pretty damned difficult it seems.

    I never really know how to properly evaluate deals that involve prospects. A regular trade has so many variables to begin with that adding in the volatility of prospects makes it incredibly hard for me. But, as I write this, it appears that the Orioles have taken the first step in the process and they’re doing it properly. Which, I think, is an accomplishment. Who knows how good Jones is going to be? But for now, the consensus among scouts and execs seems to be that Seattle overpaid by a good amount. Having never seen Jones play and not having enough stats to back up any claim I might make, I have to go with their evaluations.

  16. Opening day is only 5 days away! Get your tickets to see the Baltimore Orioles play Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, March 31, 2008 at Camden Yards.

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