This is part of a series of posts wherein we fustigate teams for their foolhardy offseason fumbles, or else fervently fawn over their felicitous free-agent finesse.
In a lot of ways the Baltimore Orioles seem to be moving in the right direction (finally!), but they have made some truly baffling moves this offseason, and I simply cannot understand what they are thinking.
As I mentioned, I understand that things are finally looking up. But the Orioles posted a record of 64-98 last season, and their Pythagorean record wasn’t much better. Last time I checked they still play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox (and the Rays for that matter), and at best are three seasons away from contention, so in what possible universe does it make sense for the Orioles to spend tens of millions of dollars on aging veterans in 2010?
And yet that is exactly what the Orioles have done, signing 3B Miguel Tejada (1 year, $6M), 1B Garrett Atkins (1 year, $4M), Mike Gonzalez (2 years $12 million), and trading reliever Chris Ray and minor league reliever Ben Snyder to the Rangers for SP Kevin Millwood (who will cost the Orioles $15 million in 2010 before becoming a free agent).
First of all, these guys just aren’t all that good, and none of them is likely to be even worth the money they will be getting (Atkins, for example was worth negative $1.5 million last year, according to FanGraphs), but even if they were, these are the kind of guys you go out and add when your team is on the verge of contention, not when you just came off of a 64-win season.
I recognize that in some sense it’s nice that these are all short term commitments that won’t bog down the team for years, but if you think about it, that means these moves make even less sense, because none of these guys will be around the next time the Orioles are anywhere near contention.
Altogether the Orioles will be spending almost one-third of their payroll on just these four players next season, but those tens of millions of dollars would achieve the exact same effect if they were flushed down the toilet. The Orioles would be much better served, or even served at all, if they had saved that money to sign young players or invest in scouting or almost anything else, while letting young prospects or 4-A types man the positions in question for the major league minimum, saving their bullets for about 3 years from now when they might be somewhere near striking range of something.
In the final analysis the Orioles didn’t do anything too terrible this offseason, other than waste about $20 million of Peter Angelos’s money, but then again it’s only Peter Angelos’s money. The bright side is they didn’t really hurt themselves going forward, but the also did basically nothing at all to improve themselves, and in baseaball these days, if you are standing still you are actually going backwards.
In school if you don’t improve in any way they make you repeat a grade, which is why the Orioles have to get a failing grade this offseason.
Acquisitions: SP Kevin Millwood, 3B Miguel Tejada, 1B Garrett Atkins, RP Mike Gonzalez
Losses: 3B Melvin Mora, RP Chris Ray, RP Danys Baez, SP Rich Hill, SP Radhames Liz, RB Brian Bass, RP Sean Henn
Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer
C – Matt Wieters
1B – Garrett Atkins
2B – Brian Roberts
3B – Miguel Tejada
SS – Cezar Izturis
LF – Nolan Riemold
CF – Adam Jones
RF – Nick Markakis
DH – Luke Scott
SP1 – Kevin Millwood
SP2 – Jeremy Guthrie
SP3 – Brian Matusz
SP4 – Brad Bergesen
SP5 – Chris Tillman
CL – Mike Gonzalez