Is The Orioles’ Plan Flawed?

Despite last night's walk-off win over the Red Sox, the Orioles boast MLB's worst record at 5-18 and second worst run differential at -43, and they're already set a record low for single game attendance at Camden Yards. Among other issues, Baltimore has struggled to find a solution for the closer's role since Mike Gonzalez hit the disabled list, not that he was much help before the injury. 

SI.com's Tom Verducci spoke to a rival team executive who believes the Orioles' model is flawed. "They took good young players and surrounded them with non-tenders, veteran guys who can't play," said the exec. "It's a brutal combination."

Julio Lugo, Garrett Atkins, Cesar Izturis, Miguel Tejada, Will Ohman, and Gonzalez represent that core of of non-tenders and veteran guys who can't play (to use the executives words). However, those players aren't expected to form the core of the next contending Orioles' team.

Baltimore has an enviable group of young players led by Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nolan Reimold, and Brian Matusz, plus they also have Chris Tillman, Josh Bell, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton not too far away in the minors. That's the group expected to help them contend in the future, not the veteran players on one and two year deals.

I respectfully disagree with the rival executive's take on Baltimore's plan. It's certainly not going to yield maximum results this season, but Andy MacPhail can't turn around a team that hasn't had a winning season in more than a decade overnight. He's done a great job of building that young core, and the Orioles are clearly a team looking towards 2011 and 2012. The veterans mentioned above are just filling in the gaps relatively cheaply so they don't have to rush any prospects up from the minors. 

MacPhail's plan is better than tricking himself into believing his team is one or two or three veterans away from competing, especially in that division. That logic will only lead to more losing seasons.


28 Responses to Is The Orioles’ Plan Flawed? Leave a Reply

  1. I LOVE the Orioles young core, but honestly it is going to be tough to pass Boston, Tampa and NY. But they won’t be stepped on like in years past. In any other division they could possibly win it in a year or 2. But Tampa is already built for the future and NY and BOS are contenders every year. (Although I do see Boston kinda falling off a bit after this year). But the way Boston drafts makes up for it.

    Back to Baltimore, in 2011 their team will be…

    C – Matt Weiters
    1B – Brandon Snyder
    2B – Brain Roberts
    3B – Josh Bell
    SS – Cesar Izturis
    LF – Nolan Reimold
    CF – Adam Jones
    RF – Nick Markakis

    Brain Matusz
    Chris Tillman
    Jake Arrieta
    Zach Britton
    Brad Bergesen

    With last year’s 5th overall pick Matt Hobgood still in the minors and this years number 3 overall pick. Baltimore has a great young core.

    • jphenix2002 5 years ago

      Let’s not forget before 2008 people were saying nobody would be able to catch the Red Sox and Yankees in that division, yet nowadays the Rays have to be included in the discussion. Baltimore’s chances hinge heavily on how well their pitching develops but that is no different from any other team. I think its realistic to see 4 of the mlb’s 10 best teams in the AL East 2012 or ’13.

  2. Suzysman 5 years ago

    One would think the “Rival team exec” would be able to realize that they might not be trying to compete this year, but rather develop the kids and use stop-gaps until they know exactly when and which positions will need to be permanently upgraded through the FA market. And really, a rebuilding team should be “good young players surrounded by non-tenders and vets that can’t play”.

    This “rival team exec” must work for the Yankees or RedSox if they don’t grasp the idea of rebuilding. Well, okay, I guess it could be Dayton Moore as well…

    • crunchy1 5 years ago

      Isn’t developing homegrown talent and surrounding them with non-tenders and vets that can’t play exactly what Dayton Moore is doing this year? He’s got some of the hotter prospects in baseball right now in Montgomery, Moustakas, Hosmer, Robinson and Myers as well as young talent like Butler, Gordon, Callaspo, Greinke, Bannister, Soria, and Davies…and like the Orioles, they are all surrounded by castoff veterans. Though Moore has had some boneheaded signings in the recent past, I don’t see a very big difference in what he and McPhail are doing right now.

      • Suzysman 5 years ago

        Except that Moore is blocking his prospects with vets, instead of using the vets to surround his prospects.

        • crunchy1 5 years ago

          I don’t think any of the Royals prospects are being blocked simply because all of the ones mentioned, with the possible exception of Montgomery, are at least a couple of years away right now. That’s not to say that Moore won’t dip back into the free agent pool and block them with new castoff veterans, but right now all of those players have a pretty clear path. Ironically, the ones that are in most danger of being blocked, Moustakas and Hosmer, are being blocked by previous top prospects Gordon and Butler. And their better young major league players are all playing regularly at the major league level. On the Orioles side, the Garret Atkins/Miguel Tejada signings directly blocked the path of their top two position prospects, Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder, who are at AAA. The Millwood acquistion potentially blocks Tillman and Arietta, again, both at AAA.

          • Suzysman 5 years ago

            “Ironically, the ones that are in most danger of being blocked, Moustakas and Hosmer, are being blocked by previous top prospects Gordon and Butler”

            Okay, so maybe they can move guys to the corner OF or DH spots. Oh wait…

            Moore has basically assembled a reject team which he almost refuses to insert prospects into (its a joke what they are doing to Kila and went out and signed 4 OF this offseason) with an extreme short trial time where prospects will lose their jobs (look at Gordon possibly being gone when Getz comes back). If you think that is rebuilding…

          • crunchy1 5 years ago

            Again, Moustakas and Hosmer aren’t expected to contribute this year and maybe not even next. The contracts of Guillen, Ankiel, DeJesus, and Posednik expire after this year. It isn’t an issue right now.

            As for Kila, he’s the exception to the rule. Every other worthwhile prospect – Greinke, Butler, Gordon, etc. has been playing. Kila is limited immensely by his inability to play the field and the fact that the Royals best player is at 1b right now. As for DH, Moore has tried to trade Guillen both before and after his hot start with no takers. But how many young players do you call up to DH anyway? When’s the last time you’ve seen a rookie make a career as a DH from the first day onward? You can’t knock him for Kila being blocked. Every team has it’s blocked prospects. And many of those being blocked are better than Kila is — including Josh Bell. I know it’s fashionable to bash Moore, and in most respects deservedly so, but no matter how you look at it, there is no denying there are similarities between the two teams right now.

          • Suzysman 5 years ago

            “The contracts of Guillen, Ankiel, DeJesus, and Posednik expire after this year.”

            Pods and Ankiel were each given options, and there is nothing indicating the Royals wont go out and sign a new crops of 30-40 year olds next off season – they have each of the last few.

            “But how many young players do you call up to DH anyway?”

            The ones you have that need to be?

            “When’s the last time you’ve seen a rookie make a career as a DH from the first day onward?”

            Travis Hafner? Adam Lind is pretty close to it. Shoot, Billy Butler was on that path till last season, and would have even been a DH last season if not for the horrific play of Jacobs – Jacobs was the opening day 1B until losing the spot.

            “You can’t knock him for Kila being blocked. Every team has it’s blocked prospects.”

            Because clearly trading Nunez for Jacobs was a better idea then keeping Kila in the minors?

            “I know it’s fashionable to bash Moore, and in most respects deservedly so, but no matter how you look at it, there is no denying there are similarities between the two teams right now.”

            No there isn’t. If the O’s have room to play their kids, they do it; and they make room when needed. And they aren’t trading kids for failing vets (ie, the aforementioned Jacobs and Betancourt and Crisp…). Moore used some kids because of a lack of options, but he would rather sign or trade for borderline, untalented vets – he has proved that.

          • crunchy1 5 years ago

            Pods is a club option, and it isn’t like they can’t bench him or dump his at his 2M option anyway. Ankiel’s is a mutual option.

            Kila is only loved by stat guys. His bat speed is highly questionable and he has no other real skills other than his batting eye. And it isn’t like Kila did anything to inspire confidence with his 2009 season.

            And lastly, you mean adding Millwood, and signing Tejada and Atkins (to a tune of 20M plus) is making room for AAA kids like Bell, Snyder, Tillman, and Arrietta? Wonder if you’d say the same thing if Moore pulled the same moves….

          • Suzysman 5 years ago

            Millwood and Tejada are players the O’s can trade mid-season for prospects or let walk at the end of the year for DPs. And they, including Atkins, are blocking no one yet and are expected to be gone by the time they would.

            Kila deserves a shot, no matter what, and should not be passed up for trash like Jacobs – a player they traded other young players for.

            and Moore has, lets see, 3 position players under the age of 28 on his roster – one (Gordon) of which is moments from losing his job for Getz, and one (Callaspo) they were actively looking to dump this offseason.

            But really, whatever. If you want to somehow talk yourself into believing Moore is rebuilding anything, knock yourself out.

          • crunchy1 5 years ago

            Because Millwood and Tejada were in such high demand this offseason?

            I’m not saying Moore is rebuilding anything. I have no idea what he intends to do. I’m no fan of Moore or many of the moves he’s made. What I am saying is that his team is in a similar position to the Orioles. Moore and McPhail are both scouting guys. There are some similarities between the two. But I’m not saying they’re not different. McPhail is much more of a fiscal conservative, thouigh not in a moneyball, market inefficiency sort of way. He also values his prospects more than Moore does. But, all in all, there are enough similarities that to this point, they’ve gotten to about the same place with a similar future outlook. Now Moore may do something foolish and botch it all up. In fact, given his history, it’s probably likely, but for all of McPhail’s “genius” and Moore’s “idiocy”, they’ve both somehow found themselves in similar situations at this point.

          • Suzysman 5 years ago

            “Because Millwood and Tejada were in such high demand this offseason?”

            And if they cant trade them and instead get draft picks when they walk, they lost what exactly?

            “I’m not saying Moore is rebuilding anything. I have no idea what he intends to do.”

            So the O’s are clearly rebuilding and you have no idea what Moore is doing but there is no difference between what the two are doing? Good argument…

            “but for all of McPhail’s “genius” and Moore’s “idiocy”, they’ve both somehow found themselves in similar situations at this point.”

            Yeah, one team is playing a bunch of kids and a handful of stop-gaps and is losing while the other plays a bunch of stop-gaps and a handful of kids and looses. Oh wait, yeah, that isn’t really the same at all…

          • crunchy1 5 years ago

            Both teams added stopgaps this season proportional to the holes in their lineup. The entire Orioles infield and their DH are “stopgaps”. That’s over half their lineup. That’s not a handful. That’s definitely a bunch, or at least a majority.

            And I’m not arguing that Moore is rebuilding or not rebuilding. You are. I’m just saying the 2 teams are in similar positions right now. Stopgap veterans and young homegrown players, good players on the farm on the way. What they do with that from here on is just speculation. There are a lot of assumptions made on your part about what happens next, but right now in May 2010, it’s a pretty similar situation. And if I were an aspiring GM looking to make an impression I may take the KC situation over Baltimore’s, especially considering Baltimore is in the AL East.

          • Suzysman 5 years ago

            Wow, okay, whatever man…

          • hk99 5 years ago

            In the name of accuracy, the O’s did sign Tejada for $6M and Atkins for $4.5M, but Texas is picking up most – I believe all but $3M – of Millwood’s contract, so it is really $13.5M, not $20M plus.

  3. I think they’re doing a good job rebuilding, but honestly the way the al east is built, even by 2011 or 2012, they probably wont be able to compete in that division. The Yankees payroll will always make them contenders, the redsox also have a high payroll. The Rays are built for the future with a young core, so I just cant see the orioles making the playoffs with this core. If the orioles played in a different division, they could probably compete within a year or so.

  4. basemonkey 5 years ago

    Consider this: In the last 12 years, the Os have oftentimes been the top bidder for services of a quality player. Unfortunately just as often those players have signed elsewhere.It turns out that quality players with options sign with teams where they can win. To persuade them otherwise means offering significant overpayment in years and/or money.

    A few years ago this team was a mix of bad contracts, stopgaps, and a sprinkle of quality ballplayers. MacPhail has transformed this team into a very lean version consisting of exclusively one year deal veterans, and the young core. Considering how much money MacPhail has rerouted towards scouting and development, you could argue that the young core wouldn’t be as good as it is, if they’d been signing/overpaying for good veterans all this time.

    It’s not like the Orioles weren’t trying to develop young guys before MacPhail. They were. They just weren’t that successful enough at it.

    • crunchy1 5 years ago

      Unfortunately the Orioles are in a position where money being equal, most teams will choose the Red Sox or Yankees….and even if that player is leaning toward the O’s (or most any other major league team), Boston and/or NY could come back and up the ante even more. I think homegrown talent is part of the equation, but McPhail will have to get creative and get solid veterans to surround their young talent with. I know McPhail has been loathe to do that in the past, but there is some precedent with the Cubs trades for Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez…true, Jim Hendry was the GM then, but it was very early in his tenure and it’s hard to believe McPhail didn’t have some control, or at least final approval.

      • basemonkey 5 years ago

        I agree. Though I don’t think it is particularly an “Oriole” thing, but more of a “Losing Team” thing. Maybe the distinction is just semantic. For the Os to sign a good player today (i.e. 1st tier or 2nd tier Free Agent) it seems like they must go higher than anyone else in salary and years. SO, say, if the Angels offered a Top tier free agent a 3 YR deal at ~12M/YR, the Orioles must offer a 4 YR deal at about 12-15M just to get him to seriously consider it. Depending on who that player is, it suddenly looks like a worse deal. There’s few players worth a 4YR/60M deal.

  5. basemonkey 5 years ago

    This kind of criticism just happens when you lose this much to start the season. I blame losing Roberts more than a flawed larger plan.

    For the last 10 or so years the Os have never seen a time when they haven’t had their sparkplug. Now we see what a major difference a good leadoff man makes.

  6. “MacPhail’s plan is better than tricking himself into believing his team is one or two or three veterans away from competing, especially in that division. That logic will only lead to more losing seasons.”

    Heh, you could have saved yourself some time by just typing, “MacPhail’s plan is better than Ed Wade’s plan.”

  7. optionn 5 years ago

    Baltimore’s problem is believing young guys like Markakis and Matusz are any good. Not many young guys live up to the hype. Giving 50 million for Markakis? Thats crazy when you have no pitching.

  8. Encarnacion's Parrot 5 years ago

    Not looking at wins/losses, does this mean the Jays’ model is flawed too?

  9. Yankee_Baal 5 years ago

    I’m going to be unpopular here, but I’d like to come in defense of Tejada, Ohman, Gonz├ílez and Lugo. They were reasonable-to-good acquisitions for the team’s short term needs. It was just impossible to predict both Tejada’s and Gonz├ílez’s meltdowns.

  10. basemonkey 5 years ago

    It would be interesting to see if this “rival GM” leads a big market team. Assuming “rival” means the team is an AL EAST team, it’s unlikely that it’s the Rays or Jays, since both have recently come out of, or, in the midst of following a similar model. So the possibility that it might be the Yankees or Boston makes it a very obtuse observation.

    Most MLB teams team have finite resources. When you move resources into one area of the franchise, another area suffers. So if that team is interested in growing good young players, of course, your major league team will get worse. Only the Red Sox and Yankees have unlimited resources to go full force in every area of the franchise.

  11. bobbybaseball 5 years ago

    Is anyone really surprised? Since he left Minnesota, McFAIL has been a terrible baseball man.

  12. PRKnight 5 years ago

    The problem that i think faces the O’s is knowing when to become sellers and buyers. You have other teams rebuilding who are struggling as well, but the difference is they have franchise/game changers. The Padres have AG, indians have Grady, and so on with others. Those pieces have rumors circulating of being traded which would bring in tons of prospects who can play in a years time or can contribute now. Those incoming type players could fill every single hole with talent. For the O’s they have talent but have so many holes. The O’s have one of my favorite players in Markakis who could defiantly bring in a ton of help, and possibly a game changer like a Hanley type player. I kno people would be upset, but man he deserves to win finally and with him entering his prime he could bring in help which could make the O’s a solid contender in 2-4 years.

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