Offseason In Review: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are next in our Offseason In Review series.

Major League/International Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Summary

A year ago, the Orioles committed over $30MM to short-term veteran acquisitions while also surrendering the 53rd overall draft pick to the Braves.  President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail took a similar approach this offseason, adding more to the payroll but keeping his draft picks.  Is the Orioles' strategy good for the long-term health of the franchise?

MacPhail's dealings mostly improved the team for 2011, though Reynolds, Gregg, and Accardo will be under control for the 2012 season.  The big question is, why is MacPhail trying so hard to improve the 2011 Orioles?  Is it an attempt to energize the fan base?  I'm not sure these players will increase attendance significantly.  Is it for the veteran leadership?  That can be acquired more affordably.  Is it because MacPhail truly views the Orioles as contenders?  The O's don't have nearly enough starting pitching to make contention seem realistic.

One school of thought is that the money spent this offseason would be better put toward the draft and Latin America, as ESPN's Keith Law suggested in a discussion with MASN's Steve Melewski.  In the team's defense, they already rank fourth in MLB in draft spending over the last three years.  They haven't been aggressive in Latin America, but a lower big league payroll might not change that. 

The signings of Gregg, Uehara, and Accardo may at least help the Orioles' young pitching staff.  Only the Gregg signing could be considered excessive.  The Blue Jays valued one draft pick more than having Gregg (or his trade value) at one year and $4.5MM or two years and $8.75MM.  The Orioles again took the plunge on a pricey reliever, even with Mike Gonzalez still on the roster as a reminder.  All multiyear free agent reliever deals are risky, but the gamble makes more sense for contending teams.  MacPhail may have felt the need to bolster the bullpen after the subtraction of David Hernandez, who was excellent in relief last year and under team control through 2015.

Vlad

The Orioles' offense is looking strong with the additions of Reynolds, Hardy, Lee, and Guerrero, assuming they stay healthy.  Of course, the bar is extremely low given last year's output of 3.78 runs per game.  The price for these four players was far from franchise-crippling, but there is concern the veterans will take at-bats from younger guys.  Nolan Reimold and Josh Bell have something to prove in Triple-A, however, and I think the Orioles will make room if they start raking. 

You'd like to see a few of the newly-added veterans flipped for interesting prospects at the trade deadline, though MacPhail wasn't able to cash in Garrett Atkins, Kevin Millwood, and Ty Wigginton last year.  He's added superior players for 2011, so I think there's a better chance this time around.

This is an improved Orioles team, but to what end?  Some need to see a tangible benefit before endorsing significant short-term veteran commitments for a rebuilding club.  The Orioles might argue, what's the downside?  If the short-term additions don't adversely affect the farm system or the development of young players, the Orioles' strategy can at least be considered neutral for the long-term health of the franchise regardless of the team's record in 2011.  I expect to hear a lot of intangibles as support for MacPhail's offseason, while the more analytically-minded will focus on whether the Orioles are able to trade veterans for prospects in July. 

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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109 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Baltimore Orioles"


Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

SHOULD MACPHAIL ADD VETS?
Every year people have been questioning MacPhail when he adds veterans, but every year he ends up flipping the better ones having good years for prospects. WHy else would they be for other than one-year guys? If the team doesn’t end up paying the lion’s share of the added players’ contracts, aren’t they just another possible cost-effective means to add more talent later on? We shouldn’t just think of rebuilding strictly as about the draft and Internatinal signings. Unlike many other rebuilding teams, the Orioles have the added advantage of having mid-market income to create another talent stream.

DO THE YOUNG GUYS NEED SUPPORT?
Opinions on this seem to run the gambit, but the prevailing thought in Baltimore is that the young guys needs some support to develop, either as protection for the young hitters, or some backup for the young pitchers. If we look at the last several rebuilding clubs of the last decade that have made the jump into contention, most of them have had some veteran support. Teams like Florida, Indians, and KC have had more than their share of talent pass through their system, but have had to let their best players go, never quite bursting past that contention window, only to see those same players explode into stardom elsewhere on contending teams when they have plenty of support. Even the heralded Rays, who have made that jump, needed critical cheap veterans during their rebuilding years (e.g. McGriff, Boggs, Aubrey, Shields, etc..).

Member
4 years 4 months ago

You know, this is an interesting POV on the offseason. I think the team has been improved greatly, and honestly, I don’t see any reason this hurts the team. I’m tired of the Reimold argument because he exceeded expectations as a rookie and came back to earth last year. Everyone seems to think his career outlook is more in line with his rookie year, while I believe his ceiling is a 4th OF.

Member
djones83
4 years 4 months ago

A guy with about an .890 minor league OPS (including a significant amount of AAA time already) came back to Earth by hitting to a mid .700s at AAA? I’m not following your logic. It seems to me that last year was the fluke, not the entirety of his career.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

Reimold was never projected to be an impact player at the major league level. His rookie season was only predicted by one analyst that I know of. That said, do I expect him to have that low of an OPS again? No. But I don’t think he’s going to be a 20-30 HR guy at the major league level like many fans.

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

I don’t think you can say a 4th OF is his ceiling if he already surpassed that level as a rookie …

Member
4 years 4 months ago

One year does not a career make

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

No, it doesn’t. He may never get back to that level. But if he’s already shown ability above that of a 4th OF, I don’t think you can call that his ceiling.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

Ceiling meaning the highest level of expected output. If that was a “career year” then you can’t expect that output. Thus, his ceiling could still be that of a 4th OF even if he has played better once before.

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

He’s played better much of his minor league career, and most players don’t have their “career year” of production as rookies.

If he was an above average offensive LFer as a rookie, I think his ceiling would have to be somewhere around or above that level, not as a 4th OF.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

My argument is based on there being examples of players who hit well into their late 20s in the minors but then struggle to keep that production in MLB. I see some AAAA qualities in him. Too good for AAA, not good enough for MLB (to start that is).

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

But he has been good enough to start and as a rookie no less.

He only had about 350 PAs that year and was just outside the top 10 in OPS for MLB left fielders. That’s better than a 4th OF in my book.

Member
Snoochies8
4 years 4 months ago

Gary Matthews Jr begs to differ, 1 year made his whole career, same with Aaron Rowand.

Member
not_brooks
4 years 4 months ago

Through 2009, Reimold routinely posted on OPS north of .830, and he put up a .900+ OPS in three of five minor league seasons. Then, he ripped up his achilles tendon, and the Orioles rushed him back, tossing him right into the major league fire before he was 100%.

2010 was clearly the exception, not the rule.

By the by…

Reimold’s minor league career is comparable to Matt Holliday’s. I’m not saying that Reimold is going to be that kind of player, but it’s possible.

And speaking of projections, Reimold was on Baseball America’s Top 100 list in 2006 and 2008. Holliday was never on that list.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

It’s possible. I’m just not holding my breath because there are 100s of Joe Schmo’s who never reached that level of output and maybe 5 or 6 Matt Holliday’s. You know?

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

Yeah, I don’t think anyone saying he is going to reach that level, or is even likely to, but the ceiling has got to be higher than 4th OFer based on his body of work in the minors and the level at which he produced as a rookie.

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

The points that most these articles miss are two fold:
1) Talent begets talent. Even if the Os don’t compete this year, the compensatory picks they can get for a lot of these talented players leaving, or trades at the deadline would continue to greatly improve the team. A lack of compensatory picks over the years is a big reason their farm system hasn’t been as good as some other divisional teams.

2) Their starting pitching is underrated, and its not out of the realm of possibility to compete this year. Its the first time in a long time where its at least out of the realm of impossible.

Member
Lunchbox45
4 years 4 months ago

what comp picks? you honestly thing vlad is going to be offered arb as a type a free agent?? extremely doubtful

Member
bjsguess
4 years 4 months ago

Agreed.

It sounds good in theory but I’m struggling to to think of an example where the O’s actually did as Rabbitov suggested. When was their last FA compensation pick and how many other ML signings did they have along the way? How many guys have been flipped at the deadline for meaningful talent?

The O’s have had chances to do that. Remember a few years back with Brian Roberts. They could have landed a serious haul but instead kept him and signed him to an extension. How has that worked out? Miguel Tejada was moved at least a year too late. The list goes on and on.

The fact is, signing guys with the intention of offering them arb and hoping they decline is a very risky strategy. Far too often the team wants no part of that risk when the time comes. They usually just cut their ties and go their separate ways. And while some teams have shown success in the sign and trade realm very few teams can pull these off on a regular basis.

At the end of the day the O’s plan sounds good on paper. I just happen to have deep reservations about them being able to execute.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

It’s easy to sit there and say in hindsight, this was a mistake, that was a mistake. For Roberts, players get hurt all the time. I don’t see how that is a relevant argument. For Tejada they got a good haul, and I’m not sure moving him a year earlier would have given them much more (clearly steroid accusations didn’t scare the Astros away). I don’t think the idea of offering arb is the point here, I think it’s providing veteran leadership with the chance to ship them off at the deadline. See Sherrill, George (who I realize was not a FA signing, but same principle really).

Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

Actually just to nitpick, Tejada’s steroid news came out literally days after he was traded.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

Touche good sir.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Basemonkey and Jeff,

Literally, the Mitchell report came out the day after the trade was announced. Oh, and we still have Luke Scott and Troy Patton from that trade. We also have Wynn Pelzer when we traded Tejada a second time. What does Houston have? Nada.

Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for picking the nit off my nitpick. Hehe. 😉

Member
bjsguess
4 years 4 months ago

This isn’t in hindsight. I’ve been commenting on this site for years now. Back in the day before Roberts signed you can read my posts (if you are so inclined).

They were lucky to get what they got in Tejada but there is no question that they held on to him for too long. But even before that, it was a terrible signing. Not because Tejada was a bum (in fact, he was very good). However, his presence did nothing to change Orioles baseball. He consumed a tremendous amount of resources while the O’s basically stayed exactly the same.

And this isn’t to pick on the O’s. Many, many teams fall into this same trap. They improperly evaluate their teams talent level (and the competition) and spend as if they are going to win. OR they feel compelled to spend money, get “name brand” players in the hopes of appeasing the fans (like my idiotic team did with Wells this off-season). Fact is, those types of moves rarely work.

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

I can’t argue with your first paragraph, you are right. Your second and third miss the mark though. I wasn’t saying they were signing them to offer them arbitration, I was saying “talent begets talent.” The more talent you have on your team the more options you will have.

Further Tejada and Roberts are terrible examples. Tejada was traded, not once, but twice for talent. You can argue a year too late, but Tejada got Luke Scott who has more than arguably been a better player than Tejada since. They also still have Troy Patton in the minors from that.

Roberts is such a ridiculous hindsight is 50/50 type claim. No one knew he’d have injury problems, and by all indications when he plays he’s one of the best leadoff guys in the majors.

Your last paragraph again misses the mark. Their plan is not to sign talent to get comp picks, their plan is to add talent to the organization so that trades, comp picks, and competitiveness come back into the Oriole way of baseball.

Member
bjsguess
4 years 4 months ago

I guess I don’t understand your earlier post. You said:
“Even if the Os don’t compete this year, the compensatory picks they can get for a lot of these talented players leaving, or trades at the deadline would continue to greatly improve the team. A lack of compensatory picks over the years is a big reason their farm system hasn’t been as good as some other divisional teams.”

As far as I know, the only way you get comp picks is if your players turn into Type A’s/B’s AND you offer them arbitration AND they decline. I was commenting specifically to that strategy and pointing out that you cannot count on that. It is incredibly risky. This is doubly true when we are in an environment where mediocre players have depressed compensation options via FA. More and more are willing to accept arb, hence the huge numbers of Type A’s and B’s that were never offered arbitration.

It goes without saying that having more talent on your roster is always better than having less talent. Talented players increase the probability of a Type A/B ranking. Talented players increase the potential for a solid trade return. Talented players also help your team. My beef is with teams that don’t bring in really talented players and instead approach their problems with a band-aid and big name. There is a reason why teams like the Astros and O’s maintained higher than average payrolls but produced mediocre at best results.

As for Roberts I’m going to have to look through the archives and pull out a few comments I made at the time.

Member
bjsguess
4 years 4 months ago

Crud – I forgot that when Tim moved to Disquis that it dumped all of the comments that were from his old TypePad days (I miss the good ole white text on black background old school style).

In any event – believe me or not – no big deal. I’ll just go on the record again and say that if you aren’t going to compete you should not be signing big name players or trading for them. You should be moving valuable pieces off your roster today to contenders. Then you build up from the farm. As the pieces from the farm are ready to compete you then use FA or trades to fill the gaps you may have.

The difference in revenues for a team that wins 68 games or 75 games is virtually non-existant. Yet you can win 68 games with a miniscule payroll. Meanwhile you have other teams (like the O’s) that consistently have a payroll in the $80m range and never eclipse the 80 win mark. The money expended for 5-7 additional wins is just a horrendous waste of resources.

It’s not just the O’s either. Plenty of teams fall pray to this fatal mistake.

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

The Os are about to have a full rotation of farm grown talent. Also the Astros are not a good comparison. The Astros started to do badly because they had a great core of players that simply aged. The Os have done badly because of years of bad player contract management, bad free agent signings, abysmal farm system and draft, bad choices for coaches and interference from the manager.

“You should be moving valuable pieces off your roster today to contenders.”
In my original post I suggested just that if the team fails.

“The money expended for 5-7 additional wins is just a horrendous waste of resources.”
How do you know how many wins they will have?

“Meanwhile you have other teams (like the O’s) that consistently have a payroll in the $80m range and never eclipse the 80 win mark.”
More like 70m range, but that was based on the factors I just described, not a blanket statement about how having a higher payroll doesn’t make sense. The Os have been bad in the past, but this year, for the fans who have been closely following the team, is noticeably different. Just go with it, and see how it works out.

EDIT: also again it is not our “strategy” to get compensation picks. I certainly did not say or imply that, and explained that even more clearly second post. It is a positive effect of actually doing something in the free agent market.

Member
disgustedcubfan
4 years 4 months ago

More so for Derrick Lee.

Member
Lunchbox45
4 years 4 months ago

I doubt he gets offered arb either, especially if he ends up a Type A

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

Sorry I forgot Vlad was our only offseason move. I also forget there was a second half to the argument about trading vets at the deadline for talent.

I further forgot that players signed to multi year deals don’t get comp picks when they leave. I must be really out of touch.

Edit: Just to point it out so its clear. Gregg after next season, Hardy after this season are examples of guys who could potentially leave with compensation picks if they are not resigned.

Member
Lunchbox45
4 years 4 months ago

again, if they are offered arbitration

Gregg as a Type A would not get signed again

thanks for your school lesson, but you still havent proven the likleyhood of Hardy, Gregg or Vlad actually being offered arbitration.

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

I couldn’t agree more about the starting pitching being underrated. Here is what the young arms did once Showalter arrived:

Brian Matusz: 7-1, 2.11 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Brad Bergesen: 5-3, 2.88 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Jake Arrieta: 3-3, 3.78 ERA in his last eight starts.
Chris Tillman: 1-1, 4.08 ERA in his last five starts.

Jeremy Guthrie: 7-3, 3.14 ERA in his last 11 starts.

Keep in mind the sample sizes are different because Arrieta reached his innings limit before the season was over and Tillman was in AAA Norfolk to start Showalter’s tenure.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Tim,

One very key point that you left out was the play of this team under Buck Showalter last year (34-23 against the AL East, White Sox, Rangers, Tigers, and Angels). With the exception of Kevin Millwood, all of the starting pitchers are back. They are a year older and wiser in the case of Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, and Chris Tillman. If one of them falters, they have Zach Britton (and quite possibly Tillman) waiting at AAA. Everyone says that the Orioles’ starting pitching is going to hold them back. If they pitch close to what they did the last 2 months of 2010, though, they are going to be in the AL wildcard race. Their offense is vastly improved, and they have a solid bullpen. I think MacPhail looked at his team, saw that no kids were going to be really hurt by adding veterans, looked at how the team finished up last year, and is trying to build on that momentum. Barring injuries, I think this team surprises everyone and is in the wild card race in September.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

That’s an ambitious statement you made at the end there. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but I wouldn’t set the last few months of the year as your expected output for this year.

That said, if we ARE in the wild card race, look out for Brian Matusz. Over his career, he has pitched better the higher the pressure and stiffer the competition.

Member
bjsguess
4 years 4 months ago

I would take that bet all day long. I’d put the over/under at 14 games within the WC. They really have to have everything fall exactly into place and have a total collapse of the Red Sox/Yankees/Rays for a WC birth to be even a possibility.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

You mean like the Rays losing their entire bullpen? Or Carl Crawford? Or Carlos Pena? Please don’t tell me that Kyle Farnsworth and Johnny Damon make up for those losses! Their starting pitching is good (especially Price), but they did lose Matt Garza, and I thank that Niemann and Shields are 3/4 starters at best. Davis is in his 2nd year, and Hellickson is basically still a rookie. Their bullpen is a huge question mark at this point, as is their offense. They’ll need the 2004 Manny vs. the 2010 version to contend this year.

The Yankees really didn’t do anything to improve themselves this offseason, other than sign Rafael Soriano to be their 8th inning guy. I think their rotation is substandard after Sabathia, Hughes and Burnett (and I’m giving Burnett a LOT of credit here). Sabathia isn’t going to pitch any better than he did last year, either. Their offense is still good, but Rodriguez, Jeter, and Posada are all over the age of 35. Jeter and Posada have already started showing their decline.

Also, look at Buck Showalter’s track record in his 2nd seasons with clubs. He improves from an average of 71-91 the first season to 92-70 the second season. Having seen how this team responded to him last year, and all of the positives coming out of ST thus far, I think they end up winning between 85-90 games and make it very interesting in the AL East. I will take your bet!

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

This is not intended to be a knock, but isn’t Spring great? Every team has hope and lets you imagine what could be. October is another story unfortunately…

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

I think ARod is starting to show signs of decline as well … His OPS has gone down each year since 2007. And the hip isn’t getting any better.

Member
notsureifsrs
4 years 4 months ago

you just biggie-sized your fail

i don’t have the energy to help you today, but i want in on the bet too

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Best case senario is that everyone stays healthy. They win 85 games. And still finish 10 to 15 games out of the wild card.

To compete in the AL East, you need to win 95-100 games. It’s been 7 or 8 years since a team has won the wild card with less than 95 wins.

This O’s team will be better than they’ve been, but can anyone imagine them winning more than 95 games?

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Wild Card Teams
2010 – 95 wins
2009 – 95
2008 – 95
2007 – 94
2006 – 95
2005 – 95
2004 – 98
2003 – 95
2002 – 99

Member
FrankTheFunkasaurusRex
4 years 4 months ago

how many of those are from the al east

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

I think Detroit won in ’06 and the Angels in ’02. Every other year has been the East.

Member
FrankTheFunkasaurusRex
4 years 4 months ago

baseball is so fair

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Yea, it stinks that the 3 best teams over the past 5 years have been in the AL east! Thats the game though until they redo the playoff system.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Thats the game until they implement a cap. one can dream…t

Member
j6takish
4 years 4 months ago

I think Orioles fans are seriously overshooting their expectations for 2011. I think it’s too little too late, and considering how quickly Toronto is setting themselves up for the future, I think O’s fans may be in for another long decade.

Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

Most Os fans are thinking near-.500…maybe over. No one’s talking about contention. That’s overshooting? Remember this was a 60-win team last year. Improvement on that is all the fans are looking for.

Member
TheFakeSting
4 years 4 months ago

Toronto will be staring up at all AL East teams this year. Overrated.

Member
Lunchbox45
4 years 4 months ago

they certainly will.

they also traded one of there better starters for a future infield prospect
and dumped one of their better hitters/worst contract in the game.

They have no expectations for 2011. but just based on their arms alone this team is poised to be extremely competitive extremely soon.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Yes. The Jays definitely aren’t built for 2011 like the O’s. But the future is bright beyond.

Member
sadp
4 years 4 months ago

“Overrated” would imply that anyone is saying the Jays have any kind of shot this year at contention, or are better than they really are. No one is saying that.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

overrated??

how about the most consistently underrated team in all of baseball? they have been an 80+ win team in like 5 of the past 6 seasons, have a very solid young rotation 1-3 and a powerful lineup. how is that team picked to finish last??

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

Setting themselves up for the future by shedding contracts, sorta how the Os have for the past 10 years? Don’t kid yourselves too much here, you haven’t done anything this offseason we haven’t in the past 10 years.

Member
Lunchbox45
4 years 4 months ago

HA another laughable post by the rabbitov

O’s haven’t had depth in their farm system in years and still don’t

Jays are a top 5 farm

O’s are a ‘win now’ team that isn’t good enough to win

good job..

I dont get what your infatuation with the jays is? You act like its the jays who are the reason O’s have been terrible all these years… its like comparing which kid rides the shorter of the short buses to school.

Member
Rabbitov
4 years 4 months ago

Infatuation with the Jays? I am responding to posts about the Jays that you guys keep posting on the Orioles rumors. Keep up the losing, if the Pirates have a winning season soon maybe you can set the mlb record for years without a playoff appearance.

Guest
4 years 4 months ago

Jays are going to be terrible this year, last year was a fluke. Nice stadium too by the way…

Member
OrangeCards
4 years 4 months ago

On a side note:

The O’s have hit 5 homers in the first two innings off Andy Sonnanstine in today’s ST game.

Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

We’re seeing a foreshadow of what Markakis can do when pitchers can’t throw him 4 breaking balls out of the zone in a row and opting to take a walk than give him something to hit.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

Do you still think Markakis has the potential for 30 HR power people talked about when he came up?

Member
not_brooks
4 years 4 months ago

In the two spot, in front of Lee and Vlad, I’m expecting Markakis to hit like he did in 2008.

.300 avg, OPS pushing .900, 20+ homers

Markakis belongs in the two hole, and with two professional hitters in the three and four spots, he’s going to be very, very good.

Member
4 years 4 months ago

Yeah I agree. I see him as a prototypical 2-stick.

Member
basemonkey
4 years 4 months ago

I think he’s legitimately a 20-25 HR/.280-.310 kind of player, with a high OBP, who stands the chance to be extremely consistent at those skills. In a career year or two he might have a huge season that is 30+ HRs. Though I don’t think he’s the kind of player who carries the team all by himself. That said, considering the all-around package, he’s a very good player for the longterm.

Member
wickedkevin
4 years 4 months ago

Which is why I plan to draft him in every league this year. He finally has protection all around him. I’m predicting 20 hr, 80 rbi.

Member
not_brooks
4 years 4 months ago

If Roberts can stay healthy, and with Jones, Wieters and Hardy in the bottom third of the order, Markakis will drive in a lot more than 80.

Member
wickedkevin
4 years 4 months ago

I also drafted Roberts haha. Seriously, Roberts, Markakis, and Adam Jones are all sleepers.

Member
SrMeowMeow
4 years 3 months ago

Protection is a myth, and Markakis struggled most with the high fastball (always has), in my admittedly limited observations.