Jonah Keri's suggestion that the Orioles should have spent more on free agents last offseason got me thinking. I thought I'd look back at the FA possibilities for the Orioles in hindsight.
The Orioles had holes at LF, 2B, and DH. I'll consider the options at each position, leaving the pitching side of things for another time.
The relevant free agents at second base last offseason were Marco Scutaro, Jeff Keppinger, Kelly Johnson, and Maicer Izturis. The Orioles elected to sign none of these and go with in-house options. Here's how things turned out.
Orioles' solution: $0M, 1.8 fWAR.
The Orioles have gone with Flaherty, Roberts, and Casilla, and gotten a .241/.300/.366 line in 555 PA. Roberts has been the best hitter of the three, but Flaherty has had more playing time.
Marco Scutaro: resigned with Giants for 3/$20M, 2.3 fWAR
Scutaro is hitting reasonably well, at .298/.357/.367 in 481 PA, and with his just-below-average fielding has put up a solid season. He is 37 this year, and it remains to be seen if he can continue to be a good player for the two remaining years and $13.3M remaining on his contract. It's not clear that he would have signed with the Orioles for a similar price, or even at all, after his excellent postseason run with the Giants in 2012.
Jeff Keppinger: signed with White Sox for 3/$12M, -1.7 fWAR
Keppinger has been a complete disaster for the White Sox, hitting .244/.271/.297 in 396 PAs. And he's due to be paid another $8.5M over the next two years.
Kelly Johnson: signed with Rays for 1/$2.45M, 1.6 fWAR
Johnson has had a modest comeback playing mostly LF for the Rays. He's hitting .254/.320/.451 in 350 PAs.
Maicer Izturis: signed with Blue Jays for 3/$10M with an option, -2.2 fWAR
Like Keppinger, an unmitigated disaster.
The only 2012 free agent who has clearly been better than the Orioles' second basemen is Marco Scutaro. It's not clear that he would have signed with the O's, and they'd be spending around $7M for half a win. As poor as 2B has been for the Orioles, it could have been far, far, worse; signing Keppinger or Izturis could have easily precluded any midseason trade possibilities.
In short: the Orioles made the right move at second base!
Michael Bourn: signed with Indians 4/$48M with vesting option, 1.9 fWAR
.269/.322/.358, 451 PA (cost a draft pick). Decent production at a high cost.
B.J. Upton: signed with Braves 5/$75M, -0.6 fWAR
.182/.263/.291, 375 PA (cost a draft pick). Disaster.
Nick Swisher: signed with Indians 4/$56M with vesting option, 2.0 fWAR
.255/.359/.462, 498 PA (cost a draft pick). Decent production at a high cost.
Josh Hamilton: signed with Angels 5/$133M, 1.1 fWAR
.235/.292/.424, 521 PA (cost a draft pick). Lousy production at a huge cost.
Angel Pagan: resigned with Giants 4/$45M, 0.6 fWAR
.262/.314/.374, 204 PA. Injured and may not have signed elsewhere for a similar price.
Shane Victorino: signed with Red Sox for 3/$39M, 4.3 fWAR
.287/.338/.424, 427 PA. The clear winner among the OF free agents.
Melky Cabrera: signed with Blue Jays for 2/$16M, -0.9 fWAR
.279/.322/.360, 372 PA. PED stain hasn't been worth it for the Jays.
Cody Ross: signed with Diamondbacks for 3/$26M with an option, 1.8 fWAR
.278/.331/.413, 351 PA. Solid player at a reasonable price.
Orioles' solution: $2M, 2.6 fWAR
McLouth has played the majority here. Chris Dickerson and Steve Pearce have gotten some PAs, and Reimold was quite bad in his 140.
The only even arguably better signing than Nate McLouth was Shane Victorino. Otherwise, the FAs range from overpaid/would have also cost Hunter Harvey to complete disasters. I think the Orioles clearly made the right decision here. If you guessed that Shane Victorino was going to be awesome this year, congrats I guess.
In short: The Orioles probably made the right move in left field, and dodged several bullets.
All the above names, plus David Ortiz (not signing outside of Boston), Mike Napoli, and Kevin Youkilis.
Mike Napoli: signed with Red Sox for 1/$5M, 2.2 fWAR
.251/.341/.448, 481 PA. Gave Boston a huge discount when physical revealed long-term hip disease.
Kevin Youkilis: signed with Yankees for 1/$12M, -0.4 fWAR
.219/.305/.343, 118 PA. Injured.
Orioles' solution: $0M, -0.3 WAR
Boston got pretty lucky with Mike Napoli, getting a good player at a marginal price due to some very unfortunate health news. Kevin Youkilis has been bad or injured. David Ortiz was never going to sign outside Boston. And the various outfield guys who could have been signed as DHs have all been bad. Victorino's production has included a significant defensive component.
In short: Orioles' DHs have been bad, but it's not clear that a superior alternative was available. You could maybe add Nick Swisher (a 2 win increase) at the cost of $50M and Hunter Harvey - worth it? Maybe.
So who exactly does Keri think the Orioles should have signed? I don't much there that I think would have been a good. Kelly Johnson adds half a win, assuming he plays a decent second base and his backup also plays well. Swisher adds 2 as the DH, but at a big cost. Victorino has been a complete surprise. And, the Orioles would have had to pick right, and avoid the many very expensive disasters in last year's FA class (Upton, Hamilton, Keppinger, etc.).
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