• Oct

    The Orioles must have an impact off season

    Front Office Affair

    The only thing surprising about the Orioles dragging their feet on the whole front office situation is the fact that people are surprised in the least bit. The Orioles have developed a culture in which taking an extraordinarily long time to make any decision is the norm. From baseball operations decisions to picking the right pose for a bobblehead, this organization doesn’t move quickly and decisively.

    No one really knows what the holdup is although speculation revolves around Andy MacPhail deciding if he wants to return. I mean, how far have the Orioles fallen that the GM who has never gotten the Orioles out of last place is deciding on whether or not he wants to return.

    If this is true, it speaks volumes about working for the Orioles.

    I’ve heard the talk about Buck Showalter moving up to the GM spot but according to Bob Nightengale, Buck prefers to stay as the field manager. Well, who blames him? Buck has never been a GM and although he is very good baseball man, who knows whether he could run an entire organization?

    For all of MacPhail’s warts (Unable to multi-task well, unwillingness to spend in the overseas free agency market, poor free agency acquisitions, no real assistant GM, small circle of trust that doesn’t allow for much input from others in the organization, inability to improve the farm system) he has brought in some guys through trades that could be part of a winning team. Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, and JJ Hardy were among the most exciting Orioles last year and all are in their prime or about to enter it in Jones’ case.

    It hard to blame him for the epic fail of the Cavalry, which by all accounts was going to make or break our season last year. Who could have foreseen Brian Matusz’ utter collapse? Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman have not lived up to expectations and Brad Bergesen has never been the same since the getting hit on the leg and subsequent shoulder injury while filming a MASN commercial. Jason Berken hasn’t been effective since he tore his labrum last summer and Zach Britton had some growing pains as a rookie.

    And not to be forgotten, Brian Roberts missing most of the season certainly didn’t help things. The Orioles didn’t have the depth to replace the spark plug at the top of the order and his lost season was right up there with the failure of the young arms for the most part.

    Although it’s hard to blame him for a lot of these occurrences, where MacPhail has to take the blame though is how he continually fails on the free agency markets. Each year he finds a way to bring in over priced players at the end of their careers or over priced ineffective relievers. His “major,” and I use that word loosely since MacPhail has not signed one impact free agent since he’s been here, signings have been Garrett Atkins, Mike Gonzales, Derek Lee, Vlad Guerrero and Kevin Gregg. I guess you can call Koji Uehara  a “major” signing but he was overpaid as a setup guy and only originally signed with the Orioles because they were the only team that would allow him to be a starter. He eventually was transformed to a fantastic reliever (what most scouts though he would be when he came to the US) but he still failed at what MacPhail originally signed him for.

    If MacPhail comes back, he has to get the Orioles more aggressive in signing impact free agents or avoid the process and dump all his money into the amateur draft and foreign markets. Although he was able to take a few week hot streak and turn Gonzales into Pedro Strop, his free agency failures have been a huge negative.

    Here’s some advice for Macphail on free agents, if no other team seems interested in a guy, there’s probably a reason. The Orioles need a top of the rotation pitcher and probably a number two pitcher, so it’s time to get your trading hat on because we know you despise the top rated free agents. But if I’m you, it’s time to change my philosophy on impact free agents.

    The offense is not that bad and if Brian Roberts can return, and yes I know that’s not a given, I dare say this lineup is pretty good, but it’s still missing a real number four hitter. Honestly, it might be missing a number three hitter as well, especially with Nick Markakis trending towards become a number two hitter.

    I personally think Prince Fielder is a pipe dream because I doubt he’s going to leave a competitive environment and come to Baltimore unless we severely overpay him. He’s a fantastic number four hitter, but he carries a lot of risk and even with his bat in the lineup, this team most improve it’s starting pitching before it’s going anywhere. I’d rather spend the Orioles resources on top ranked pitching and go with our current lineup for the most part. Besides, if you are going to back up the brinks truck, Albert Pujols is the guy to give the blank check to, but he’s not coming to Baltimore either.

    So who are some options in free agency the Orioles should consider? Well, perhaps the Yankees won’t pick up the option in Nick Swisher due to his failure this year and over the years in the playoffs. He’s a career .169/.295/.323/.617 in 147 playoff plate appearances and the Yankees seem like the kind of team that will try to make some changes due to their failures again.

    Swisher hasn’t played a ton of left field, but he’s probably a better outfielder than Nolan Reimold and this would free up Nolan to DH. Swisher isn’t a true number three or four hitter, but he walks a lot and will hit 20 plus homers and would have been better number four guy than Vlad Guerrero, the .290 singles machine. Swisher will be 31-years old next year and still has some good years ahead of him, but it will cost around $10 million per season for him. I think a three year $30 million contract gets it done.

    If Roberts returned, our lineup would look like this if I were in charge:

    1. Roberts – 2B

    2. Markakis – RF
    3. Jones – CF
    4. Swisher – LF
    5. Wieters- C
    6. Reynolds- 1B
    7. Hardy-SS
    8. Davis-3B
    9. Reimold-DH

    To me, that lineup will score runs although it’s going to strike out a lot. But if you can bat Nolan Reimold 9th in your lineup, you are doing something right.

    No matter what, the Orioles need a TOR and the Brinks truck is going to have to come out to get one. CJ Wilson will be the big guy on the market and he’s going to command a huge contract. For me, he’s the one no-brainer the Orioles have to go after. He’s pitched in a hitters park, in the AL and he still has put up a 3.35 ERA in 2010 and 2.94 in 2011. He’ll be 31-years old, but his wFB rating is 22.4, his cutter is 10.6 and even his slider is above average at 5.1.

    Texas I’m sure will try to keep him and don’t be surprised if the Yankees go after him and add to their payroll, but the Orioles need a TOR and Wilson is the guy. Macphail has to set aside his previous belief about not buying pitching and get Wilson in an Orioles uniform.

    I’ve heard people talk about Japan’s Yu Darvish, but he would be my second option because of the unknowns like pitching in the AL vice the Japanese League, pitching on five days rest instead of six, and Dice-K concerns. I also know the Orioles don’t like the posting fee process so I doubt we end up players there. Besides, Wilson is a safer bet.

    If Wilson is added to our rotation, we are better, but we still need a number two pitcher I’m not convinced the Orioles have the stomach for the Japanese posting process. I’ve heard people mention trading Adam Jones for Matt Cain, but Cain is a free agent after 2012 and I’m not trading a guy like Jones, who has expressed a willingness to stay with the Orioles for a one-year rental who might take the Yankees money in 2013.

    The other guy I’m going after is Mark Buerle. Now Buerle is not coming cheap and who knows if he wants to leave Chicago, but he’s a ground ball pitcher, eats up innings, and has pitched effectively against AL east teams.  He’ll be 33-years old next year so I wouldn’t go more than three years, and even though his fastball can barely break a pane of glass (85.6 MPH), his cutter (7.6) and change (8.1) were very good and that combination can be effective, especially when his curveball is still decent.

    It might be a pipe dream, but adding Wilson and Buerle would give the Orioles a legitimate rotation to go with a solid lineup. This could also free us to trade Guthrie for a power hitting corner infielder or outfielder prospect.


    1. Wilson
    2. Buerle
    3. Britton
    4. Guthrie
    5. Arrieta/Hunter/Matusz /Simon/Tillman

    The bullpen was shaping up nicely at the end of the year and I think it could be strength in 2011.

    Closer: JJ (He’s ready to take this now)
    setup: Strop
    setup:  Hunter/Arrieta/Simon
    middle: Simon/Hunter/Arrieta
    middle: Gregg
    LH: Phillips/Rapada
    Middle/long: Patton

    I’m pretty sure this whole scenario won’t happen because MacPhail has not shown any willingness to spend the kind of money it takes to compete in the AL East. We may lose some draft picks, but the Orioles can draft guys like Delmonico later and make up for the lost picks.

    After 14 losing seasons, the Orioles fan base can’t take another rebuild and more losing seasons. Dumping a boatload on a player like Fielder would be nice, but in the end, he would only moderately improve the Orioles offense and at the end of the day, it was the starting pitching that needs the most overhaul.

    Adding Swisher, Wilson and Buerle would not only signal to the rest of the AL East that the Orioles are no longer satisfied with being the doormats, but more importantly it would show the fans that they care about winning again. Orioles fans are craving something to get excited about and it’s time for the Orioles to have an impact off season.

    If MacPhail stays and we have the same kind of hum drum off season, it will be more of the same for the Orioles and the only good news that comes with that is the fact you will not have hard time finding good seats in 2012 at Camden Yards.

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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.