The Baltimore Orioles continue to plug along this offseason making tiny moves that, while solid, divide the fanbase. Some feel that the Orioles are making specific targeted moves, like an engineer replacing a key cog or spring to make a glorious machine operational again; others feel that the team is rearranging the deck charis on the Titanic, on Alderaan and the Death Star is approaching.
The Orioles recently signed journeyman bat Wilson Betemit. Betemit's nine season career has taken him to eight different teams. Betemit resurrected his career last year spending time in Kansas city and Detroit. In almost 100 games and 350 ABs between the two teams he put up a .343 OBP and a .795 OPS. The Orioles are considering him the primary DH going into 2012. Betemit most certainly does not have the power numbers one would expect the DH to have but I don't feel that the Orioles need to worry about power numbers.
According to NBC Sports' Hardball talk, the Orioles' lineup is very intriguing. To them, the Birds have a very realistic chance at having eight players in the starting nine hit 20 or more homers. If that is the case then Betemit's primary job as DH is to maintain his high OBP, which is the one basic offensive statistic in which the Orioles were well-below league average last year.
The Betemit signing is a point to the engineering metaphor I mentioned earlier. This is the type of move that Billy Beane would have made a decade ago. Betemit's contract is for two years, with a third year option at a very affordable $3.25 million. If Betemit's option triggers the whole thing could cost the Orioles six million dollars. This is a good deal.
The Orioles are still linked to free-agent journeyman starter Edwin Jackson. Jackson is supposedly listening to offers from many teams and the Orioles may or may not have made him a specific multi-year offer. The Orioles' rumored offer is for either four guaranteed years or for three and an option. Jackson seems to be deciding between taking the multi-year deal or taking a one-year contract from the Boston Red Sox. For someone like Jackson, who has more frequent flier miles than he has career wins, the thought of a solid multi-year contract must be comforting but that means playing for a team that will most likely be on the short-end of the stick for a long time. On the other hand you could continue your rambling-man ways and play for one year in New York or Boston knowing there is a good chance you could either be traded or dropped after one year yet again.
As we all wait for Jackson to make a choice the Orioles continue to plug along. Joe Strauss, a beat writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch dropped this cryptic tweet yesterday:
Cards fans may start paying attention to the Baltimore Orioles. #Developing
Twitter is a wonderful tool, but it can also be maddening: see above. There may or may not be a deal in the pre-natal stages between the Orioles and Cardinals. We can sit here and speculate who might be involved, but my guess is Jeremy Guthrie. I have no idea what might be coming back but I would wager that any deal with Guthrie involved would have to bring back some minor league depth and at least one near MLB-ready second baseman. The Cards have a couple older-prospect types shuffling around their infield that could help the Orioles out. Matt Capenter will be 27 years-old this this year and has put up an OBP over .400 in his minor league career. This is just some quick back-of-the-envelope scanning but there are some players that the O's could really make use of in the Cards' organization.
Pitchers and catchers will report to Sarastoa, Florida in just a couple of weeks and you get the feeling that even after that the Orioles' roster may not be totally set. Last week the Orioles held their annual fanfest. While Anthony used his press-pass credentials to get the behind-the-scenes stories I chose to remain out front. Fanfest is a funny event, no matter how troubled the team's situation may be there is always a sense of hope and optimism. Seeing the players smile and sign autographs all day brings back that sense of fun that baseball brings.
The fans that wandered the floor, and the Pratt St. Ale House across the street, all had the same thing to say: "I just don't know". Everyone was looking forward to the season, but with a sense of trepidation that one has when they are up for a performance review at their job.
Yes Prince Fielder is off the market, but it took a contract that could completely erase the City of Detroit's budget deficit and leave a lot of money left over so let that sink in for a minute. Fielder was never coming here and he certainly wasn't going to get a contract anywhere near what the Tigers have shelled out for the slugger. Still, I don't think the 2012 Orioles roster is completely set yet. More moves should be made and I think we will see a trade or two. Will they be gigantic blockbusters? Probably not, still the team keeps plugging along, marching toward opening day. It remains to be seen whether or not this series of small moves and changes off-the-field will result in more wins in 2012 but as Spring approaches one can only hope.
In my opinion, the O's just seem to be content with a 3rd or 4th place finish year in and year out. Never willing to make that BIG move to acquire super talent to take them to the top. THAT frustrates the fan base immensely. Other small market teams seem to be able to do it, but not our beloved O's. We are becoming the Cubs of the American League!!
Unfortunately, we have the Yankees, Boston, Toronto, and the Rays in the same conference...CLEARLY the toughest in MLB. So, we puddle along, making patch work trades and keep hearing "we're rebuilding", "young pitching staff", and "new management team is needed". All the while watching ticket sales go down and Yankee, Red Sox fans fill the stadium when they're in town.
One of these days, Angelos will be gone and new ownership blood will be infused with some courage and those trades will be made. Until that time we'll ho-hum our way to another 3rd or 4th place finish.
But I love my O's!!!