Orioles Don’t Have To Win The Offseason To Return To The Playoffs

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t sign Zack Greinke and they probably won’t lock up Josh Hamilton, Kyle Lohse or Anibal Sanchez either. They let Mark Reynolds walk, re-signed Nate McLouth to a one-year deal and have been stock piling players from the independent leagues the past couple weeks.

There. Now you’re caught up on what’s going on this winter in Birdland.

Fans in Baltimore have been venting about the O’s minor acquisitions and lack of interest in the big free agents. Although they’re the same folks that think firing Cam Cameron will solve all of the Ravens problems.

It should be noted that the Orioles didn’t make any big splashes in last year’s free agent market either. Dan Duquette was hired just before the 2011 Winter Meetings and the Birds’ biggest acquisitions last winter included names like Darren O’Day, Ryan Flaherty, Dana Eveland, Wei-Yin Chen and Wilson Betemit.

Those guys didn’t particularly grab big headlines in November, December and January, but they sure did in August, September and October.

On Monday night, the Orioles signed righty Kyle Mertins from the American Association. According to MASNSports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Mertins was drafted in the 28th-round pick of the 2010 draft by the Atlanta Braves and went 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA in 45 relief appearances for the Sioux Falls Pheasants last year.

So there’s that.

Kubatko notes that the O’s have also signed American Association pitchers Marcel Prado from El Paso and Chase Johnson from Amarillo, and outfielder Buddy Sosnoski from Fargo-Moorehead. They’ve hit up the Frontier League as well, signing lefty Logan Mahon from Gateway, shortstop Chris Wade from Windy City and catcher Jim Vahalik from the Washington Wild Things.

The Wild Things. I love it.

The Orioles aren’t interested in signing Nick Swisher and, as of now, seem content with Chris Davis replacing Mark Reynolds at first. I don’t know if they’ll trade for a guy like Michael Morse or Justin Morneau, two power hitting first baseman, or if they’ll just look for a capable right handed platoon bat to pair with Wilson Betemit in the DH role.

Orioles looking to add right handed platoon bat with Wilson Betemit?

Betemit hit .302/.357/.502 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI in 280 plate appearances against right handed pitching. He batted just .140/.219/.186 with one homer and 10 RBI in 91 plate appearances against lefties.

Adding a platoon bat is much less exciting than signing Josh Hamilton, but only until the team starts winning actual ballgames in April, as opposed to games on paper in December. Marlins fans thought their team won a lot of these virtual games when their team signed Heath Bell last winter. But given the choice between signing Bell (4-5, 5.09 ERA, 2.03 K/BB) or Darren O’Day (7-1, 2.28 ERA, 4.93 K/BB), I think Miami would take the O’s winter acquisitions any day of the week.

But the Fish were the kings of the offseason in 2011. As were the Angels. And both teams sat at home watching the Orioles in October.

You don’t have to win the offseason to win in the regular season. The Orioles clearly have a plan and a direction for their franchise and Dan Duquette is sticking with it. After last season’s success, let’s hold off on the sarcastic tweets and comments until we see how this team performs on the diamond.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @zamwi or send him an email: zach@baltimoresportsreport.com.

Zach Wilt is the Founding Editor of BaltimoreSportsReport.com and host of the BSR Podcast. He's a loyal Orioles, Ravens and Capitals fan who is obsessed with baseball, loves traveling, In-N-Out Burger and Walt Disney World.

23 Comments

  1. Anvil

    December 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

    If this is the way to build a team than the O’s should win the NL East, the Pirates will win the NL Central, and the Houston Astros will seriously compete in the AL West. Give me a break.

    • Zach Wilt

      December 11, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Like the A’s winning the AL West?

      • Anvil

        December 11, 2012 at 11:24 am

        I’m not saying it can’t happen but it isn’t formula to build a consistent winner. I don’t think the O’s have big holes to fill, my concern is the guys counted on last year very well might have a sophomore slump. None of them had the success they had last year, odds are the magic won’t be the same in 2013 as it was in 2012. I was hoping for small inhancements to the lineup.

        • Anvil

          December 11, 2012 at 11:31 am

          This also is very much the same formula they used since 1998, one positive year out of fifteen isn’t what I would consider a good percentage for success.

          • Zach Wilt

            December 11, 2012 at 11:48 am

            Actually, this is the complete opposite of 1998. The Orioles signed Albert Belle to a five-year, $65 million deal that offseason. He was the highest paid player in the league. This winter, the O’s are looking to not repeat that mistake.

            1998 is what they’re avoiding.

  2. Anvil

    December 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I hope so, I’m not looking for a Josh Hamilton type move but maybe going after LaRoche for first base might be a good idea. I don’t think LaRoche will break the bank. Getting a proven starting pitcher to anchor the staff. Hammel, Gonzolez, Chen looked good last year but they will have to prove they can do it again. This club seems to be under the assumption the players will perform the same in 2013 as last year, that isn’t always the case.

    • BirdlandSteve

      December 17, 2012 at 8:58 am

      They got Nate McClouth! What more do they need guys??????

  3. Chico

    December 12, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Glad to hear the delusional homer perspective. Where we are to expect the Orioles to break more 122 year old records in their charge to the playoffs in 2013, by throwing a bunch of s%^& at the wall and seeing what sticks like they did in 2012. I mean it could happen, again. It worked for the 14 years before th……oh nevermind.

  4. Dan

    December 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Anyone who thinks the Orioles are doing the “same old same old” and just lucked into a freak-never-happen-again scenario in 2012, hasn’t been paying attention. DD came on board and saw that the “cupboard was bare” in the minors and went about stocking it with players–granted, not All Stars–but players with certain talents and skills that he and his staff could see had potential to help the big league club…like Bill Hall and Miguel Gonzales and…well, you know. THIS is how the Orioles went about producing competitive, winning teams in the late 70s and into the 80s, with a manager who knew how to take guys like Ayala and Roenicke and Lowenstein (how many All Star games did THOSE guys ever make?) and make it work on the field. Looking over the past 30 years, whenever the Orioles have tried to get the BIG NAME GUY, it’s almost always blown up in our faces. Albert Belle? Glenn Davis? Tejada was an exception but he’s proof that one big bat isn’t enough…you need to have the rest of a strong lineup, pitching, hitting and defense, around you. Would it be nice to have Josh Hamilton? Sure. Adam LaRoche? You bet. But what’s even better is to invest in a system that produces your OWN Hamiltons and LaRoches and Greinkes, etc. And that’s what DD is doing. I love his work in the international market, this is A MUST and something I’ve been crying, shouting, whining about for 20+ years. A half billion Russians and none can play ball? The O’s just signed their first guy out of Europe and there’s more where that came from. What they should be doing is starting baseball academies in these countries, working with the kids there to get them involved in the game, and we’ve got THE best ambassador for the game, Cal Ripken, Jr., who is already going all over the world, spreading the news and putting the ORIOLE BRAND on it. DD is taking steps that will not only result in fielding a competitive team tomorrow, but a world champion in years to come. Say what you will, but for the first time in a long time there’s a definite feel that this team is finally…FINALLY…headed in the right direction. I said that this past offseason and we went to the playoffs. I say it even more emphatically now.

  5. Dan

    December 12, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    On a totally unrelated note, was reading an article in the Sun about the O’s signing Conor Jackson as another “reclamation project.” The article noted how well he was playing with the Diamondbacks but then dropped off after 2008…nothing in the article as to WHY. Was he injured? Did he have surgery? Was surprised that the reporter didn’t bother to do any research or if he did, it didn’t appear in the story. So, I went online and found an article in the New York Times which explained that Jackson had contracted “valley fever, a fungal disease that results from exposure to airborne spores of a fungus that lives in the soil and blows around in dry weather. It is a disease that is endemic to the desert regions of the Southwest.” He was put on all manner of antibiotics and lost 30 pounds as a result of the illness. I think this is an important bit of information. It’s one thing to say a guy just lost his skills (Garrett Atkins anyone?), but another if a player has been battling an injury or illness. Here’s hoping Conor puts it together and is another pleasant surprise for the O’s.

  6. MGW

    December 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Dan,

    Great analysis and interesting stuff on Jackson. Let’s hope he’s healthy, for his sake, and rejuvenates his career for the sake of the tem.

  7. Ravens2488

    December 13, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Dan, you work for the Orioles I’m guessing cause if not, you should cause your a great bullshitter like the rest of the Orioles brass. Take the blinders off Dan.

    I will say I do agree with your comments about the O’s of old getting guys like Roenicke, Ayala, etc… but that was a different time and era Buddy. It’s one thing to get those guys who actually were quite decent for their old teams then to go to the Glen Burnie County League and sign players from that league or to go to the Czech Republic, that hotbed of baseball, and sign Vladmir Yushkof which is actually a decent grab considering the 16 year old softball player from New Zealand that the O’s took last year.

    This team ain’t doing it for the players, they are doing it because they are CHEAP, plain and simple… There are alot of mid-level players out there like a Roenicke or Ayala that the O’s can get but they won’t because they don’t want to spend money. Thus they reach into the “American Association of All-Stars That No One Knows About” to sign guys for pennies and “Oriole Homers” like you think they have a plan. Yeah, they have a plan, to give you a cheap product so you keep spending your money at Camden Yards.

  8. Dave

    December 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Right Ravens2488, because there’s a clear correlation between payroll and World Series wins. That’s why the Yankees always win the World Series, and why the Angels and Dodgers will be in the World Series next year. Oh wait…

    • Ravens2488

      December 13, 2012 at 7:02 pm

      Actually Dave I said nothing about dollars to World Series wins. You read into it but I do agree with your comment. There is no correlation between payroll and World Series win but think of this…

      The last 15 World Series victors were an average of the 8th highest payroll in baseball…

      Put it this way… It helps…

      If your content with 1 Orioles winning season in the last 15 years then your good to go.

      And by the way, those three teams you mentioned, the Dodgers, Yankees and Angels have won 5 of the past 15 World Series. Add the 2nd highest payroll for most years, the Red Sox and that is 7 World Series wins by four teams.

      Oh yeah and if you think the Giants are a small market team, they were 8th highest each year they won the World Series.

      Like I said, I agree with your comment, I’m just saying that spending money on players, HELPS the teams. Nothing more.

      Like the A’s, Billey Beane is doing a fantastic job with the money he has. But you know as well as I do that that dude is a different bird than the other GM’s. Beane doesn’t grab from the “Dundalk Semi-Pro League” for players. Beane makes shrewd moves with his veterans and good players for minor leaguers that will help him in a year or two. Then they play for a few years and he trades them for more top level minor leaguers. That guy is on a constant Ferris Wheel with his moves.

  9. anvil

    December 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I guess the question is how often do you want to win? The teams like Baltimore and Oakland can’t compete year in and year out. Zach’s response to me was how the Oakland A’s won the AL West. How far did they get in the playoffs, not very. The argument I hear on the Ravens is playoffs every year aren’t good enough, the only gauge is world champion. Is baseball different? With the MLB rules is making the playoffs every few years good enough for a small to medium market team? I SF considered a small market because they share a city with Oakland? Are small to medium market cities doomed in MLB or is it an easy excuse to use?

  10. Dave

    December 13, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    The Rays have been extremely competitive despite having a very low payroll. Have they won anything yet? No, but they have always been right in the mix for a playoff spot or in the playoffs ever since 2008. For small and medium market teams, it’s about how you spend your money. The Orioles are doing so in a very wise manner. They’re refusing to give in to giving out stupid contracts like the ones given out thus far this off season. I agree that the Orioles probably won’t be spenders at least until Angelos sells the team or dies, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t consistently contend. And once you get into the playoffs, hottest team usually wins. It’s a crap shoot.

    • Ravens2488

      December 13, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Dave, I again agree with you on not shelling out big bucks for guys like Hamilton and such. However, it would be nice to spend money on the next tier of players for help.

      Let me ask you a question… You happy and content with the Orioles rotation right now? It’s basically the same as last year.

      • Dave

        December 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

        In this market? Pretty much, yes. If there’s a reasonable bargain to be had at first base, would love to upgrade there. A platoon partner at DH who can play multiple positions and hit lefties would be a nice piece to add as well. This team won 90+ games last year as is, and that was without a full year from Tillman, Markakis, Gonzalez, Machado, McLouth, etc. And it’s not like this team is aging like the Yankees. This is a young and hungry team. Give me that over old guys.

  11. Anvil

    December 14, 2012 at 9:15 am

    The argument with keeping the status quo is the assumption these players will be able to do it again this year and there is no history to support that. Nate McClouth was cut by the Braves while hitting .190 and .228 for them in 2010-11. Then he was cut again by the team that drafted him because he was hitting .140. Tillman was 7-15 with a 5.59 era from 2009-11, Gonzalez and Machado have not history prior to 2012 to show a trend of solid play.
    I do agree with Dave’s statement that this team is young and hungry which makes things exciting. I just think there will be hiccups along the way in 2013 with these unproven people. Don’t expect the magic of 2012 if the front office decides to stick with the status quo, too many other teams are making roster improvements.

    • Dave

      December 14, 2012 at 11:43 am

      Oh, like what teams? The Red Sox are overpaying for mediocrity, the Yankees are getting older by the minute, and the Jays just traded for the “stars” of the same team that had a meltdown this season. Reyes is legit, everybody else they got is extremely questionable. Other than the Rays, I’m not seeing it. Sometimes it’s wisest to stand pat, and this offseason is one of those times. I become more sure of that with every stupid contract signing.

      I’m not worried about Tillman if he continues to consistently throw strikes like he did last year. Solid #3-#4 pitcher. Gonzalez knows how to pitch and consistently keeps his pitches down, so I’m not worried about him. Nothing I saw from Machado suggested that he isn’t ready for the majors. And do you realize why Nate was so bad for a few years? He had to have a sports hernia surgery in I think 2009 or 2010 and he never fully recovered from it until last year.

      • MGW

        December 14, 2012 at 10:35 pm

        Dave, please keep posting. You are talking me off the ledge.
        I agree that the Red Sox have gotten themselves into another financial hole with fringe platoon players. You are also right about the Jays. The trade reminded me of the Dodgers this summer taking players who couldn’t win with the Red Sox and thinking things will be different with them, except they raided the malcontents from the Marlins. The Yankees broke down in August with their old men running out of gas only to muster enough to barely beat out an inexperienced Oriole team in the ALDS. Tampa probably did the most reloading, but may not be ready for prime time this year. I would still like to see the 23 homers we lost with no longer having Reynolds at first.

  12. 9inchnails

    December 15, 2012 at 11:18 am

    There is no way the Orioles will go as far with the same team. Anyone who thinks so is delusional. Those teams we snuck up on will be waiting for us next year. All those one run games are not going to happen to go in our favor again. All you have to do is to look at is the damage our offense did in the Yankees series. We need a big consistent bat. It ain’t in Wieters’ hands.

    And yes, firing Cameron will turn the Rva]]avens offense around. He should have never been hired.

  13. Anvil

    December 17, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I agree with 9 inch on this one. The other teams have gotten to see Chen, Gonzalez, Tillman, plus having film and tendancies to study which they didn’t have last season. The O’s will not be catching the same magic they did last season because those things just don’t happen, year after year, after year. The O’s didn’t need to break the bank but they should have made some deals with middle tier players that could have helped the team. Let’s see how fast people jump off the wagon when the wheels start to fall off next spring.