It’s hard for me to be cynical about the the Baltimore Orioles after they won the American League East by 12 games last season. Call me a orange pom-pom toting apologist if you like.
It’s only sort of true.
Around these parts (these parts being Twitter, this blog and sports talk radio), the O’s have been chastised for a slow and disappointing offseason. I’m not sure if anyone really thought they’d be out dropping $200 million on free agent starter Max Scherzer or maybe fans are all just bummed that Colby Rasmus has been the biggest named linked the Birds on MLB Trade Rumors.
I get it. Flashy offseasons are exciting for baseball fans. The Winter Meetings can be almost as cool as October for some fan bases.
For me though, the O’s slow offseason is perfectly explainable. I see it four ways.
1. Did I Mention The Orioles Won The AL East By 12 Games?
Which clubs have had the best offseason? Here, I’ll answer my own question for you.
- San Diego Padres
- Chicago White Sox
- Boston Red Sox
- Toronto Blue Jays
Those four clubs averaged 76 wins in 2014. Only one of them had a winning season (Blue Jays, 83 wins). The Padres, White Sox, Red Sox and Blue Jays have been aggressive because they’re the most desperate. How impressive has San Francisco’s winter looked?
The Orioles don’t have to be as aggressive as the teams that were on the outside looking in.
And haven’t we learned by now that the best offseasons don’t always translate to success between April-October? See: 2011 Red Sox, 2012 Blue Jays.
2. Biggest Impact Players Are Already On The Roster
The un-fun answer disappointed Orioles fans continue to hear about the slow offseason is that the Orioles biggest impact players are coming off injuries and/or adderall suspensions in 2015. Sure, the O’s will be without Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller, but they should be getting back full seasons from a healthy Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis.
Markakis projects to be a 1.1 WAR player in 2015, Cruz a 1.4 WAR according to FanGraphs steamer projections. The O’s are expected to get 3.1 WAR from Wieters, 5.1 from Machado and 2.2 from Davis. I added it up for you, that’s 10.4 WAR from guys that produced just 3.9 WAR last season.
Even without Cruz and Markakis’ projections (2.5 WAR), the O’s are still a better team assuming these three are healthy.
3. An Extension Storm Is Brewing
Let me read you a list:
- Wei-Yin Chen
- Bud Norris
- Tommy Hunter
- Ryan Webb
- Darren O’Day
- Delmon Young
- Alejandro De Aza
- Steve Pearce
- Chris Davis
- Matt Wieters
Good names, right? There are some real impact players listed above. What’s the significance?
Those guys are all free agents after the 2015 season. All of ’em! I have to wonder if this winter’s focus has been more on locking up some of the talent on the Orioles roster rather than making it rain on the free agent market.
4. Payroll Uncertainty
Last but certainly not least has to be the payroll uncertainty of a baseball team that is defending its TV contract in court. There has to be some concern about payroll given the fact that that at any moment, MASN could have to pay the Nationals a greater percentage in rights fees.
I don’t no how long this dispute will draw out or what impact it will ultimately have on the Orioles payroll and I’m certainly not a financial expert, but there’s not doubt that things could change greatly for the Orioles after this dispute is finally put to rest.