Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thinking Outside The Batter's Box

Okay, stay with me on this one...

I know it is football season, and the Ravens have a big game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, which is a nice warm up for the national game of the week the following Sunday when they host the Steelers in prime time. But I've had a hot stove itch in my head for a few days, and I need to get radical on this.

The Orioles need to sign Derek Jeter.

Yes, it has been talked about in recent days, most notably by Ron Fritz. At first I scoffed at the idea. His numbers are declining and he is 36, so odds are it was less a statistical aberration and more a sign of what is to come. And since he was offered 3 years, $45 million by the Yankees, the O's would have to probably cough up in the neighborhood of $55 over 3 years to have any chance of swaying him to come here (assuming that the Yankees wouldn't match the offer or at least try to meet Jeter halfway). But the Yankees have told Jeter to feel free to test the free agent market, and I want to see the O's do more than kick the tires on this. Why?

His glove is not quite as good as Cesar Izturis, but his numbers (even on an off year) crush Izturis. And I think that a change of scenery would be the kind of thing that would up his game. A lot of players use slights, both real and imaginary, as motivation. And Jeter seems (to me, at least) to be the kind of guy who would look at the 15 years that he has given the Yankees, the leadership and steadiness that he has provided, and look at the current offer as a slap in the face. And if THAT happens then he might just take a deal that would let him shove it down their throats. Like Ron Fritz said, Jeter is only 74 hits from 3,000. To deny the Yankees the chance to make a big deal out of it would be some nice revenge. He doesn't need to switch teams to make one last grab at a ring (he's got a few of those), his legacy in baseball is secure, he is playing now for pride.

Buck Showalter is a great manager, and the Orioles are lucky to have him. He has won everywhere he has managed. But the impact of a player with the jewelry to back up his words has a cache that Showalter cannot touch. Imagine what he could do with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Felix Pie, and Matt Wieters. I know Showalter would welcome the addition of someone who has been to the pinnacle bending the ears of his young players, reinforcing what he is saying. He would provide valuable protection to Brian Roberts by batting in the 2 hole, and between the two of them they could set a lot of plates for the young 'uns to clear.

To wit, let's look at a possible lineup if the Orioles DO sign Derek Jeter...

  1. Roberts 2B
  2. Jeter SS
  3. Jones CF
  4. 1B
  5. Luke Scott DH
  6. Markakis RF
  7. Wieters C
  8. 3B
  9. Pie LF
I'm leaving 1B and 3B empty for now because the hope here is that there is at least one corner infield signing, and maybe Ty Wigginton comes back for the other slot. My ultimate hope is a big bat for 1B and Wigginton for 3B, but with Victor Martinez signing with Detroit and Washington offering Adam Dunn arbitration, my top choice for 1B is out, and my 2nd choice isn't looking too promising. Wigginton could come back and play 1st or Scott could fill in there, but neither option is ideal. I really don't think Paul Konerko or Adrian Beltre will come to Baltimore to play right now since both have previously turned down lucrative contracts from the team (in Konerko's case he wound up signing for less to return to the Chicago White Sox). Thinking way outside the box, the Orioles could pursue Vladimir Guerrero for DH and move Scott to 1B permanently. Granted, Guerrero is another player that decided to not take an Orioles offer years ago, but since he was offered MORE money by a team that was a serious World Series contender, that is a little more palatable. Plus, he is not going to have the same kinds of offers that Konerko and Beltre are going to get, AND he was not offered arbitration by the Texas Rangers, so there is no draft pick compensation required if the O's do sign him. Do I think that Scott can be a serviceable 1B? Yeah. He won't be great, but I don't think he'll be horrible. And since he has said on multiple occasions that he prefers to play in the field over DH, it could help his numbers. Wigginton at 3B and Scott at 1B with a 36 going on 37 SS and a 32 going on 33 2B who missed the majority of last season with back issues is not the greatest recipe for success, but it might be the best that the team can do.

Now the pragmatist in me thinks that this just ain't happening. In fact, I really don't know who the Orioles will be able to convince to come here. But that is the beauty of the hot stove season. So let's see what Andy MacPhail can pull out of his bag of tricks this off-season.

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