Monday, November 03, 2014

Looking Forward

Now that the World Series is over and I've had a little time to digest the way the season ended I think I can finally take a look at the Orioles offseason. Here is who we have under contract for 2015:

Guaranteed contracts

  • Dylan Bundy (2015)
  • Wei-Yin Chen (2015)
  • JJ Hardy (2017)
  • Ubaldo Jimenez (2017)
  • Adam Jones (2018)
  • Darren O'Day (2015)
  • Ryan Webb (2015)
  • Suk-Min Yoon (2016)
Arbitration Eligible players
  • Zach Britton
  • Chris Davis
  • Alejandro De Aza
  • Ryan Flaherty
  • Miguel Gonzalez
  • Tommy Hunter
  • Brian Matusz
  • Bud Norris
  • Steve Pearce
  • Chris Tillman
  • Matt Wieters
Notable Free Agents
  • Nelson Cruz
  • Nick Hundley
  • Nick Markakis
  • Andrew Miller
  • Delmon Young

In a perfect world the team would bring back all of these players, but this is not a perfect world so let's look at priorities. I said before the regular season ended that to my estimation resigning Hardy was bigger than anything else up to and including resigning Markakis not only because of Manny Machado's injury history but because it was quite possible that Hardy would've been signed by the Yankees (I don't know if you heard because it flew under the radar, but NY's SS retired after the season), a move that would've weakened the Orioles while strengthening a divisional opponent. Luckily Dan Duquette saw the logic in my stance and signed Hardy before the ALCS so that is one less thing to worry about.

There has been talk that the team and Markakis are in discussions on a 4 year deal in the neighborhood of $48M, which I think is fair market for a player of Markakis' caliber. I am confident that they will get it done, although nothing is certain. There was also talk that the O's have been negotiating with the agents for Nelson Cruz and Nick Hundley. Cruz doesn't surprise me at all even though I think he will wind up signing with another team I expect the team to give him a qualifying offer, getting a 1st round compensatory pick when he leaves. Since they gave up a 2nd round pick to sign him last offseason that is a pretty fair trade and will help cushion the blow of the 1st round pick in the 2014 draft they gave up to sign Jimenez. I think Andrew Miller is gone, possibly back to Boston but likely heading to the NL where my money is on the Dodgers or Cubs. I think they resign Young either as a platoon w/David Lough in LF / DH if they non-tender De Aza and don't resign Cruz or as a situational DH / pinch hitter extraordinaire if they do bring Cruz back. That leaves Nick Hundley.

When they traded for Hundley I thought it was an excellent idea. We had no place for Troy Patton, who had fallen into Buck Showalter's dog house after the amphetamine suspension in the offseason (sound familiar? This will all tie together in a moment) and when it was decided that Wieters needed the surgery it was a good fit. Patton would've been designated for assignment unless he agreed to stay in the minors so basically the team got a replacement part for a part that didn't fit anymore. So with Wieters on track to return in 2015 and with Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger on the 40 man roster why would they even entertain bringing Hundley back? Follow me on this:

While they have said all the right things it is pretty clear that Duquette and Buck Showalter are not happy with Chris Davis' suspension and what it did to the team down the stretch / in the playoffs. Both Davis and Wieters are in their final year of arbitration eligibility and are scheduled to be free agents after 2015. Until this season I thought the Orioles would try to sign Davis to a long term contract and say goodbye to Wieters. Now I'm not so sure. Clevenger, Joseph, and Pearce all have 1st base listed as one of their positions. No one knows yet how Wieters is going to return from Tommy John surgery but before Davis' breakout season there had been talk of moving Wieters to 1B in the near future to save his knees and possibly allow his production to increase / maximize his value. I would not be surprised to see Davis traded, or if he is not traded to see either Clevenger or Joseph (or both) in the minors next year rotating between catcher and 1B and DH (and don't forget 1B Christian Walker is going to be back at Norfolk after having a cup of coffee with the Orioles after Davis' suspension) and Wieters taking reps at 1B during his rehab and spring training. Even though we can expect Pearce's offense to regress at least a little bit in 2015 he played a decent 1B, and he is the kind of player that Showalter covets because of his versatility.

Payroll is definitely going up and that's before the arbitration players are signed (the Orioles have done a good job of avoiding the nastiness that is the arbitration process) and there are some places that the team may need to make a move or two. Currently they have six starting pitchers (Jimenez, Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Norris, and Kevin Gausman) plus Bundy who is coming back from Tommy John surgery and some arms in the minors who are knocking on the door in Mike Wright & Tim Berry. Tillman isn't going anywhere unless contract talks break down completely. Jimenez isn't going anywhere because no one will take him right now. The team has Gonzalez under control for the next 3 years. Gausman isn't even eligible for arbitration until 2017 and won't qualify for free agency until 2020 so I cannot see a way where he would be gone. That leaves Chen and Norris as candidates for a trade. Norris would get a better return but if either of them are moved my money is on Chen. Norris has a bulldog mentality that you could see rubbing off on Tillman and Gausman. It reminded me of Rick Sutcliffe's effect on Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald back in the early 90s. The outfield is crowded with or without signing Markakis and / or De Aza, but I wouldn't expect both of them back next year unless the team doesn't resign Cruz OR Young and doesn't bring anyone else in to fill the DH role, in which case Pearce is the likely DH with Wieters getting time there while he recovers and players like Jones, Markakis, and Davis getting time there to rest while keeping their bats in the line up. Lough had a horrible start to 2014 but he did come around some so I expect him to get a fair shake at being an every day player at one of the OF positions, usually LF but filling in at CF & RF as needed. Flaherty will continue to be the super sub at all four infield positions as well as OF if needed. The hope in the warehouse is that Machado's knee problems were the result of a flaw in both knees that the surgeries have corrected but until he plays a full season without knee problems there is no way of knowing, which makes Flaherty even more indispensable.

Knowing Dan Duquette he will make some moves that leave us scratching our heads and sign a few guys with ML experience to minor league deals. Some will work out, some won't. But if the last few years are any indication the Hot Stove League will be an interesting time for Orioles fans. At this point all we can do is sit back and see what happens.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Drinking Party

For those who know me as Fake_Buck on the Twitter, here is your chance to drink with the guy you find moderately amusing. So below please sound off on some good date / time combos for you and I will pick the one that works best for most people.

Breathe Deep The Gathering Gloom

I should be working right now.

I have a pile of paperwork that isn't getting any smaller and a report that my boss wants yesterday staring me in the face and I just don't care. Why? Because barring a miracle the Orioles season will be over soon, possibly today, and that is all I can think about.

When the playoffs started there were two teams I had no problem with playing and beating and two teams that I felt like, if my team had to lose I wanted it to be to one of these teams. I was all for playing and beating the A's and the Angels. The A's because of all the drama between us this year and the Angels because it feels like they are trying to become the Yankees / Red Sox of the West. I wasn't as gung ho about facing the Tigers or the Royals. The Tigers because while they have spent money and they have had success they haven't won the World Series since the year after we did and because if ANY city could use something to rally around it is Detroit, and the Royals because they reminded me of the O's. Scrappy team with young talent, fighting to break through against some big money teams, a long playoff drought, and passionate fans. If the O's weren't in the playoffs I would have been the biggest Royals backer in the mid-Atlantic. But now things have changed...

It's a lot of little things that have me so distracted. The biggest thing is how close these games have been. Mental errors cost us Game 1 and Games 2 & 3 could've gone either way. I think I'd rather lose by 6 than by 1, because in the close losses you keep looking back and thinking "if we had just done this ONE THING we would've won". When you get blown out you just tip your cap and say "it wasn't our night" and move on. It still hurts to lose, but not nearly as much (at least not to me). But the bigger thing is how the Royals have been acting. I get that Jarrod Dyson is young and I know sports have changed from when I played and trash talking is commonplace but I was surprised that none of the veterans pulled him aside and told him to dial down the rhetoric. Even so, it wasn't nearly as hurtful to me as a fan as the shirt that Jeremy Guthrie had on in the post game press conference last night. In case you are the one fan who hasn't seen it, here it is:

It just feels like such a slap in the face to O's fans, especially since so many of us have been supportive of him even after he was traded to the Rockies a few years ago. I and other O's fans have interacted with him on Twitter and he has acknowledged the love we have continued to show him. I have to think he still has some friends on the O's roster. I know it is a business to the players and they don't have our passions for our teams but still that has to be a slap in the face to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Tillman, Nick Markakis and who knows who else. I think more than anything I am disappointed in him. I expected a guy who wears his faith as such a badge of honor to not slap a fan base in the face and he is a smart guy who knew exactly how we fans would react. Jeremy Guthrie lost a fan last night. I have no doubt that my statement is as impotent to him as the patron who declares "I will never shop here again" when they don't get what they want from a store, but it is what it is. I was a Jeremy Guthrie fan regardless of uniform because I saw him give everything he had every time he took the mound for my team. Last night he spat in my face.

If a miracle happens (and it could) I will be watching every inning of the World Series. If it doesn't, I will likely take a break from baseball for a while. I am sure with some distance from the season I will look back and have some good thoughts on what has so far been an incredible season and a resilient team that refused to believe what everyone outside of Baltimore thought about them. I will look at the preseason predictions and smile because pretty much no one thought we would be any good this year. But I will need a few weeks at least before I can accept perspective. It's too raw right now.

Like I said last night: The problem with living and dying with your team is that dying REALLY hurts.

But some deaths hurt worse than others.

EDIT: Guthrie has since come out and apologized "if anyone was offended" by his shirt. According to the Baltimore Sun, he also said:

"My positive feelings for the Charm City, O's organization, my former teammates and O's fans is well documented," Guthrie tweeted, according to the Sun. "Nothing I wore [Tuesday night] changes that."

According to the ESPN story that second tweet has since been deleted from Guthrie's Twitter account.

I guess it is up to those of us who were offended / bothered / saddened by the whole thing to decide if we think he meant it last night or this morning.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Time To Do What's Right

It took a lot to bring me out of my self imposed retirement. Life does that. But the newly leaked Ray Rice video has put me over the edge.

Before the video came out I was in the camp that believed Rice deserved at least a 4-6 game suspension, but that also thought that we did not know what the NFL and the team knew and had not seen that they had seen. Now this video has surfaced. According to the league they were not given access to this by the New Jersey Police Department. It is your choice whether or not you want to take them at their word on that. If they are telling the truth then this new evidence means that they have to revisit Rice's suspension. If the are not telling the truth then the league has lost a LOT of credibility in how they handled this.

There has been a lot of vitriol and venom being spewed (and rightfully so) online. Calls for Rice to be suspended indefinitely and cut from the team. I cannot say that I disagree with those sentiments. I also understand that this is a business and there is a union involved. Any action by the league or the team is going to be met with a reaction by the NFL Players Association. Whether they want to or not they have to. It's no different that the MLB union defending Alex Rodriguez during the last round of steroid allegations. The job of the union is to defend it's members no matter what.

As I was writing this the Ravens terminated Ray Rice's contract, which puts an end to a lot of the points I was going to make. From now on this issue will be resolved in the courts and by whatever team decides to take a chance on him, which will happen eventually. It is difficult for me to hold true to this sometimes, but I believe everyone deserves a second chance. Lord knows I have been given a few. I am a pit bull owner but I still supported Michael Vick being allowed back into the league once he paid his debt to society. I feel the same way about Ray Rice. He deserves to be punished. He deserves every bit of anger and vitriol being cast at him. He deserves all of that and more. He also deserves a chance to take that punishment and then return to society and work again. This is not sports related so much as it is societal, but this lifetime condemnation of someone for a sin no matter how egregious only leads to more and worse actions. So my advice for Mr. Rice is to not fight this, to not ask the NFLPA to stand for him. Instead, he should continue in the program he was enrolled in as part of his plea bargain. He should accept any retroactive punishment the league gives him without comment or complaint. Maybe, by his actions, he can return one day, if not as a player than as a cautionary tale. That might just be his best hope at this point. In the meantime, Ray, you have a lot more to worry about than what is going to happen when your daughter Googles you.