Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Professional Opinion On The O's Off-Season

Tim Dierkes of MLBTraderumors posted his review of the Orioles' off-season today. Taking it piece by piece:
"In September, I said that I didn't see the need for the Orioles to throw away $5MM+ on a veteran innings eater despite their rotation uncertainty. They did just that on Uehara (assuming he can indeed eat innings). I don't mind the signing though - the dollars weren't huge and the team entered the Japanese market. And maybe there's something to be said for adding a little stability behind Jeremy Guthrie."
I agree on both counts. I was very worried (relatively speaking) that the O's would throw a bunch of money at Jon Garland for 200 innings of 5.25 tRA (90ish tRA+) "production". Getting Uehara pretty cheaply (even with only 150 IP or so) is a solid move given the positive externalities associated with it. (Oh yeah - I've got an economics degree.)
"The Orioles' rotation, dead last in the AL in ERA last year, almost can't help but be better after subtracting the 6.00+ ERAs of Burres, Olson, and others. What can we say about Uehara, Hill, Eaton, Hendrickson, Parrish, Pauley, and Hennessey? They're different, at least, and aside from Uehara they cost next to nothing. Even if one works out it's a win. In a perfect world the Orioles will have Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta in the 2010 rotation, so most of this winter's imports are placeholders. Wigginton, Zaun, and Izturis also fit the placeholder mold; they weren't terribly expensive."
There's a good chance that some of the pitchers he listed will also have ERAs above 6.00, but I imagine that this year those guys will get less innings. It's nice that the team finally realized that you can rebuild on the cheap without completely sucking.
"Over $30MM will come off the books for the O's after the '09 season, so Andy MacPhail can make a surgical free agent strike if the team is ready to contend. Matt Wieters may be an offensive force in the bigs by then, and you have to love Baltimore's outfield. MacPhail's biggest needs will be the positions easiest to fill - the infield corners and the DH spot."
That's a lot of money to play with, though it doesn't look like there are going to be many big-time free agents on the market after 2009. Besides - the team probably won't be really ready to contend until 2011, probably. The nice thing about the Wiggington/Scott combo, is that if the team keeps both for next year they have some pieces of the infield corners and DH filled.
"MacPhail's Nick Markakis extension should be commended; such deals are usually favorable to the team. Aspects of the Brian Roberts extension can be questioned, but it'll hardly cripple the team."
Say it with me now... $66 M is a steal. And he's probably right about Roberts' contract - $10 M in that last year will hurt if Brian is only a bench player (or out of baseball entirely), but it won't kill the team's budget if they make smart desicions between now and then.
"Bottom line: 2009 is a year of transition for the Orioles, a team that is getting younger, better, and cheaper. MacPhail's offseason additions didn't set the club back and a few could turn into long-term pieces."
Ding, ding, ding. With some other media outlets rating the O's off-season quite poorly (I think Jon Heyman had them 25th out of the 30 teams), it's nice to see someone that gets what's going on. Given where the team is on the contention curve (relatively low - especially in the AL East), the off-season went about as well as could be excepted. I think that bottom line is exactly right.

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