Sunday, January 29, 2012

Where do the O's go now?

Many O's fans were frustrated by the O's seemingly tepid interest in the Prince Fielder pursuit this offseason.  However, upon hearing the terms of his contract with Detroit, cooler heads prevailed and O's fans realized that they should thank Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette for not signing him.  That said, it does leave a hole in the heart of O's fans, as yet another offseason has passed without a major addition (so far at least).  This leaves O's fans with the following question:  What now?

To me, the O's have 2 likely directions to go (assuming we've learned anything from the past 14 years or so).  Let's tackle the better of the two options first.

Best Case Scenario

In 2012 some of the O's young pitchers show some growth and development, and give the team something to move forward from.  Young hitters continue to show annual improvement and dispel some of the critics they've had throughout their young careers.  Wieters has improved every year, and Jones has shown he's a premium talent in CF (especially if you don't put a lot of faith into his UZR ratings, which I don't).
Young guys like Dylan Bundy, Manny Machado, Parker Bridwell, etc. continue to develop and are beginning to push their way into the conversation.

Heading into 2013 the O's peruse the Free Agent market and make attempts to sign impact players.  Cole Hamels and Zach Greinke are the most likely 'Aces' to be available as Matt Cain is almost assured a contract extension in San Francisco.  Perhaps Hamels and Greinke aren't cost-effective for the club and they begin to pursue potential trades.  Targets could include Tim Lincecum or Felix Hernandez, but would more likely be for younger, up-and-coming pitchers with a few years of control left.  Hitters are also an area where the team could improve, and targets could include David Wright (who could be a FA pending an option) or Joey Votto.

If the O's follow this plan to success, and some suggest this might be the path they take, it very well could follow the path that other teams like the Rangers have taken.  However, this is no slam dunk by any means, and things could go very very differently.

Worst Case Scenario

2012 is merely 2011 rehashed, and the O's young stars continue hinting that they'll never become the stars O's fans had hoped for.  Guys like Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta don't develop as the organization would like and the team realizes competing in the stacked AL East, even with an extra wildcard isn't likely.

Unfortunately for O's fans, stories like this will become all too common.  The organization, realizing the window to compete comes further in the future, will have to maximize its return on the young players and get a new bunch of prospects to give it another go.  This new group will feature Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy, and will likely include stars from trades involving guys like Matusz, Tillman, Jones, Wieters and Hardy.  This is obviously not what O's fans want to see, but it's possible, so you can't ignore it as a possibility.

What's Gonna Happen?

Honestly I think it will be a little bit of both.  Some of the young guys like Wieters and Jones have show that they are developing each year and getting better.  Others have struggled.  I think that the team can put itself in position to fight for a wild card spot in 2013 or 2014 if a few things break the right way and the front office continues to try to improve the player development department.  It's not going to be easy, but the O's have young impact players, and that's the best place to start.


  1. Great post, Jeff. Being realistic with guarded optimism is the best approach to the Orioles. We need to mold our approach to that of the Tampa Bay Rays and continue to draft and develop our own talent so that we can field a quality major league team. It would also allow the Orioles to parlay this talent into impact players from other teams via trade. I am always excited to see the start to a new year, but this year we need to have a lot more go right than wrong or else it will be another frustrating season for orioles fans.

  2. Nick, that's exactly right. The nice thing is that recently the O's have gone about it the right way. Focus on the draft (Hobgood withstanding), develop prospect, and find smaller pieces to compliment them.

    That's much more sustainable than trying to continually fill holes with veterans. I'm glad the O's didn't go after guys like Cuddyer because that philosophy got us 14 straight losing seasons.

  3. Those stopgaps never seem to work in favor of the orioles. Hardy has been a great pickup and veteran acquisitions like that are much more tolerable and fruitful in my opinion. Pieces are starting to fall into place now and I really like the direction that Duquette is going. It seemed like Macphail was content heading into each offseason banking that the young unknowns of the team would all simultaneously develop into all star caliber players and we all know how that plan worked out. Duquette is basically proving that nobody is safe on this roster because of the way the team has performed in the past. Go O's.

  4. Exactly Nick. Hardy is the perfect player to bring in. The guy hit .283/.343/.478 in 2008. So you knew he could hit and has always been a solid defender. We got him for basically nothing and used him to fill a hole. It worked out, but even if it didn't, it wouldn't have hurt us in the least.

    Low risk/high Reward. This is why the Chen & Wada signings (impacted by the good things Koji said about the team & city) were great pickups by Duquette.

  5. I don't really think there's a lot of choice about what to do. This year is not going to be a breakout year. Maybe the Orioles will win more games than last year (amazing they won 69 with that starting pitching!) but they won't get out of fifth. And free agents don't flock to a last place team in a division as tough as the AL East. McPhail's approach did not work. It wasted money (on Guerrero, Lee) and left the minors fairly thin on talent. The only hitters we can expect to improve are Wieters and Jones. The Chen and Wada may add a few wins. Some of the young pitchers might improve...