Jun 8, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (31) throws in the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles: Dan Duquette Dodged Dumb Deals in Offseason

Looking back now at some of the deals that Baltimore Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette did NOT do in the offseason makes him look a bit smarter at this moment.

Orioles fans will remember (or should remember) what an offseason of discontent it was until a flurry of moves were made at the very end for Suk-min Yoon, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Nelson Cruz.

Beyond this was the criticism for the “salary dump” of Jim Johnson with little in return, the embarrassing situation with Grant Balfour, and the non-effort to even speak with Brian Roberts.

You might say, “You’re giving Duquette credit for Jimenez? That’s been a disaster!”  Well, yes… but Cruz has been a bargain – there’s that! So, let’s break this all down a bit.

The Jim Johnson Situation – The Johnson of 2012 was an awesome asset, contributing as much as anyone to the great playoffs year and Orioles revival. The Johnson of 2013, more than any other single factor, cost the O’s a chance to return to the playoffs.

I for one did not grieve his loss whatsoever. But many did, and a few still do. Really? You would want a $10-million guy with a 6.46 ERA and WHIP of 1.986? He is giving up 5.3 walks per nine innings. For perspective, Jimenez is at 5.1.

He is a great, nice guy who was a part of the turnaround of the Orioles organization after years of losing. That is now history – appropriately.

The Grant Balfour Situation – You can’t make up stuff like this. Guess what Balfour’s ERA is right now – 6.46 … the same as Johnson in the exact same number of innings and appearances. He has given up the unbelievable number of 7.6 walks per nine innings, though his WHIP is better than Johnson at 1.648.

Joe Madden has announced that Balfour is no longer the closer … that the team is going to use a closer by committee approach. Sunday, the Mariners scored five runs in the ninth inning off him.

Duquette and the Orioles were excoriated in the national sports and baseball press for pulling back on a contract for unspecified medical concerns. Even many O’s fans were critical of Duquette’s handling of it. Would anyone now want Balfour and his $12-million two-year deal?

The Brian Roberts Situation – Roberts ended up signing with the Evil Empire to replace the loss of Robinson Cano with at least a veteran presence. That is a tall order, but it has not really worked out extra well for the Yankees.

A leading Yankees blog is calling to throw Roberts overboard. Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues says of Roberts, who is batting .239, “Like Jeter, it’s clear Roberts isn’t going to provide much with the bat. He had a little hot streak a few weeks ago but even then that only raised him up to a .690 OPS for the season, the highest it’s been since the third game of the year. Unlike Jeter, the Yankees can replace Roberts.”

Axisa also said of Roberts in his article, “Somehow he’s stayed healthy so far.” Yes, that is an improvement over the recent past.

The combined effort of the varied players at second base for the Orioles through 62 games is at a .248 average – not awesome, but in total at least as good as what Roberts would have done. And this includes six homers, as compared to two by BRob.

The Ubaldo Jimenez Situation – Actually, this could be called the veteran pitcher situation. In the mix were offseason discussions of getting one of the trio of A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, or Jimenez.

Arroyo is 5-4 with a 4.50 ERA. He has pitched only four more innings than Jimenez, but has given up 14 more hits. Yes, there are far fewer walks. But Arroyo is far from lights out.

Burnett is 3-4 with a 4.41 ERA. However, his walks per nine innings are almost as high as Ubaldo’s. And Burnett has a 7.25 ERA over his past six starts.

There is no doubt that Jimenez has had a rather poor first two months with the Orioles. Yet at the same time, there is no doubt that his stuff is nasty when commanded well. And that is the problem, for sure. If he can cut down on these walks and repeat his delivery – which I believe he will at some point – this is going to be a tough pitcher.

Jimenez has vastly more upside potential than the other two options. I’m not sure he is worth the price, and I wrote that at the moment it happened – he is not now, and never has been, a person who can control pitch counts regularly and go deep into games. That was supposed to be the goal of getting a front-line starter – to obtain an innings-eater pitcher.

Buyer’s remorse aside, he will prove to be no worse than the other options and will likely prove to be better. This is the problem of free agent pitchers not named Tanaka.

So, all in all, I know it is the thing to do in Baltimore to be critical of Dan Duquette. He is not going to be perfect, but I believe that objectively considered, he has done a decent job with the resources available.

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Tags: Baltimore Orioles Brian Roberts Dan Duquette Grant Balfour Jim Johnson Ubaldo Jimenez

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