Baltimore Orioles Fans – Prepare for a Long Winter


Oct 11, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; A general view during the National Anthem before game two of the 2014 ALCS playoff between the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: David Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Here in the mid-Atlantic land of the Baltimore Orioles, after a beautiful summer and fall that was all made more pleasant by a successful baseball season, the weather this weekend is taking a decidedly more cold and crisp turn. “Prepare for winter” is the message that is in the air.

And yes, the winter away from baseball – filled with the chill winds of trade talks and free agent comings and goings – is bound to be a long one.

It will seem at times that the Baltimore Orioles are not getting much accomplished. The free agents of foremost and primary interest to O’s fans are probably not going to sign quickly … not without having tested the market for some time to see what is out there as possibilities.

The great reward of having a successful team that wins 96 games in the regular season is a clubhouse rather full of players who have also enjoyed success personally. With the growing number of victories also comes the even greater growth of individual value, making it disproportionately difficult to hold together and pay all of the pieces that comprised the whole structure.

There simply is no way to keep all of these players together. And I’m not talking about the loss of a Nick Hundley or Kelly Johnson. There is simply no way to keep the following four key players in the O’s clubhouse: Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller, and Delmon Young. The Baltimore Orioles are going to lose out somewhere.

It is possible even that the Orioles could lose them all, though it would seem that Nick Markakis is the most likely to be re-signed. And probably that should be the first priority of the free agents … to get this done and see where the market takes others and how the negotiations and dollars begin to fall out with arbitration eligible players, of which there are a total of 11.

Delmon Young may be the next likeliest to be able to be retained. But he has had a very successful year, and surely he wants to play more than he did this past season. That is not unreasonable. Personally, I would work to try to keep him as the designated hitter for 2015, presuming that Cruz cannot likely be returned.

As much as Nelson Cruz made genuinely warm statements of appreciation for the Baltimore Orioles as an organization and clubhouse, it certainly sounds like he is looking for more years on a contract than the O’s would likely either afford or feel is wise, given his age. Forty home runs is impressive, but as I’ve written before, his three consecutive months of a .214 average would make me too hesitant to sign him for more than two years.

I wrote a few days ago that I’d like to see Andrew Miller signed for $32 million over four years – I think that would be worth it. But seeing yesterday that Koji Uehara got $18 million for two years from Boston (Good Grief!), and knowing the Miller is a big union guy who believes in a very principled way about getting the most in free agency, he looks gone from Baltimore to me.

In any event, all of this is very complicated and it is simply going to have to play out a piece at a time. And there are a lot of moving pieces. I don’t see how it cannot but become a situation where it does not sort out until the very end of the offseason.

The Orioles are going to lose some fan favorites. Others are going to need to step up and fill some holes. Getting Matt Wieters and Manny Machado back and hitting well would go a long way. Perhaps a player like Alejandro De Aza is now due to be the next to have a Steve Peace-like breakout season.

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And speaking of Pearce, everyone will be looking to see if he is more than a one-year wonder. Will the league do to him what happened to Chris Davis – study film, crunch the numbers, align the defenses, and modify the pitch placement?

Who will be the big winners over this winter? Actually, I know the answer to that!  It is people like me – people who write about these maneuverings. It is a treasure of endless topics!