What if the Baltimore Orioles Make No Big Offseason Moves?


Oct 3, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Alejandro De Aza (12) stands in the outfield during game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game against the Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Remember the 2012-2013 offseason for the Baltimore Orioles? There was palpable fan frustration that Dan Duquette was not making any big moves to improve the team. Mocking comments abounded with every small move … remarks of this sort: “Now I’m going to go out and get my playoffs tickets!”

DD was blasted by many for dealing Jim Johnson away to Oakland for Jemile Weeks and David Freitas in what was indeed a salary dump (for which he was vindicated IMHO). “Who would close?” was the question on the fingertips of dozens of posters on Orioles’ boards … implying that the move was a stupid one to have been undertaken.  

Is there anyone who would still criticize Dan Duquette for moving out Jim Johnson?

David Lough came back to the Orioles in a trade with Kansas City for Danny Valencia. Duquette was mocked for this lack of a blockbuster move. And with Johan Santana, along with a host of smaller depth moves, DD was seen as dumpster diving in search of retreads and AAAA minor leaguers.

Miguel Gonzalez was surely called a 4A player, if he was called anything at all at the time he was secured. And Delmon Young was mocked as a retread investment, surely not capable of breaking camp with the Orioles.

But what if the Baltimore Orioles are simply not able to consummate any major moves over the winter? Let us presume they sign Nick Markakis for some sort of $12 million-per-year deal. Simply doing that and granting the arbitration-eligible raises will bring the salaries of the current roster (not counting Nelson Cruz or Andrew Miller, etc.) along with ongoing contracts for Adam Jones, Ubaldo Jimenez, J.J. Hardy, etc., to a new total in the $120 million range. This is probably all the organization can stand.

To look at the discussion of all the numbers on this, I wrote about it last week, as did Steve Melewski of MASN. I don’t think most watchers of the Orioles, even big-time sportswriters, understand the impact of the salary raises coming to the arbitration-eligible O’s. So many seem to think that there is a pile of money to retain Cruz, or to at least get another of the power bat free agents.

But let me ask: Could you be happy with a roster that looks a lot like the end of the season, though without Cruz, Miller, and Hundley, but with the return of Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis?

Buck Showalter recently referenced this last point in comments at the end of the week, as he again reiterated that he is not one to covet other peoples’ players and is instead looking forward to the upgrade from those three players returning.

I will answer my own rhetorical question and say “yes” I can be happy with that lineup. Here is what it might look like:

Starters: Tillman, Chen, Gonzalez, Norris, Jimenez, Gausman (five of six, one to the pen)

Relievers: Brach, McFarland, Hunter, Matusz, O’Day, Britton

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Catchers: Wieters, Joseph

Infielders: Davis, Schoop, Hardy, Machado, Flaherty

Outfielders/DH: De Aza, Jones, Markakis, Pearce, Lough

This list gives 24 names, and if the Orioles could add to it even Delmon Young, that is a very good squad. The sad reality is that the success of Cruz, along with the successes of so many others, have almost surely priced him out of possibly returning. To make space, the Orioles would have to do something very large, like non-tender Davis or trade of pile of players; and I just don’t think they are going to do it.

So, apart from some bold moves that are not at all obvious to any of us at this time, I am going to guess that the offseason will feature mostly a ton of Dan Duquette’s famous fringe and depth acquisitions – building resources as insurance policies for injuries or for the following several years after more current Orioles depart as free agents.

Will the fanbase be content with this?