Baltimore Orioles: Paying for Today, or for Tomorrow?

Feb 14, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitchers prepare to work on bunting drills during Friday
Feb 14, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitchers prepare to work on bunting drills during Friday /
Feb 14, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitchers prepare to work on bunting drills during Friday
Feb 14, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles pitchers prepare to work on bunting drills during Friday /

Should the Baltimore Orioles spend extra money for this season on starting pitching and risk the future, or should they save money and draft pick today to secure the future?

This is essentially the question that the O’s face as they head soon toward Florida for spring training. And some may ask why it has to be one or the other, wondering why both near-term and far-term goals cannot be accomplished.

In a perfect baseball franchise world, all of the short and long-term goals are fulfilled. The team drafts good players, especially pitchers who can grow through the system and eat up innings at a reasonable salary cost before free agency arrives. The club has a continual stream of at least one new home-grown arm arriving each season, affording the opportunity for the team to only have to occasionally purchase specific needs on the free agent market, or to retain especially valuable and beloved players.

But the baseball world is not perfect, not anywhere, though it is closer in some places than in others. Baltimore would likely chart on the far end of the spectrum away from perfection. The talents to come through the system, especially starting pitching, have been too infrequent for quite a long time.

But there is reason to argue that times may be changing for the Orioles. Former prospects like Manny Machado and Jonathon Schoop are living up to hopes and expectations. Kevin Gausman looks to be on the cusp of fulfillment, even as unfortunate and unpredictable injuries have delayed Dylan Bundy and a few others.

But the question facing the Orioles in the next week or so has to do with risking the future for today, or risking today to build the future. Reports are renewed that the Orioles have continued interest in Yovani Gallardo for the alleged fifth rotation spot. What are we to think of this?

How an additional pitcher signing risks the future …

  • It causes the Orioles to lose the current #14 draft selection and opportunity to re-stock the system.
  • As written by our staffer Ben Palmer, Gallardo comes with some troubling statistics and analytical metrics.
  • While filling a spot, it adds another block to the opportunity for a host of Orioles players to advance and demonstrate that they are ready to be what the O’s want to see prospects develop into. This was written about extensively here on this site just last week.

How not signing an additional pitcher risks the present …

  • With the loss of Wei-Yin Chen and the sub-par performance of much of the rest of the rotation, there is legitimate concern that the starting staff could doom what will be a fairly powerful collection of 20 other ballplayers.
  • After spending money on Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, Matt Wieters and others, it is foolish to risk failure with an uncertain rotation of starters who will have to pitch more about 60% of total innings in 2016 … for better or worse.
  • There are no guarantees on draft picks, as they are notorious through baseball as a crapshoot. And the Orioles still do have six picks in the top 100 selections this year.

So there is the problem laid out in plain terms. Which side do you fall out upon?

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I would guess (truly just an estimate from what I read in forum comments) that more Orioles fans would fall out in the second camp, believing that the O’s should do something even with the expenses involved to add a veteran arm right now. I would venture that maybe two-thirds of Baltimore fans would roll the dice for today and worry about tomorrow at a later time.

Those who read this column regularly will not be surprised that I lean toward the first camp. I want to see what Vance Worley, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright and others might be able to do … how one or more of them may develop even as Tillman and Gonzalez broke through in 2012.

Next: Ranking catchers in the AL East

This would seem to me to be the way to build not only for today, but for tomorrow as well. But again, there are no guarantees of success. But that is the nature of the game … and of life itself, to be honest. And that is what makes it interesting and compelling. And it is why we write this blog, and it is why you read it and others. Hope springs eternal.