Time To Get Over Brian Roberts' Departure

Posted on January 28, 2014 by Jim Henneman

With spring training a mere two weeks away, the Orioles are as far past deadline in their quest for a starting pitcher as their fan base is in getting over the fact that second baseman Brian Roberts doesn't work in Baltimore anymore. In both cases, probably too much has been made of too little.

Orioles 2013: Brian Roberts

Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

At best, the Orioles were hoping to find a veteran pitcher who could swallow some of the innings their young starting pitchers have left on the table during recent years. He would be somebody who could hopefully win a few more games than he loses, fill a regular spot in the rotation (something like 32-33 starts) and not ruffle any feathers.

Think Rick Sutcliffe clone, and you've got it -- although he could be known to stir the pot when it came to dusting down aggressive hitters. A newcomer might end up No. 1 on a staff full of No. 2s, 3s and 4s, as was the case with Sutcliffe, but that wasn't the priority item on the job description.

Bronson Arroyo and A.J. Burnett seemed to fit the role best when the hunt started, and will do so until they sign, either here or somewhere else, or, in Burnett's case, retire. With Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Bud Norris and a cast of hundreds vying for five spots in the rotation, the Orioles weren't going to be in the hunt for a No. 1 import. 

In a sense, Roberts was a similar case. Though it wasn't spelled out in exact terms, the Orioles were looking to upgrade their situation at second base, with veteran switch-hitter Roberts in the picture, though definitely in the background. Had Robinson Cano not bolted from the Yankees to Seattle, chances are Roberts would still be waiting for the Orioles to make a decision.

From the moment Cano left, Roberts became the same kind of low-risk option for the Yankees that he was for the Orioles. There's no reason to think the Orioles wouldn't have made the same offer ($2 million plus incentives) that Roberts got from the Yankees, but neither was there a reason to think it was a priority move as executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette juggled roster spots on a daily basis.

As was the case earlier with closer Jim Johnson, Duquette exposed himself to being rough around the edges when it comes to public relations tactics. But, even though there was no offer on the table and thus no reason for Roberts to hesitate when the Yankees came calling, I'm reasonably certain that Roberts' agent knew the Orioles' position, and that an opportunity would have been there if necessary.

Stuff happens, and Roberts did what anybody else in his situation would've done -- he took the opportunity that was presented to him. And it's ridiculous for people to get upset because he went on his new team's flagship radio station and said he felt it was time for a change, that he was looking forward to the opportunity to play in a World Series and that every kid dreams of one day wearing a Yankees uniform. Did we really expect him to say he was disappointed, that his dream was to finish his career in an Orioles uniform? Come on.

Many of those now complaining about Roberts deserting the ship can probably be counted among those who felt he was stealing when he signed a $40 million, four-year contract -- following a three-year stretch when he hit .290, with 149 doubles and 120 stolen bases. Bottom line: he was a great player here; he's gone, let it go. It happens. 

***

Speaking of the Yankees (aren't we always?), it has been duly noted that even before agreeing to the chump-change contract with Roberts, they had already put themselves on the hook for half a billion dollars since the end of last year. But it is erroneous to say they've spent that much this offseason, because they haven't.

What they have done is commit that much additional money during the next seven years for a few more marquee performers. It is a repeat of the pattern they set after the 2008 season. So if the recent track record is an indication, the Yankees have another World Series championship in their immediate future, followed by a four-year dry run -- and another splurge after the 2018 season.

It does not appear to be a feasible business plan, but then again, while going 1-for-5 in the World Series department might work for most teams, it doesn't for the Yankees, who, despite their expenditures, still have holes all around their infield.

First baseman Mark Teixeira, one of the principals in the 2008 shopping spree, and shortstop Derek Jeter are the most significant questions marks heading into this season.

And, the big question is, of course -- when Jeter is gone, who will become the face of the Yankees?

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Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com.

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