Orioles Again Appear Left Out In Winter Cold
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Where exactly do you start? Well, where we normally start, with the convenient villain -- Peter Angelos. No, this is not the typical bashing of the Orioles owner for things undone. While it has become increasingly frustrating to now feel as though the Orioles are part of some sort of different Bermuda triangle-like existence, it is not as though fans cannot understand that the economics have sky-rocketed so high that they won't be able to play in that stratosphere.
Rather, what is so disconcerting is that because of the economic realities at play, the Orioles have to be the smartest guys in the room. And with Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter, the Orioles may have a very smart tandem. Time will tell whether Dan's old gang can replicate some of the old magic from his Montreal and Boston days.
But let's be clear, chances are good that 2012 will be yet another lost season. The Orioles appear to have fallen farther behind the AL East eight ball and, in fact, farther behind the entire American League. And that is where the owner's complete lack of urgency in addressing his GM situation comes back in to play, and that is where I find Angelos at fault. While the Duquette hire was an inspired one, why did the Orioles have to wait until three weeks before the winter meetings to hire a man who hasn't been at the helm of an MLB franchise for nine years?
I doubt that Duquette's absence from baseball's inner sanctum was a factor in the O's ability to get Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle, but what else might have been different if he had more time to prepare? Is it possible that while Duquette was trying to figure out which major league players he could use to acquire Gavin Floyd and Carlos Quentin from the White Sox (which he has yet to do), he'd have known that Sergio Santos was available for a Double-A pitching prospect?
Part of the game the Orioles have to play is to prevent their AL East rivals from getting better and cheaper at the same time. The O's missed out on Santos because of a lack of readiness, and that's not the fault of Duquette and Co., but rather the man who hired them at the last minute.
Also apparent at these winter meetings, despite spin to the contrary, is the cold hard reality that it's hard for Duquette or anyone to come in and improve the O's major league product until there is that pipeline of talent from the minor leagues. Sure, it's nice that other teams want Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy or Nick Markakis, but without significant help from meaningful free-agent pick-ups, the O's will continue to be stuck in the mud in terms of the quality of their major league roster.
This is both the Orioles' current curse and their hope for the future -- a future that at the moment appears to be put on hold a while longer once again. As is often the case, these winter meetings seem to be much more talk than action. But it's been fascinating to watch the Marlins and Angels outflank other teams.
The Angels' signing of Albert Pujols was a brilliant move made by one of the Orioles' early candidates to to replace Andy MacPhail -- Jerry Dipoto. Anybody else want to ask Jerry and his assistant GM Matt Klentak whether they are enjoying working for the Angels?
The fallout of the Pujols signing will be as interesting as the watch on where he'd go. Who will become the players for Fielder and newly posted Japanese pitching phenomenon, Yu Darvish? Will Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer try to seize them both? Does Texas, now truly threatened by the Angels, make a preemptive strike to sign one or both?
Reading the tea leaves from afar is not easy, but sometimes it's better than being subject to all the rumor noise on site.
Here are a few players I'm keeping an eye on and my thoughts on some possible landing sites:
Look for the Red Sox to make a play for Cole Hamels if the Phillies can acquire Gio Gonzalez from Oakland. The rumor is outfield prospect Domonic Brown could go west to the A's. If that works, don't rule out Oakland reliever Andrew Bailey going to Boston in return for prospects, as Billy Beane continues his perpetual avoidance of paying long-term, big money salaries.
Roy Oswalt looks to be a fallback for the Rangers, but Washington could bid heavily on him. The Nationals seem almost hell-bent on adding a titular leader to their young starting rotation.
Aramis Ramirez? Maybe he goes to St. Louis, and the Cardinals move David Freese to first base. Or, maybe Philadelphia. With the Yankees signing Japanese middle-infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, could Eduardo Nunez be in play to Atlanta in a package to return Jair Jurrjens? The Braves need to have some infield depth and protection in the event of Chipper Jones' further decline and unavailability.
The Twins, who have been pretty quiet so far this offseason, are still working hard on re-signing Michael Cuddyer, but the Rockies are an imposing impediment. Meanwhile, Jason Kubel is not being aggressively looked at by anyone. The Twins' biggest bonanza could come in the form of a return to form and health by Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.
Posted Dec. 8, 2011