Friday, February 21, 2014
The 'Plan' all along for the O's
By Jayson Stark
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Those poor Baltimore Orioles. They took a beating all winter. Imagine that.
From their ever-skeptical fan base. From the always-wary members of the local and national media. Even from the occupants of front offices throughout the land, who kept asking, What the heck are the Orioles doing?
Well now we have our answer, don’t we? Now we know, says the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, Dan Duquette.
They were just biding their time. That’s all.
You knew that all along, right?
The Plan was always to sign someone like Ubaldo Jimenez, for something like four years and 50 million Angelos family dollars.
The O's are banking big money that Ubaldo Jimenez's strong finish in Cleveland leads to a strong start in Baltimore.
The Plan was always to add another arm, along the lines of this week’s other big Orioles addition, Korean star Suk-Min Yoon.
It just took awhile. Like a really, really, really long while.
So that was their story Thursday, the day they announced the signing of Jimenez amid major live-TV-back-to-Baltimore hoopla. And they were sticking to it. But why not?
It might have taken nearly a week into spring training for the Orioles’ key offseason acquisitions to start rolling in; but in a way, Duquette said, it actually works out better that way.
“If we went out and we signed these players in October or November,” Duquette said, “people would be saying: ‘The Orioles are addressing their needs. They’re being aggressive. They’re adding good starting pitching. They’re ramping up their team for a run at the title.’ OK?
“Well, we didn’t sign them in October. But by waiting, we got contracts with these players that are good for the market, that are good for the team. And people understand that we are building our team and ramping it up to be a contending team this year.”
Well, whether people actually understand it or not, he’s still right about that. The Orioles are better and deeper today than they were a week ago. They needed to add pitching if they were going to survive another journey through the AL East minefield. And at least they’ve done that.
They were even willing to give up their first-round draft pick, and the slot money that goes with it, to do it. And their willingness to do that, Duquette said, tells us something about their priorities that we didn’t know for sure a week ago.
Losing that pick “is always a consideration,” he said. “But getting dependable starting pitching is very important.”
So, Duquette added, “do we want to be giving up all our draft picks every year? No. That’s not something we want to be doing long term. But we’ve made a conscious choice to do that this year, to put the resources into our pitching staff [because of] the core players we have. We thought that was the right choice to make.”
That, of course, would be a reference to another of our famous media storylines about the Orioles these days -- their dwindling window to win right now, before they can no longer afford “core players” like Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, who can be free agents in two years and have Scott Boras as their agent.
Suddenly, with their payroll blowing past $100 million after the Jimenez signing, keeping all of these players would seem to be getting more challenging by the minute. But Duquette said simply: “I would say we want to have a competitive team, year-in, year-out. And we’re going to do what we have to do to accomplish that. ... But we have to do it within the resources of this team and this market.”
So there you go. They’re going to do what they have to do. It would be safe to say that for most of this winter, the citizens of Baltimore weren’t so sure of that. But two significant free-agent signings later -- with the possibility of another down the road (hello, Kendrys Morales?) – it turns out they always did have a Plan.
And so, a wry smile formed on Duquette’s face when one of his media admirers asked him Thursday how difficult a winter he’d just been through.
“You mean the snow?” Duquette quipped. “Oh. You mean the cold.”