Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Orioles Need to Stay Patient

Can the Orioles afford to sign a big name free agent? Andy McPhail says yes:
MacPhail insists any media or fan skeptics that question whether the club is willing to offer a big contract under the right circumstances, are off base.

"We offered over 140 million dollars to Teixeria, who could have just as easily accepted it and I wish he had. To think we wouldn't go out there or that offer somehow is not genuine is absurd. It's over twice what was offered in the history of the franchise before.

"People should see now why we thought that was a legitimate get. If we could have had a switch-hitting, good defensive first baseman in the middle of a lineup that already had Roberts and Jones with Markakis, Reimold and Wieters, we would have had something special going forward for a while.

"We have to be careful about who those (big dollar) players are. And I have to be responsible. Contracts of that magnitude, unless you are an extroadinarily wealthy club, can sink a franchise. You have to be judicious when you go out there. But we were out there a year ago."

So the Orioles, under the right circumstances, are not against offering a free agent a big-dollar contract?

"We've already done it. Did it last year."
While $140 million is a pretty impressive offer, unless Mark Teixiera really (and when I say really, I mean really) wanted to play in Baltimore, there was no way the Orioles were going to land Teixeira last season. The Yankees offer blew the Orioles out of the water and nearly every other tram that was involved topped the Orioles best offer.

And there lies the problem for McPhail: how do the Orioles get big name free agents to sign big contracts that will keep them in Baltimore for the next 6-8 years? Right now, that task is not easy. In fact, it's next to impossible.

Sure the Orioles have some great young pieces (Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold, Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, etc), but right now those guys are just that: pieces. Markakis and Jones are the Orioles only proven young commodities (Brian Roberts is a stud as well), which means that the Orioles still have a long ways to go before they can be considered contenders. That's a problem because most free agents will go to the place that offers them the best deal in terms of money and winning. The only way for the Orioles to attract top free agent talent right now is to vastly overpay them, which obviously is not a sound strategy.

So what McPhail should do is sit back and wait. Let the 2010 season play out and let the Orioles young kids develop. Hopefully, if everything goes according to plan, the Orioles young kids show the baseball world how talented they are and all of a sudden, Baltimore becomes a team with lots of money to spend, great young pieces, and a desirable place for free agents to play. It can't be fun to play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, but if Matt Wieters and the rest of the young Orioles progress as expected, then that team could be great and tons of fun to play for.

And right now, the 2010 free agent class looks pretty intriguing from the Orioles point of view: Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, and Javier Vazquez are all set to become free agents. Is it out of the realm of possibility to think that if the Orioles put together a good show in 2010 that they can be players for a big name free agent? I don't think so.

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