Orioles Offseason Outlook

| November 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

photo 3The 2014 Baltimore Orioles had one of the best seasons in the history of the franchise, winning the AL East and advancing to the ALCS, unfortunately only to lose to the Royals. They had three players win Gold Gloves and the Manager of the Year but, unfortunately, they also have a lot of free agents who may not be on the team next season.

Major League Baseball has two seasons: the regular season/playoffs and the offseason. The baseball offseason is the most exciting off season with the most activity of any sport. The Orioles were one of the last four teams left in 2014 but this offseason, but could change their roster drastically. Cruz, Markakis, Miller – will they be Orioles next year? Will the Orioles sign a big name free agent from another team? Here are my thoughts:

Nelson Cruz Should be a Priority

Look, I know he is 34 years old and generally players decline the older they get, but that being said I think the Orioles need to make all efforts to bring back Nelson Cruz. Part of the argument to not bring him back based on his age can also go the other way in why he should return. Did Nelson Cruz decline at age 34? Not at all. In fact, he has the best power season of his career and more importantly missed no games due to injury.

Numbers withstanding, I think the thing that makes Cruz the top priority is him as a teammate. How many times after a home run did you see Nelson Cruz be the first person to congratulate the home run hitter? Almost all the time. He carried the Orioles for the first few months of the season and is the prototypical “Buck Showalter kind of guy.” More importantly, the Orioles can make a major statement by signing Cruz. He will be the most coveted free agent position player on the market and after a decade and a half of not singing those big free agents, it would go a long way in showing the Orioles are here to stay by shelling out money to retain him.

Undecided on Nick Markakis

Maybe the moment that every O’s fan remembers and cherishes the most is seeing the look on the face of Nick Markakis when the announcement was made that the Orioles were AL East Champions. Certainly there is no player on the roster who deserved that moment more than Markakis and every single one of his teammates acknowledged how happy they were for him.

Prior to the start of this season, I told people that Markakis would have a rebound season and be the catalyst of the Orioles offense and I was correct (just check out my O’s preview before the season). Markakis provided stability in the leadoff spot and won a Gold Glove. The Orioles simply would not have won the AL East without him.

With all that being said, I do not know how much money to pay Markakis. If there is a team out there that values him as a 10+ million dollar a year player, the Orioles probably should let him walk.  Despite providing stability in the leadoff spot, Markakis’ final numbers were good, but not great. He hit .276 with 50 RBI and 27 doubles, not exactly numbers that warrant elite money.

Much like Cruz, there is more value to Markakis than just his numbers at the plate, but given the money it may require to bring him back, I think Alejandro De Aza could come close to giving the same production as Markakis (…and will likely require a lot less money to do so.) If you lose Markakis and sign De Aza for about 7 million less that allows you to bring back Andrew Miller. Would you be OK with this? I would and I am a huge Markakis fan. I would love to have Nick Markakis back, but I would also be OK if the Orioles did not want to break the bank to make that happen.

The Royals’ World Series Run Might be the Reason Andrew Miller Doesn’t Come Back

The Kansas City Royals made an improbable run to the World Series. It’s this run that may change the way a lot of GMs look to build their team. Certainly a lot of the Royals hitters played well, but the main reason why most people believe they won was due to the back end of their bullpen in Herrera, Davis and Holland, who were untouchable for the majority of the playoffs. I believe that now seeing the Royals run, teams will start to invest a lot of money on set-up men who can basically turn the game into a six or seven inning game because they are so dominant.

Andrew Miller is the best reliever on the market and he will certainly have many teams that want to sign him. The Orioles bullpen was great last season and Miller was a big part of that. He was lights out in the playoffs while O’ Day and Britton struggled. There is an argument that set-up men should be paid as much as closers, but there is also an argument (one that I tend to gravitate toward) that says you can’t break the bank for a reliever when you have other issues to address.

Miller is a beast, no doubt about it, but so was Jim Johnson. After the Orioles gave him $10 million a year, where is he now? I am not comparing the two, but I believe that the Johnson contract backfiring might make the Orioles a bit more hesitant. I still think you can build a good enough bullpen by signing two or three lesser paid guys, but certainly the Royals have shown that argument is wrong. And, there will be many other teams out there that feel the same way. I really would love Miller back but ultimately I think he will end up in Detroit and the Orioles will be left to explore other left handed bullpen options.

It’s Not Broke, So Don’t Try to Fix It

Despite losing to the Royals in the ALCS, I truly believe that the Orioles were the best team in the American League and have all the pieces to win a World Series title. It is unlikely that they resign all three of Cruz, Markakis and Miller. However, with Machado, Davis and Wieters all coming back and Kevin Gausman in the rotation permanently, the Orioles should be the favorite to win the AL East and be a viable World Series contender again.

For that reason, I don’t see the need to go out and spend top dollar on the likes of a Max Scherzer or Jon Lester. They should rather keep the core of the team intact and supplement the roster with signing Delmon Young and Steve Pearce kind of guys. There is something to be said about chemistry and sometimes even the most talented players don’t gel with their new teammates and the team struggles because of it (look what happened when the A’s traded Cespedes). If the O’s bring back at least one of their own “Big 3” free agents, they will be just fine heading into next season.

The baseball offseason is sure to provide a lot of fireworks and the Orioles will be a big part of that whether it’s losing or resigning some of their players. I am confident that Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will do their best to build the best possible team to win a championship. There certainly will be a lot of O’s fans glued to their TV and following all of the baseball rumors.  It’s an exciting time for all baseball fans.

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About the Author:

I have spent my entire 30 years living in Maryland and I love everything about this city. Despite the bad reputation the city has, Baltimore will always be a special place to me and I love living here. There is nothing better then Sunday afternoons at M&T Bank Stadium and summer nights at Camden Yards when the Yard is packed. You can find me all over the city so don't hesitate to share your opinion of me good or bad. Who knows, if you see me out maybe I will buy you a Natty Boh. Lets go Ravens and Lets go O's!!! Follow me on Twitter at @MRomanell.
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