The Winter Meetings in Nashville began with great hope. The Orioles announced they were looking for a middle of the order hitter who would play at first, left, or designated hitter. They were also mildly interested in upgrading their pitching rotation. These moves were suggested as coming by trade. However, trades are a rather unpredictable ephemeral quality and nothing much went down in Nashville for Baltimore.
Transactions from last week:
December 5, 2012 - Signed Nate McLouth to a 1 year, 2 MM contractFirst, there is still a considerable amount of time left in the offseason with a considerable number of players on the free agent market and being bandied about in trade rumors. There is still time and Duquette, himself, said "Sometimes [talks] come together, sometimes they can take a little while to percolate after the meetings." This brought back some unpleasant memories for some as Andy MacPhail was well known for using the term "percolate." It can sound, particularly with some precedent, as if very little can be expected to be done. Again, that said, trades are very difficult to pull off and a general managers position is far more intense and difficult than most fans give credit.
December 6, 2012 - Selected TJ McFarland in the Rule 5 draft from Cleveland
Regardless, there has been movement in that AL East this offseason. The Blue Jays have remade their roster. The Rays have added a useful piece in Yunel Escobar and traded James Shields for Wil Myers, a prospective above average major leaguer without any service time to his name. The Yankees have been laying in wait and can always strike when they find something they like (but yes no real movement from them). The Red Sox have been quite active in buying up mid to low level veteran talent at somewhat questionable prices. I will be shocked if Shane Victorino's 3 yr / 39 MM deal will bring back anything better than a 8 MM per WAR value.
Anyway, these moves have left me with the following napkin scratch:
I have the Orioles as having a 2 win increase in talent from last year (which fits well when you normalize their success in one run games...that alone takes them down from a 93 win team to a 83 win team). That two win improvement comes primarily from two places: Endy Chavez and Mark Reynolds. Their absence from the team allows other players with better fit and/or performance slide onto the team. That said, simply excising the imperfect features of last year's squad does not set the team up for a strong chance to compete in 2013. That is not to say that the playoffs are an impossible event at the moment, but highly improbable. This is similar to last season when the playoffs were also highly improbable. Add in an unbalanced schedule and that "85 win" talent may be more like ".500" win talent.
EdG Win Orioles 85 Red Sox 85 Yankees 86 Rays 92.5 Blue Jays 90
Going forward, the Orioles need to find themselves about 5 WAR to become a serious contender. The Mets R.A. Dickey has been on the market and would be worth something in the neighborhood of 3-4 WAR. That move would likely cost the team Chris Tillman or Brian Matusz in addition to several second tier prospects. The actual win increase for the team is likely more in the neighborhood of 1-3 WAR depending on who goes. I have not heard of any other pitchers being associated with the Orioles. For batters, Nick Swisher, Michael Morse, Billy Butler, and Justin Morneau has been attached to the team. Swisher has been crossed off according to the Orioles' front office and the group in general is likely only to improve the team by a win or two at most. Their value would mainly come from providing more depth to be utilized if an injury comes along in an area where the depth is present.
In other words, the Orioles need to acquire stars. Retaining a marginal starter like Nate McLouth or picking up a fringe lefty with good control and no above average pitches (i.e., TJ McFarland) will not help the team maintain the high level of performance (as opposed to talent) that they exhibited last year. I think a lot of people look back to last year and thing (1) what if Markakis was healthy, (2) what if Nate McLouth played like that for the entire year, (3) what if Jason Hammel was healthy, (4) what if Manny played for the entire year, (5) what if they figured out the starters earlier, etc. This is a 20/20 hindsight view that overlooks so many things that broke right for the Orioles. You can also look back and say (1) what if the Orioles had a typical one run game record split, (2) what if Strop lost himself earlier in the year, (3) what if Chris Davis hits his career line, (4) what if Adam Jones did not explode offensively at the beginning of the year, (5) what if Mark Reynolds sucked for 26 weeks instead of 25 weeks, etc. The truth does not lie in either extreme perspective, but in a mix of both. It is good to think of how things will change next season, but be sure to recognize the good and bad breaks the team had this year.
Current 40 Man Roster with Options: