“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.”
|Dan Duquette says he had a plan all |
along, OK? (Photo: Keith Allison)
In his comments, Duquette is clearly defending the team's curious offseason (maybe slightly less curious now) and sounds like he's tired of the criticism. But he's not telling the whole story. The most noteworthy O's signing before Yoon came in December, when they signed Ryan Webb for two years and $4.5 million. So they were OK with identifying a cheap player they liked and pouncing on him, even though he's a reliever and not a star. But the Orioles sat out the sweepstakes for Robinson Cano ($240 million), Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million), Shin-Soo Choo ($130 million), and Masahiro Tanaka ($155 million) -- the top four free agents on the market -- and were more intrigued by less notable free agents. In some way or another, the Orioles were rumored to have interest in Carlos Beltran, A.J. Burnett, Mike Napoli, Tim Hudson, Bronson Arroyo, Bartolo Colon, Ricky Nolasco, Jason Vargas, Kendrys Morales, Grant Balfour, Scott Feldman, Fernando Rodney, Mark Ellis, and Gavin Floyd. There are probably a few names I missed, but that's still a sizable chunk of the free agent market that the O's were looking into. Among those names, the Orioles seemed to be most interested in Burnett (once they found out he wasn't going to retire), Arroyo, Balfour (obviously), and Floyd.
The Orioles tried to reach an incentive-laden deal with Floyd, but they were turned down. Per Dan Connolly:
According to the industry source, the Orioles were highly interested in Floyd and offered a two-year deal that could have been worth as much as $20 million with incentives, but were turned down. The Orioles did not want Floyd on a one-year deal because he is not expected to be ready to pitch until May, and the club coveted his services for more than one season.Floyd would have been an interesting signing. But he probably would not have taken them out of the running for Burnett, Arroyo, or Jimenez.
I'm not going to rehash the embarrassing Balfour signing and failed physical. But his deal with the Orioles would have been for two years and $15 million. That's more money than the O's ended up using to sign Yoon for three years and Cruz for one. The O's could not have foreseen Balfour failing his physical, obviously, so it's worth wondering whether Yoon and Cruz (or Jimenez, for that matter), would have still been O's targets if the Balfour deal never fell apart.
The O's being interested in Burnett made a ton of sense. But apparently he did not want to pitch in the American League, and he agreed to a deal with the Phillies for one year and $16 million. The O's wanted Burnett, but they were not willing to pay that much.
The Orioles really wanted to sign Arroyo (Peter Schmuck really wanted it to happen, too), and they were a finalist for his services along with the Diamondbacks. He agreed with Arizona on a two-year, $23.5 million deal, but the O's offer was at least "exceptionally competitive with Arizona's." Other factors that led to Arroyo signing with Arizona apparently included his desire to stay in the National League, and at least some concern with the O's recent failed physicals of Balfour and Tyler Colvin.
If any of those pursuits of those four players went differently, the O's may not have ended up with Jimenez and/or Cruz. If Arroyo chose the Orioles instead of the Diamondbacks, they probably don't get Jimenez as well. And the Jimenez deal was generally better received than the Arroyo one, though losing that first-round draft pick is painful. Bringing Arroyo on board would have saved the O's more money than by inking Jimenez, but it probably would not have been as helpful for the on-field product. So would signing Arroyo have been considered "going for it" as much as bringing in Jimenez? And did the O's panic a bit after losing Arroyo?
It's clear that Duquette has been forced to look for bargains this offseason, especially since the O's were not going to be major players for any of the top free agents on the market. But that doesn't make the team better than if they would have, say, done something seemingly outrageous and signed Cano. Cano would have been a much, much more expensive purchase and he would not have been able to fill the Orioles' holes in left field, designated hitter, and the rotation, but he also likely would have made the team better with just his presence in the everyday lineup.
I don't think it's a coincidence that Duquette first noted that the deals are "good for the market" and then that they're "good for the team." That seems to be the correct order. By sitting back and seeking out bargain deals instead of actually going after the most talented players on the market, the O's still ended up with some good players that should help them in 2014. Jimenez makes the rotation a little better and a little deeper. Cruz improves the O's DH situation. And Yoon could very well turn into a smart signing, even if he only ever pitches out of the bullpen. But they may have backed themselves into a corner and figured they had no choice other than to go after players in which they'd have to forfeit draft picks to sign.
But the O's finally spent some money and took some gambles, which is really what fans wanted all along. There's at least something to be said for that, I guess.