Now that they've signed Dexter Fowler and reached a modified agreement with Yovani Gallardo, the Orioles seem like they're done spending. They are clearly better than they were a few weeks ago. And if that's all you want to focus on, that's all right.
So here are the notable moves from this offseason:
- Claimed Vance Worley off waivers from the Pirates (avoided arbitration, $2.6 million).
- Extended the qualifying offer to Matt Wieters ($15.8 million), who accepted.
- Signed Hyun Soo Kim to two-year, $7 million contract.
- Re-signed Darren O'Day (four years, $31 million; $1 million deferred annually).
- Traded Steve Clevenger to the Mariners for Mark Trumbo (and C.J. Riefenhauser). Trumbo avoided arbitration and will make $9.2 million.
- Re-signed Chris Davis for seven years and $161 million ($42 million deferred, with MLB calculating the deal's present-day value at around $147 million).
- Traded Jean Cosme to the Padres for Odrisamer Despaigne.
- Signed Dexter Fowler (three years, $33 million).
- Signed Yovani Gallardo (two years, $20 million, with $13 million club option and $2 million buyout, per Roch Kubatko).
That's a lot of spending! I've already come to terms with the Davis deal, the largest of the bunch by far. In all likelihood, a contract of anywhere near $100 million (or above) was going to be for Davis and no one else.
So the bulk of the rest of the free agent money went to, in order: Fowler, O'Day, Gallardo, Wieters, Trumbo, Kim, and Worley. Just working with rough numbers, that's about $120 million. (And that's also not factoring in the loss of the two draft picks (Nos. 14 and 29; a value of anywhere from $25-$30 million) for signing Gallardo and Fowler.)
So what could the O's have done differently with that money? Here at the Depot, we occasionally get some flak for being too negative. I've had my moments this offseason, especially when the Davis deal was first announced. But I have liked some of the O's moves: adding Kim, trading for Trumbo, and offering the QO to Wieters. Kim is a cheap upside play; Trumbo is a one-year flier and shores things up at designated hitter; and the Wieters gamble made sense. So let's keep all of them (about $32 million).
I would have entertained non-tendering or trading Miguel Gonzalez and Brian Matusz, or even -- gasp, trading Zach Britton -- but keeping all three is at least reasonable enough. With Britton on board and a handful of solid relievers, the Orioles could have let O'Day walk and used that money elsewhere. I was surprised the O's kept O'Day, but was a little more mixed on that deal than the ones above. I also would have avoided Fowler and Gallardo since they are attached to draft pick compensation. The Worley addition doesn't move the needle much, so let's undo that deal as well. Without O'Day, Gallardo, Fowler, and Worley, that leaves about $87 million, give or take, to play with.
The first move would have been to sign Scott Kazmir. The Dodgers signed Kazmir for three years and $48 million, with an opt-out after the first year. And yes, obviously the Orioles are not huge fans of handing out opt-out clauses. But would you rather offer an opt-out and lose a player after one year, or sacrifice a draft pick? Clearly the O's prefer to go the qualifying offer route, which gives them leverage, but Kazmir would have been a better fit for the 2016 squad, even if he departed after one year. The O's likely would have had to offer a bit more upfront money and more money overall; maybe something in the $51-$54 million range ($12 or $13 million in the first year) gets the deal done.
With that extra $33+ million, I would have gone after Denard Span. Maybe that wouldn't have been enough to pry him from the Giants, and maybe he would not have passed the O's demanding physical process (that could also have been a concern for Kazmir). Span also wanted the chance to play center field, and that opportunity would not have been available in Baltimore. A little more money could have been persuasive enough.
Span is a couple years older and more injury-prone than Fowler. But they are similar hitters (106 career wRC+ for Span; 107 wRC+ for Fowler). Span is also the superior defender, and he has experience in both left and right field (and played both well).
(For what it's worth, a pairing of Ben Zobrist and J.A. Happ or Doug Fister or Mat Latos would also have been a decent option, although Zobrist's apparent preference to play second base would have torpedoed that strategy. Jon also noted a possible Happ signing with a platoon of Nori Aoki and Chris Young. The O's likely could have kept O'Day in that situation as well. Still, the Davis contract limits a lot of potential, intriguing options.)
I'll admit that hindsight is 20/20, so going back after the fact isn't entirely fair. And maybe the money doesn't completely line up. But it's close (and that's without going back and doing things differently with an entire offseason blueprint). I suspect lots of fans would take O'Day, Gallardo, Fowler, and Worley over Kazmir and Span. It's possible that group performs better this year and beyond. But signing Kazmir and Span would have enabled the O's to keep their two highest picks in the upcoming draft.
Each draft selection is a lottery ticket and a chance to grab a talented player. Drafting players is difficult, and every additional pick helps. The O's have been bad at both drafting and player development, but punting on two top 30 draft picks does not help.
The Orioles could have opted for the best of both worlds -- putting together a solid and improved team while not harming their chances of improving the farm system. Instead, they chose the 2014 route of targeting QO players. By itself, that is not a bad strategy at all. But the O's could have assembled a similar or better team without the need to sacrifice draft picks. All it would have required is some flexibility.
It may seem like complaining to have any issue with an offseason in which the O's handed out so much money. Overall, they have improved their chances, though maybe not to the extent many fans would like to believe. Even with Gallardo and Fowler on board, the O's aren't projected to be that much better. Thankfully, sometimes things don't go according to plan. The scary thing is what happens if they do.