Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is still out there

With all of the emphasis on Trumbo, it’s worth mentioning that now former Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is still out on the free agent market as well. Wieters of course came up with the Orioles in 2009, and has been on the team ever since. He signed a qualifying offer to stay with the O’s last off season…

…but this year the team didn’t slap one on him. So he’s out there to be signed without any strings attached. I do find it interesting that he’s still out there. What gives?

If I were a team looking for a starting catcher, Wieters would be tops on my list. To make him even more attractive, as I said there are no strings attached. So why aren’t teams rushing to sign Wieters?

Probably for the same reason the Orioles are waiting on certain players: money. If you have a reasonable expectation that the player will still be out there and that you can wait until even as late as February, why give that player big money when you can avoid it? To me, that’s good business sense.

So the question is whether or not the O’s could still bring Wieters back if they so desired. And the answer to that is yes. We all know that the O’s are a better team with Matt Wieters as opposed to without him. Welington Castillo and Wieters could easily share catching duties, with Wieters DHing a bit as well. So where does that leave Caleb Joseph?

If this scenario were to come to pass (which I don’t believe that it will), Joseph might well be very valuable to the Orioles on the trade market. Could the Orioles not potentially re-stock their farm system in a piecemeal manner by unloading a player of Joseph’s caliber? I suspect that he would yield the Birds a prospect or two.

I’m not saying that this will happen, or that it needs to. However with Wieters still out there, the Orioles would be foolish not to consider it. They’ve obviously moved on from Wieters with the acquisition of Castillo, however that’s not to say they should turn him away if he falls back into their laps.

You always use the resources that you’re given, and if they have an opportunity to get Wieters back they should do so. If that means trading Joseph, a fan favorite, so be it. As I said, they’d probably net themselves a prospect or two.

Baltimore Orioles: Jose Bautista still lurks out there

I know what you might be thinking; how many times can we talk about the Baltimore Orioles and Jose Bautista?! And the answer to that is simple; as long as he remains on the free agent market. And I’ll be honest in that I’m surprised that Bautista’s still out there.

In saying that, it would have stood to reason to me that Toronto would have taken him back somehow by now. But obviously they’re as caught up on price as the Orioles can be. (Funny, they didn’t view things that way when trying to undercut Dan Duquette away from the O’s a few years ago.) But again, I would have thought that Bautista’s potential would have meant someone would have signed him by now.

Are his antics really that unpopular? I suspect that they are, although most teams might consider taking a chance on him if he’ll help their team. But I’m on record as saying that at some point Bautista’s the type of guy who’s going to get one of his teammates injured. You show us up, and we throw either at you or at your teammate. That’s part of baseball.

But again, are the Orioles being foolish in dodging a potential deal with Bautista? Many people complained that Dan Duquette put that on the fans, saying that Bautista’s unpopular. The fact is that he’s unpopular league-wide. The Orioles were just the only one willing to say it.

So would fans want someone that they previously loathed that might better the team? First off, I don’t think Bautista’s capable of putting up Trumbo-like numbers. He’s also had some injury problems the past couple of years. Combine that with the fact that he and his antics are unpopular, and that makes him tough to sign. Whether you’re the Orioles or someone else.

There’s a school of thought out there which states that the O’s should put all other things aside in signing guys like Bautista. And while that may be a valid point, sometimes I wonder if people don’t understand that stability and peace in the clubhouse is part of what allows the “Buck-O’s” to succeed. Bautista would threaten that – his mere presence.

Time will tell, but I am still surprised that he’s still out there. Someone will sign him, but probably for much less and much shorter than he wants. But he’ll only have himself and his attitude at times to blame.

Baltimore Orioles: As the offseason turns

The Baltimore Orioles began a week-long mini-camp down at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota yesterday. This is a time-honored tradition for the Orioles, who get various players together every January. I suspect it helps guys hone their skills as we move towards spring training.

It also helps new players break into their new roles with the Orioles. Keep in mind that their first impression of the organization will be roughly two weeks of workouts and drills, followed by a month’s worth of spring training games. Familiarizing oneself to the facilities is always a good idea.

And it also helps to begin the process of getting the rust off a bit early.  Practice makes perfect, right?! This event is normally a bit closer to Orioles’ FanFest, which of course will be held on Friday January 28th at the Baltimore Convention Center. But this year this was when it wa scheduled to be held. And the Orioles are lucky that’s the case, incidentally. The MLBPA was slow in approving their members to do this.

Incidentally, this is the last full month before games begin. The Orioles are scheduled to begin Grapefruit League play on Friday February 24th in Lakeland against Detroit. Their home opener is on Sunday February 26th against Pittsburgh at Ed Smith Stadium.

Baltimore Orioles: The smoke in mirrors tactic

Contrary to what you might have heard of late and what resurfaced again over the weekend, the Baltimore Orioles aren’t walking away from the table regarding Mark Trumbo. That much I know. As is the case in all business deals, you have to let your counterparts know that you’re willing to walk away.

The Orioles did this with Davi last year, and it worked. Some will argue tht the Birds still overpaid for him, and maybe they did. But he’s still an Oriole, and I’d hardly call it a gross overpay. Nevertheless, I gaurantee you that they aren’t “done” per se with Mark Trumbo. The lines of communication are still open.

But one might also argue that this tactic of walking away being smoke in mirrors is very risky. It’s very much an old school business ploy, and one with which i personally agree if we’re being honest. And that’s really a key word – honesty. A lot of people would submit that it’s bordering on dishonest to pretend to walk away but to not really do so.

So the risk of course is that Trumbo’s agent and perhaps another team decide to take the Orioles simply at their word. Since the offer’s off the table, there’s no reason to keep the Orioles involved, right? Someone else could swoop in and make an offer only slightly better than that of the Orioles. Since at this point Trumbo has to wonder where and when he’s going to get a deal, he may well decide to take it. And again, since the Orioles claimed they were away from the table, would the agent still call them and ask them to match the offer?

It’s almost like a game of chicken in a way. Obviously the Birds are starting to grow tired of some of Trumbo’s agent’s ploys, however they certainly don’t want to lose a chance to get Trumbo back because of  what some might call shady tactics.

Mind you, I’m not saying the tactic is shady. However some naive folks who can’t see the difference between smart and shady would think differently. Again, trust me folks; at the end of the day, the Orioles very much want Trumbo back. They just don’t like his salary requirements, and they want Trumbo to think they’re done. Again, it’s like a game of chicken.

Baltimore Orioles: Winter Classic at Camden Yards?

As we wait for the Baltimore Orioles to make more news worthy to report, we sit through the winter doldrums. Sports can sometimes present very unique and interesting opportunities, one of which I think is the NHL’s Winter Classic. Every New Year’s Day the NHL partners with a stadium (usually an MLB ballpark) to host an outdoor hockey game that airs on national television.

A few years ago they held the event at Nationals Park in DC, with the Washington Capitals of course being the home team. Anyone who watched the game that day saw an impressive television production, great visuals of the park and city, and a great game at that. I almost bought tickets myself, but I’m not a cold weather person!

That aside, I think the NHL should consider perhaps adding a twist to this tradition, and maybe consider using ballparks out of NHL markets – yes folks, specifically Camden Yards! Baltimore is definitely a “shadow market” for the Capitals, as well as the Washington Wizards (who originally were the Baltimore Bullets, and even played a preseason game in Baltimore a few years ago). People in Baltimore seem to really embrace the Capitals, and I often see Capitals’ merchandise around town.

So would it not be a cool idea to have a Winter Classic in “the ballpark that forever changed baseball?” Given that Baltimore doesn’t have an NHL team, you could have a game between the Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers, as Baltimore is in between those cities (obviously closer to Washington). And in fact you could use other markets in the same manner; maybe a Kings vs. Sharks game in Seattle, or a Panthers vs. Lightning game in Atlanta?

Just an idea, folks! One of the cooler aspects of these games is that they try to adapt time honored traditions in these ballparks to hockey. When the game was in DC they held a President’s Race just as the Nationals do at their home games. A few years ago when the game was held at Wrigley Field they sang Take Me Out To The Hockey Game during the second intermission. So…could we not see the singing of Thank God I’m a Country Boy during this game?!

It would give the city of Baltimore some exposure, as well as Camden Yards. Furthermore it would give the fans of Baltimore a chance to see the Capitals live in the city and outdoors. Odds of it happening?…probably none!

Baltimore Orioles trade Gallardo for Seth Smith

If you had the Baltimore Orioles tradining for outfielder Seth SmithYOU WON!!! The Birds yesterday traded Yovani Gallardo to Seattle for the veteran outfielder. Gallardo and cash considerations, to be exact.

Smith is your run-of-the-mill journeyman utilityman, who’s been with several different teams. He’s a career .261 hitter who averages 16 home runs per year. That’s hardly going to jump off the page and hit anyone. However he’s also getting on base at a .344 clip for his career, which is something that the Orioles have been trying to hock for some time.

Odds are Smith will slide into the role of right fielder, and perhaps a bit in left. Again, Smith isn’t going to set any team records or help the team to pack the yard – per se. But if he can get himself on base and play solid defense, he might help them as much as anyone else.

This also gets Yovani Gallardo off the roster, and trading one salary for the other will save the Birds approximately $4 million. Not a heck of a lot, but there are some savings in there. Many fans of course won’t be sad to see Gallardo leave the team, as he disappointed last year after signing on February 25th. Me I give him a bit of a pass given his injury history; however it’s also worth mentioning that he’s going to a pitcher’s paradise in Seattle. It’s possible he’ll faire better.

And with that, the O’s have traded with the Seattle Mariners again. One would think that they wouldn’t want to trade with the Orioles again after being fleeced so many times. But the price was right, and apparently both teams filled a need. Executive VP Dan Duquette on Smith (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko, MASNsports:

Seth Smith is a veteran leader, good on-base man a proven hitter. We look forward to his contributions to the 2017 Orioles.

This also opens up a rotation spot, perhaps for the likes or Wright, Wilson, Bundy, or someone else not on the roster. The Orioles are still looking to fill holes in that regard. I wouldn’t expect the back half of the hot stove season to be quite as slow as the first part was.

Baltimore Orioles: Start times set for 2017

The Baltimore Orioles very quietly set their game start times for 2017 over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays. There doesn’t appear to be much change in anything year-over-year, although a few oddities:

  • Opening Day: 3:05 PM start vs. Toronto
  • Mon-Sat. games: 7:05 PM
  • Sunday games: 1:35 PM
  • April 8, May 20, June 17, July 1: 4:05 PM
  • August 23, 30: 3:05 PM
  • May 24: 12:35 PM
  • May 29, Sept. 4: 1:35 PM (Memorial Day/Labor Day)
  • June 3: 7:15 PM

Presumably the 4 PM starts are done to accomodate the FOX window, which appears to be at 7 PM on those Saturdays. On the June 3rd date, the Orioles and BoSox appear to be the FOX game. The August 23rd and 30th dates appear to be getaway day games to culminate series’ and presumably the O’s agreed to earlier start times to accommodate their opponent who will be traveling immediately following the game.

MLB announced earlier this winter that we’d see more weekday matinee games – on getaway days, that is. And I for one think that’s a good thing. First off day games during the week are great for fans. I remember in the spring of 2006 my late grandfather was weeks away from dying. It was an incredibly stressful time for our family; a family friend invited my Dad and I to a Wednesday afternoon 1 PM game between the Nationals and Reds at RFK Stadium. We had a great time, not only because we burned a vacation day, but it was a great stress reliever.

But it also impacts teams in a positive manner, as they aren’t traveling during overnight hours. I’ve always heard that NFL teams view Thursday night games as almost having an additional bye week. I suspect that baseball players might see day games in a similar light. While the turnaround is harsh on the front end, afterwards you get a nice little gap in between games and it’s almost like an additional day off. Sundays obviously are this way.

Speaking of which, as of right now the Orioles aren’t slated for any Sunday Night games this year – home or away. Now in fairness, ESPN hasonly released part of it’s first half slate of games. However it would have stood to reason to me that a team which was featured in the MLB post season last year would have had at least one Sunday prime time game – more so than say Miami or Houston.

This is a small point for sure. However keep in mind that teams get national TV revenue when they’re featured in prime time games like Sunday Night Baseball. Time will tell though, maybe things will change.

Baltimore Orioles: What if Cecil Fielder had signed in 1981?

In doing some research for another article, I came to find out that former Detroit Tigers’ star, Cecil Fielder, was originally drafted by none other than the Baltimore Orioles. The Birds drafted Fielder out of UNLV in 1981 – 36 years ago this year. However Fielder didn’t sign, and instead was drafted by Kansas City where he did sign.

So let’s go back in time 36 years and play revisionist history for just a moment. 1981…Ronald Reagan took office, Iran released the US hostages, and yes MLB went on strike. That year’s Orioles finished in second place. And they were unable to sign Fielder, for whatever the reason might have been.

Throughout his 13-year career, Fielder averaged 35 home runs a year. Play 1981 forward a few years to when he would have potentially been through the minor league system and with the Orioles…could the Birds of the mid to late-1980’s not have used a guy like that? I suspect it would have totally changed team history.

I suspect the issue was that Fielder had the foresight of knowing that there was a guy named Eddie Murray minding first base for the O’s at that time. Odds are that Fielder knew his career would in theory be headed nowhere if he signed in Baltimore, even though they were one of the creme de la creme organizations at that time. Much as is the case today, there was a log jam at first base.

Murray of course was an Oriole until after 1988, when he was traded to the LA Dodgers. However had Fielder signed, might Murray have been traded earlier? Or perhaps moved to DH? It’s always tough to say. Who knows what would have happened. It’s also possible that with different training Fielder would have been average at best. Or he could have been better.

It’s just interesting how if one thing or another had been different, the entire history of a team and perhaps thus the league could have changed. You could say the same thing about the 2011 trade that brought Chris Davis to Baltimore. Andy MacPhail wanted Davis, and insisted that he be a part of the trade. Eventually he got his way. If that one wrinkle (as it appeared to be at the time) had been different, the Orioles wouldn’t have been the franchise they were the past five years.

Nevertheless, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip back to 1981. I know I have!

Baltimore Orioles: Could Jake Arrieta return?

The Baltimore Orioles are worrying about 2017 right now, as well they should be. However that doesn’t mean that people like me can’t look forward beyond that. Specifically, could the Birds make a run at bringing Jake Arrieta back after this season?

I don’t need to remind fans that the Orioles drafted Arrieta, brought him through their system, and to the big leagues. He saw mixed results, however at the end of the day he was probably mismanaged by the organization. It seemed that he was going up and down to and from Norfolk almost every week for a time.

He was traded to the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the 2013 season, after going about as far as he could have gone with the Orioles. At the time, I along with most other anaysts and most Orioles fans thought it was a good move – both for Arrieta and for the organization. Since leaving the Orioles however, he’s posted a 2.52 ERA, and a .720 win percentage. And of course he has a World Series title.

It’s almost human nature to play the revisionist history game, although I try not to do it. Many people say that it’s a knock on the entire Orioles organization that they let Arrieta go. Now I’ll agree on the part about how he was sent up and down several times, but for the most part that was pre-Showalter/Duquette. However as I said above, Arrieta had gone about as far as he was going to go with the Orioles. It’s tough to retroactively say it was a mistake to trade him.

Nevertheless, Arrieta will be a free agent after this coming season. So…might the Orioles be interested in getting him back? The answer to that is that they’d better be interested in getting him back…if they care about their success in 2018 and beyond, that is. But it’s obviously not that easy.

First off, he’s represented by superagent Scott Boras, and we know what that means. He’s not going to come cheap. However there are also some benefits to Boras’ representation in the Orioles’ case. Chicago is obviously going to try to re-sign him before his contract expires, and in fact they’re the only team that can talk to him right now. But as we know, unless it’s an offer that can’t be refused (translated: a gross overpayent) Boras always wants his clients hitting the open market.

Point here being that the Orioles (and everyone else) in theory would have a shot at getting him because he won’t re-sign in Chicago without hitting the open market. Whether they can afford him is another story. Now the good news is that Boras has quite a few clients already on the Orioles. So the relationship isn’t as poor as it may have been as recently as ten years ago.

I’m not suggesting that it’s realistic for Orioles fans to think that Arrieta will end up back in Baltimore. I’m just saying that it’s something the Orioles should consider, and hopefully something to which Jake Arrieta would be open as well if the Birds made the best offer.

Baltimore Orioles: How to put athletics back in the business of sports

Today is the first day of business for the Baltimore Orioles in 2017. That’s right – the champagne has dried, and the fireworks have been put out. Man, New Year’s Eve seems like ages ago!

So while the Birds are “on the clock,” in a sense (in terms of making moves and so forth), I want to piggyback to what I wrote yesterday about guys sitting out to protect future contracts. As I said, I’m the first one to point out that sports is a business. However I also don’t believe that business should totally get in the way of sports. How do we change that?

It starts at a grassroots level, ironically in a very innocent manner. When I was a kid in the 1980’s, I played just about every sport in an organized manner: baseball, basketball, and soccer. My mother never wanted me to play football or hockey…because they were too dangerous (in her mind). But I played my share of quarterback on the sandlots of the community park and so forth. Not unlike other kids of my generation.

However how often do you drive by a park now and see neighborhood games of football, baseball, basketball, etc? Not as often as you used to, right? Video games, internet, and social media have replaced playing outside as a source of entertainment for kids. Furthermore many parents don’t want their kids to cross the street unattended, much less walk to the park to play with other kids in the neighborhood.

But that’s just an add-on in a sense. My main point goes much deeper; how many kids play multiple sports nowadays? My Dad not only wanted me to play different sports, but he coached me in all of them. (And had my mother allowed me to play football, I’m sure he would have coached me in that also. But not hockey; my Pops isn’t much of a hockey fan so I’m not sure he could have pulled that off!) That’s a very powerful lesson to kids in terms of not limiting yourself to only one thing; play multiple sports and try to be at your best in all of them.

Nowadays let’s face it; not only do kids only play one sport, but they’re almost being groomed to be a superstar in it by age ten or eleven. And no that’s not a stretch – you know that as well as I do. College recruiting is extremely competitive nowadays, and if you want to be recruited by the top schools and coaches in your sport you have to be the best. And if you can’t hack it, odds are someone else can.

So many parents’ and kids’ attitudes have become why should I waste my time with baseball when I can do basketball 365 days a year and be really good at it? And you can insert any sports you want into that equation. The DC/Baltimore region is a hot bed of talent in terms of high school and college basketball. Big schools from all over the country recruit from this region – look at Texas getting Kevin Durant, and Syracuse Carmelo Anthony. How many of these kids are playing multiple sports?

Some of them are, I suspect. However that number is getting smaller and smaller. So the perhaps unindended message that parents are sending is focus really hard for a long time at this sport and forget about the other ones so that you can play college ball at a high level, go pro, and make a lot of money. And there’s where the beginnings of the business begin: make a lot of money. I’m not suggesting that shouldn’t play a role, because it should. But later – much later.

Baseball unfortunately is no different. Parents who see their kid can throw a great fastball in the zone are just as aggressive as basketball or football parents. My point is to let kids be kids for awhile. I was never a good enough athlete to play anything at the high school level. However I remember my school’s basketball coach (who was the best teacher I ever had and who lettered in three different sports at that same school) telling me that kids should get to play every sport when they’re young. And there’s no reason why you can’t be good in more than one of them, for the record. If you’re good enough, somewhere around your sophmore or junior year in high school you should probably consider picking one on which to focus.

Admittedly, none of this is gospel. However I do think that perhaps if parents were a little less aggressive in trying to engineer their kids into a star basketball or football player (again, insert your sports) at such a young age, perhaps the pressure wouldn’t constantly be on the kid to have to be the best. Should we train our kids to believe that second place is okay? Absolutely not – I’m not on board with participation awards. However I do believe in not pushing quite so hard so young to get a college scholarship so as to have a great collegiate career so they can get drafted and make a lot of money.

Again, this is all theoretical in a sense. But you get my point, I suspect. Incidentally, what if the kid just isn’t that good of a basketball player? What if he can throw a great slider but can’t locate his fastball? (If you can’t throw a big league fastball you won’t make it in MLB.) Then you’ve put all you eggs in one basket, and you’ll never know if perhaps he would have been great at another sport. So let the kids play, and put sports back into the game!