The Orioles have a long way to go, but they are actually doing a fairly good job of building their team (I don’t call it “rebuilding” because that would imply that there was anything there in the first place). They have some good young position players. There are some young arms on the rise. There is reason to hope in Baltimore.
So why, then, does GM
Lee Andy MacPhail [hey — Lee’s still alive, but at age 92, I don’t think he’s the one I meant] come out and talk about the noise they could maybe possibly make on the free agent market? In the article he talks about the Orioles’ payroll flexibility. Which is fine, because it’s technically true. But then he goes on and on about how they offered Mark Teixeira $140 million last year, implying that they could make big splashes like that in the future and don’t count the O’s out and all of that kind of stuff. Which is either (a) dumb; or (b) disingenuous.
It’s dumb if MacPhail really thinks that the Orioles should be out playing in big-money free agent land. There aren’t any impact free agents out there this year, and certainly not any that will be around long enough to be strong contributors for an Orioles team that likely won’t contend for a while. Matt Holliday and John Lackey and guys who will eat up big money over multiple years and be on the downside of their careers by the time Matt Weiters is leading the Orioles to winning seasons are not what the Orioles need right now.
But MacPhail is a pretty smart guy, and I think he knows that. Which is why I think this is mostly disingenuousness at work. The Orioles aren’t going to play that market, nor should they. They were burned on bad free agent signings for a decade. There was almost zero chance that Mark Teixeira was going to sign with Baltimore for $140 million last year. MacPhail knows this, and smart, hardcore Orioles fans know this as well. In suggesting otherwise, MacPhail is likely trying to play to the casual fans, hoping to drum up ticket sales and excitement during a long cold winter.
The Peter Angelos era has been characterized by the Orioles messing with what once was a solid fanbase. Years of trying to put together Frankenteams of veteran castoffs and milking Ripken’s legacy and a nice park rather than building a strong foundation for the future like the Orioles teams of yore used to do. Now that they’re finally doing that, the Orioles should be straight with their fans. They should tell them “Hey, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. We have a lot of exciting young players. There’s no one out in free agent land that’s truly going to help us, so don’t hold your breath for a signing.”
Such a gesture may not seem like much — and talking up the free agent market may not seem all that harmful — but there has been a lot of broken trust in Baltimore over the past fifteen years. Now would be a great time for the Orioles to fix that, and they can do so by simply shooting straight with their fans and not promising them pie in the sky.