Mark Reynolds, Chris Iannetta

Keith Law rips the Orioles’ offseason moves

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I’ve been asked about the Orioles offseason a lot.  My standard answer is that while I still have a hard time seeing them finish in anything but last place due to how brutal the division is, I do think they have improved themselves and will be a better team this year. They could win 80 games, which is pretty spiffy compared to what happened last year.  As Steve Melewski reports, my friend Keith Law isn’t as ho-hum about it as I am:

There is clearly a lot of excitement and anticipation for the 2011 Orioles season. Some of the national media has given the team some props lately.

But ESPN.com’s Keith Law won’t make that list.

In a phone conversation yesterday afternoon, Law told me he felt certain the O’s had little chance to even be a .500 team this year. He also was very critical of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds and of many of the moves the club has made this offseason.

What follows are a lot of very Keith Law quotes about the state of the O’s.  And I agree with Law on the 85 wins thing — the math just doesn’t work in that division — but Keith is way way more critical of the O’s moves than I am.  Specifically the signing of Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds.

I get where he’s coming from, but from where I’m sitting I don’t agree that his chief complaint regarding the Vlad signing — that it takes away from Nolan Reimold and Felix Pie’s development — is that critical.  Neither of them are spring chickens.  If they rake in AAA, it’s not like Guerrero is so immovable on his one-year deal that a place can’t be made for them or that they can’t be traded for something worth a damn.  I feel the same way about the money spent on Guerrero, which Keith says should be reserved for a loaded 2011 draft.  Yes, the draft is way more important than Vlad, but it may not be an either/or situation. They could still pay what is necessary to get the best talent possible in the draft with Guerrero in the fold. It depends on how they budget. Maybe they are poised to spend a bit more now than they did in years past.

I would agree with Keith that the incremental improvements the O’s made this winter aren’t the things long-term plans are made of.  But that’s only bad if the moves foreclose the possibility of making the sorts of changes that do fit in a sound long term plan.  In the meantime, there is some value to making the team into one that fans who watch 100 games a year can better stomach than the version they’ve watched the past few years.  Derrek Lee, Vlad Guerrero and Mark Reynolds aren’t going to be a part of the next contending Orioles team, but they are far more easy to stomach than the guys they’ve trotted out recently.

And more importantly, they aren’t preventing that next contending Orioles team from coming together.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

Brandon Belt
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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.