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.
The dust hasn’t quite settled after right-hander Dellin Betances‘ arbitration hearing with the Yankees on Saturday. The case was decided in the team’s favor, awarding Betances with a $3 million salary for the 2017 season instead of the $5 million he initially requested. Yankees’ president Randy Levine held a press conference to voice his outrage over the figure presented by Betances and his agency, saying it had “no bearings in reality” since Betances does not have the elite closer status required for a salary bump of that magnitude.
Needless to say, the comments caused some consternation within Betances’ camp. The reliever publicly addressed the outburst, telling the press that he was prepared to put his differences with the team aside until he heard what Levine had to say. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:
Players union executive Rick Shapiro and Betances’ agent, Jim Murray, also spoke out in the right-hander’s favor. Shapiro presented Betances’ case during the hearing on Saturday and called Levine’s comments “an absolute disgrace to the arbitration process and to all of Major League Baseball.” In a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Shapiro added: “The only thing that has been unprecedented in the last 36 hours is that a club official, after winning a case, called a news conference to effectively gloat about his victory – that’s unprecedented.”
Murray spoke exclusively to Rosenthal, accusing the president of effectively bullying the 28-year-old during the arbitration process and claiming that Levine had both mispronounced Betances’ name throughout the hearing and blamed the reliever for “declining ticket sales and their lack of playoff history.” Like Betances, Murray said that the agency was ready to accept the arbiter’s decision and move on before Levine’s decision to air his grievances to the media. “The only person overreaching in this entire situation is Randy,” Murray told Rosenthal. “He might as well be an astronaut because nobody on earth would agree with what he is saying. Even the others in the room would disagree with him.”
Royals’ manager Ned Yost is shaking things up in 2017, starting with left fielder Alex Gordon. Yost told MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan that “every scenario is open,” and expects to utilize Gordon in right and center field this spring while he figures out where to position Jorge Soler and Brandon Moss.
Gordon, 33, hasn’t manned right field since a three-game experiment with the Royals back in 2010 and has yet to play center field during any regular season to date. The focus, however, isn’t on Gordon’s capabilities. Among the three outfielders, he carries the best defensive profile and appears to be the most versatile of the bunch.
According to Flanagan, Soler and Moss are average on defense and will continue working closely with Royals’ coach Rusty Kuntz as the season approaches. One arrangement could see Gordon in center field, flanked by Soler in right field and Moss in left, though Yost foresees Soler taking some reps at DH if his defensive chops aren’t up to snuff.
While Moss is prepared to see starts at either outfield corner, Yost appears to be set on keeping Soler in right field, at least for the time being. The club is hoping for a bounce-back season from the 24-year-old outfielder, who was acquired from the Cubs in December after batting a lackluster .238/.333/.436 and sustaining a slew of minor injuries throughout the 2016 season.