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.