So, please don’t get too angry with me for what I’m about to say: Peter Angelos is doing the right thing by not going after the remaining free agents.
Seriously, please don’t get mad and just hear me out. This might be the first time I agree with him not going after particular free agents, but let’s take a look at who is available:
First up is Nelson Cruz, outfielder. The O’s signed outfielder Delmon Young to a minor league deal which is A-OK with me. Sure the guy is a whack job and has a few screws loose in his head, but he does have talent. The former 1st overall pick in the 2003 draft, Young had a great season in 2010 for the Minnesota Twins, as he batted .298 with 21 home runs and 112 runs batted in. Last year, between the Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies, he hit a combined .260 with 11 HR and 38 RBI in 103 games.
Most people were clamoring for Cruz. At this point of free agency, people tend to develop beer goggles and start yelling at Angelos to sign whoever is available, in this case Cruz.
The reason they should NOT get Cruz—well there are a few reasons. Sure the guy hits for power, as evidenced by his 27 HR last year in only 109 games. Why, you ask, did he only play in 109 games last year? Oh, that’s because he served a 50-game suspension for being named in the Biogenesis scandal. So who knows if the power will be there moving forward.
What has been there for the past three seasons has been his terrible on-base percentage: .312 in 2011, .319 in 2012, and .327 last year. Not that great for a big slugger like Cruz, who made $10.5 million last year. Surely he wouldn’t ask for that much now, but even $8 million is too much for a player who really is a one-trick pony which might not have that one trick anymore.
One glaring hole on the O’s roster is starting pitching. One of the “better” pitchers available who would not cost the Orioles a draft pick compensation is Matt Garza. Not a bad option, but Garza made $10.25 million last year. Pretty good salary for a mediocre pitcher. How mediocre is he? His career record is 67-67 with a 3.84 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. In 191 starts, he has a whopping total of nine complete games. That’s it. Seems pretty average to me and not worth the money.
Ubaldo Jimenez is also available, but let’s not let his 2013 season cloud our judgment. Last year he went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA. 2012 saw him go 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA, and he posted a record of 10-13 in 2011 with a 4.68 ERA. Which Ubaldo will you get? Either way, you will get an Ubaldo who walks a batter almost every other inning (80 walks last year and 95 the year before), and his WHIP isn’t exactly that wonderful (career 1.34). Not someone who I would want to gamble that much money on, along with a draft pick.
The O’s bailed on the Tanaka sweepstakes, which is OK by me. You could get Yu Darvish, or you could get Daisuke Matsuzaka. Early word is he’s more Darvish, but for that price, I’d rather hold off. A.J. Burnett’s name has been tossed around, but let’s be honest, I wouldn’t want him anywhere near a mound at Camden Yards unless he’s on the opposing team.
The only player I feel they should go after is closer Fernando Rodney. This way they can keep their setup men as they are, with Brian Matusz facing lefties and Tommy Hunter facing righties. Rodney also wouldn’t cost too much, certainly far less than Jim Johnson, and will still have a high level of success.
Either way, if the Orioles are going to spend money, I would rather it be on players who are worth it. Let’s not forget: after the 2015 season, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Darren O’Day, Hunter, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris will hit the free agent market, and the O’s will want some extra cash lying around to pay those guys rather than an overrated Cruz, Garza, or Jimenez.
If that does in fact happen, you can thank Angelos now for saving up. Let’s just hope that is the case.
by Andy Mindzak