It's amazing how quickly elation can turn to devastation. It would have been almost less painful had the Baltimore Orioles been swept by the Bad Guys from the Bronx.
But when you are so close, you are no longer playing with "house money," as Mark Reynolds put it before the American League Division Series began. You are merely a few blown plays from the chance to represent the AL in the World Series.
It may not feel like it right now, but things are looking up, Orioles fans, and here's why: this team is young, talented and, for the most part, under contract. Any thoughts of this squad being a one-year wonder should be thrown out the window.
Adam Jones finally lived up to his athleticism, and was rewarded by the tune of an 85.5 million dollar contract. A few more years with 30-plus home runs while flirting with .300 and playing a gold glove-caliber center field and that will feel like a bargain. The team has at least a season before having to deal with arbitration for phenom Manny Machado. The home-grown catalyst of the Orioles' second-half surge hit .260 with seven home runs since his August call-up and has light years of room to grow.
What else do they need to do to keep the ball rolling?
Re-Sign their own talent
The former phenom is on the verge of becoming the best catcher in the American League. After a premature appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the former first-round pick has rounded into form in the past year. Already an elite fielder, Wieters was in the top-five in the AL amongst catchers for both batting average and home runs. Wieters still has room to grow offensively and the Orioles re-signed him for cheap in the beginning of this season, but now is time to show him the money, before someone else does.
The big right fielder is another must-sign, as 26-year-olds with his kind of pop simply don't grow on trees. Yes, he strikes out too much and is probably better suited to play DH than be an every-day outfielder, but he just completed his first full season in the big leagues and has 35-homer, 100-RBI potential. Given the strikeouts, he still hit .270 this season, so he is not exactly an all-or-nothing guy.
Speaking of all-or-nothing guys, the Orioles have an $11 million-a-year option on "The Sheriff." In spite of the strikeouts and .235 career batting average, I would consider bringing him back. Is it over paying him? Sure, but not terribly so for a guy that will get you 30 home runs, flirt with 100 RBI and has been re-born as a gold-glove caliber first baseman. The added clubhouse value for a player that seemed to be a catalyst for this club would make it worth it. However, I would not rip the O's for letting him walk.
I remember when McLouth looked like a future star with the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 2008, fresh of 26 home runs and frequent SportsCenter appearances for his work in the outfield. I wondered what happened to the guy before he re-emerged with the Fightin' Showalters. With his seven home runs, 12 stolen bases in just 55 games and making highlight-reels in left field, I would definitely bring 'McClout' back to Baltimore for something slightly above the veteran's minimum.
Bring in some free agents
For the first time in 15 years, Baltimore can be seen as an attractive prospect for free agents. And I don't mean the post-HGH, trying-to-prove-they've-still-got-it ones. The Orioles were one big-game pitcher away from upsetting the New York Yankees and there are a couple of them on the market.
Here is a name that has been thrown around Baltimore since the trading deadline. (Remember when you were calling into 105.7 to trade Machado for him? Yeah, didn't think so). I'll be honest, I don't love the move. Do we want to take on CC Sabathia, the King of Cool in the postseason, with a mentally fragile pitcher? I don't think so. No, the name I like is...
They don't call him "Big Game James" for nothing. Shields may not get you 20 wins, but he's an innings-eater and a guy who plays the part of an Ace in October. The Orioles should be all too familiar with this guy, as he struck out 15 O's in his final start of the season. Plus, they'd weaken a division rival by stealing Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays.
See: Greinke, above, times ten. Don't touch this guy with a ten-foot pole. I'd hate to say it but he has relapse written all over him. I understand wanting to upgrade the outfield, but not by spending 100 million dollars on a player that is best-case injury prone, worst-case a binge away from rehab.
Say hello to the future
Yep, it's time to call up Dylan Bundy. At the very least, he has to be a mid-season addition. How much longer can you let your best pitcher dominate in the minor leagues? The team can end its search for an ace with a simple call to the farm system.