For the first time in 15 years, the Baltimore Orioles had a winning record, made the playoffs and made their fanbase happy.
And because of that, they're in a better position to attract bigger name, quality free-agent talent than they have been in the last, well, 15 years.
This time around, though, signing those types of guys might not be the best idea for the O's.
As a whole, the free-agent market is a bit bare this offseason, with outfielder Josh Hamilton and starting pitcher Zack Greinke headlining the group and both of them demanding $100 million-plus deals.
They'll be sure to get them, but hopefully, neither one will be with the Orioles.
Don't get me wrong, Hamilton and Greinke are both fantastic players who can greatly help whichever team they decide to sign with. But they both have baggage of sorts, and at the price they're demanding, it just wouldn't be worth it for the O's, who aren't looking to become super-spenders much like the New York Yankees or either Los Angeles team are.
Imagine a lineup featuring Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton and either Matt Wieters or Chris Davis as the three-four-five hitters. Makes your mouth water, doesn't it?
The Orioles could certainly benefit greatly from a bat like Hamilton's, who hit .285 with 43 homers and and 128 RBI in 2012. They need more run production, as the team isn't likely to repeat its same one-run games and extra-inning games record as it had this season.
However, what concerns essentially everyone in baseball is his well-known substance abuse issues, which plagued him during his minor league days, and at one point, had him out of baseball. Since then, he has has two reported minor relapses. It's obvious Hamilton tries hard to keep himself clean, but when talking about any former substance abuser, one never knows when they might have a serious relapse.
A long-term commitment on Hamilton, like the seven years and $100 million-plus he's asking for, is a bit scary considering his issues.
Grienke, on the other hand, is quite simply not worth the $100 million-plus he's demanding because his numbers don't support it. If Greinke had been pitching every season like he did in 2009 (16-8, 2.16 ERA, 229.1 IP), hell, he'd be deserving of a $200 million plus contract.
He hasn't, though. Taking into account his ERA's from 2010, 2011 and 2012 (4.17, 3.83, 3,48 respectively), he's looking more and more like a pitcher who is somewhere between a No. 1 and a No. 2, but he certainly isn't worth more than pitchers like Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver. Funny thing is, if Greinke re-ups with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the $100 million-plus that he wants, he'd be making more than Weaver, but likely pitching behind him in the rotation.
And like Hamilton, Greinke does have a little baggage, as the pitcher is known to have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, something that could land him on the disabled list at any time and for any length of time. Granted, Baltimore could be appealing to Greinke in the respect that Baltimore isn't a large-market stage, and that could help Greinke control his disorder. But the team simply can't afford to spend that much money on a pitcher who isn't even a true ace.
And don't even get me started on Nick Swisher. I wouldn't sign him for $50 million, let alone the $100 million he is asking for. If Swisher gets his $100 million, then the $100 million plateau will have become a joke. While he averages 28 homers and 90 RBI per season, his average is only .256, and his cocky attitude would negatively effect the young players in the Orioles clubhouse.
The Orioles most certainly need improvement in both their starting rotation and lineup. An addition of someone like first baseman Adam LaRoche could be solid, but remember, should the Birds re-sign outfielder Nate McLouth, they would have a full year of him and young third baseman Manny Machado to help boost their offensive production.
On the starting pitcher front, with the growth of starter Chris Tillman in 2012, the team is likely better off waiting for the emergence of Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman while re-signing Joe Saunders and going with a group of solid starters until those two can take over the front end of the O's rotation.
The free-agent market could provide some interesting news for many teams this offseason, but for the Orioles, they're better off not making a huge splash this time around. Improvement through small signings, trades and the growth of young players is likely for the team in 2013, and that will help put it in a better financial position going forward.
The O's are still not in position where one player will push them over the edge. They need to spend smartly and save their money for when that day comes. And it will come soon.
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