Early Grades for All of Baltimore Orioles' Offseason Acquisitions
The Baltimore Orioles are currently sitting at second place in the AL East with a 12-12 record, and they have been flirting with a .500 record for the past week.
Despite kicking off the season with a 2-5 record in their first seven games, the Orioles have rebounded nicely, winning 10 of their next 17 games, thanks to notable contributions from some of their offseason acquisitions.
This past offseason, the Orioles proved that patience is indeed a virtue, signing two of the most high-profile free agents in starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (four years, $48 million) and outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz (one year, $8 million) in late February to relatively cheap deals, considering what they bring to the table.
Let's take a closer look into the group of offseason acquisitions and evaluate them based off of their performance to date.
2014 statistics: 0-0, 9 IP, 5.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 9 K (10 games played)
Signed to a two-year, $4.5 million deal in early December, right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Webb, formerly of the Miami Marlins, is off to a relatively poor start through almost a month's worth of games.
Even though Webb holds an ERA of 5.00, that number is a little deceiving, considering he gave up four runs in his first 2.1 innings pitched in the early going. Since then, Webb has only given up one run over eight separate appearances dating back to April 7.
Webb might've simply had a case of the jitters, wanting to prove himself to his new ballclub, so it's wise to take his statistics so far with a grain of salt.
2014 statistics: .324 BA, .375 OBP, 3 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB (10 games played)
Signed to a minor league deal in mid-January worth $1 million that could include a possible $750,000 in incentives, designated hitter/outfielder Delmon Young has been making the best of his chances whenever he is slotted into the lineup.
Young has played in less than half of the Orioles' total games, but he has provided a consistently solid bat, hitting near the top of the lineup in the 2-hole in the majority of his games played.
With the recent news of first baseman Chris Davis being put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique, it looks as if Young will be receiving more starts in the foreseeable future. Although Young lacks the pop that a superstar such as Davis brings to the lineup, his on-base percentage suggests that the Orioles can weather this storm.
2014 statistics: .172 BA, .226 OBP, 8 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 4 SB (18 games played)
Left fielder David Lough, who was acquired in a trade in December that sent utility infielder Danny Valencia to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for his services, is proving himself extremely valuable to a Baltimore club that takes pride in their solid, fundamental defense.
Despite holding a sub-.250 OBP that would earn him a spot on the bench on most teams, Lough has been phenomenal in the field. He currently boasts a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage and has made several acrobatic catches, such as this one, that have saved the Orioles plenty of runs.
Addressing the slow start at the plate, fans should at least take notice that Lough has been heating up lately, getting on base at a .300 percentage over the past week.
If Lough can get back to his OBP from last year that hovered around .310 and couple that with his already present skills with the glove, he can be well above average for the Orioles at the bottom of the lineup.
2014 statistics: 0-4, 27.1 IP, 6.59 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, 21 K (5 games played)
Jimenez is quickly losing favor with Orioles fans, as he is off to one of the worst starts of his career.
Jimenez has lost four of his five games started so far, has given up a total of 20 runs through 27.1 innings pitched and has yet to get past the sixth inning in any of his starts.
Rough starts to seasons are nothing new to Jimenez, as he now has a 5.23 career ERA in the months of March and April. Perhaps the turning of the calendar to May changes Jimenez's fortunes, as he holds a respectable 3.89 ERA in that month.
Regardless, Jimenez will need to get a grip on his control soon, as the right-handed starter has walked a total of 17 batters thus far and has given up, on average, one home run per game.
2014 statistics: .284 BA, .376 OBP, 18 R, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 0 SB (23 games played)
Signed to an absolute bargain of a contract in February, which includes incentives for up to $750,000, Cruz has been the Orioles' best hitter. If the season were to end Tuesday, he would be in the running for AL MVP.
Cruz has put on quite a show for Orioles fans this April, totaling seven long balls and 25 runs batted in, which ranks him fourth in both in all of baseball.
In just this past week alone, Cruz has hit nearly half of his homers (three) and has plated 11 Orioles baserunners, thanks in large part to his grand slam against the Toronto Blue Jays last Wednesday.
Cruz has been all that was advertised and more. In a time in baseball where the majority of free-agent contracts involve players not even coming close to their dollar value, Cruz has been worth every penny.
With news that third baseman Manny Machado could possibly rejoin the team this week, along with Davis recovering in maybe a couple weeks' time, Cruz and the Orioles will eventually form one of the best lineups in all of baseball.