Baltimore Orioles: Can Dan Duquette Build a Winner with No Big Free Agents?
It's one of the topics that draws the widest array of opinions in sports. Is it more effective to spend a lot of money on one big-name free agent or on a few smaller names that could make an impact?
Dan Duquette has only been with the Orioles for a little more than a week, and it's already becoming clear that his style is not the same "buy the bats" mentality that Andy MacPhail had in his tenure.
There are some big names at a few positions of need on the market. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are looking for huge deals at first, and Aramis Ramirez could be a big bat at third. On the mound, C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish and Mark Buehrle could make a huge difference for the Orioles' pathetic pitching staff.
It seems like there are a lot of reasons that the Orioles should sign someone for big money because any of the guys above could be stars for Baltimore, but there are some definite cons.
One thing overlooked in a major league budget is the amount of money spent on scouting, player development and the international market. A little-known fact is that while the Toronto Blue Jays had the 22nd highest payroll in the year, they spent the most money of any team on player development. Homegrown talent like Ricky Romero, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia are complemented by the emergence of Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow and Yunel Escobar to make them one of the league's top up-and-coming teams.
The Orioles could gain a lot by allocating the money that they could be spending on Prince Fielder or C.J. Wilson to developing players like Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy and Jonathan Schoop into cheap stars in the future.
Another reason that the Orioles can't spend on a marquee free agent is the risk associated with that. History has shown that big contracts have failed spectacularly in the past. In 2011 alone, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth and Adam Dunn were paid way too much for pretty poor performance. The Orioles can look to Albert Belle in their own history to see how a big contract is a risk that they can't take. Dan Duquette don't have the same wiggle room as the Red Sox, Nationals and White Sox to recover from failed risks.
The Orioles aren't ready to sign a big-name free agent because they are not ready to compete in 2012, so a big-name free agent might be moot anyway. Baltimore's fans may be angered by Dan Duquette if they see another losing season, but this isn't the way to win in the AL East.
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