The Smartest and Dumbest Moves of Baltimore O's Offseason to Date
The MLB offseason is roughly halfway to the start of spring training in February. Plenty has happened over the course of the last couple of months, as teams work tirelessly toward building a better franchise for 2015 and beyond.
The Baltimore Orioles have attempted to build off of a successful 2014 season in which the team reached the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1997, but they haven't had much luck swinging any deals this winter.
The team has made some smart moves, though, by failing to make certain rumored moves. Sometimes, the best thing that a team can do is to not make a certain move.
We're going to take a look at some of the smartest and dumbest things the O's have done so far this winter.
Smart: Signing Wesley Wright
Bringing left-handed reliever Wesley Wright into the fold is a great pickup for the O's.
For one, he's left-handed, giving him automatic value. And he fills a need for another lefty reliever since Andrew Miller departed for the New York Yankees.
He comes cheap at a $1.7 million rate for the 2015 season. And he provides depth at a valuable and sought-after role for major league clubs: left-handed relief pitching.
The O's now have lefties Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland and Wright, who could potentially earn a spot in the bullpen to start the 2015 season, giving the O's some flexibility when it comes to trade talks.
Dumb: Not Yet Signing Nori Aoki
According to Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have "lukewarm" interest in corner outfielder Nori Aoki.
To me, the O's need to have a lot more than just "lukewarm" interest in the left-handed hitting outfielder.
Aoki would fill plenty of needs for the O's. He would give the team a legitimate option for the leadoff spot in the batting order, provide above-average defense at either left or right field and help the team in an area in which it is sorely lacking: on-base percentage.
Their .311 team OBP in 2014 ranked 17th in baseball, and having lost Nick Markakis' .358 career OBP, that number will likely only go down unless an addition or two are made.
Aoki has a career .353 OBP over three major league seasons, and he's totaled 67 stolen bases over that time, meaning he'd also bring some much-needed speed to a team that relies on the long ball.
On top of that, Aoki likely wouldn't cost as much as other players, as Charlie Wilmoth of MLB Trade Rumors projects that he'll receive a two-year, $16 million deal this winter.
Aoki is the kind of addition the O's need to make.
Smart: Not Shelling out Big Deals for Above-Average Players
The O's have been linked to multiple names this winter, such as Michael Morse, Melky Cabrera (pictured) and Billy Butler, while also being linked to a trade for Matt Kemp before the San Diego Padres acquired him.
While many guys who were on the open market are good players, there were plenty of guys who aren't necessarily worth the money they were given.
In that respect, the O's have been smart to sit back and let other teams guarantee relatively large contracts to players who may not live up to them and/or may not be worth the money to begin with.
The O's are a team that needs to make smart moves, not big moves, in order to stay flexible and competitive. They've been able to do that the last three years, and hopefully they'll continue to successfully execute that plan.
Smartest and Dumbest: Letting Nick Markakis Walk
The Nick Markakis era in Baltimore has come to an end, and I think it's safe to say that the majority of Birdland is saddened by his departure.
Markakis was a staple for the Orioles for nine seasons, and it'll be strange for O's fans to not only see someone else manning right field at Camden Yards, but also for them to see Markakis donning another uniform.
In that sense, it was dumb for the O's front office to let Markakis walk. It's great for a team to have players for the fans to connect to, and Markakis was certainly one of those players. Many fans, including myself, believed Markakis would be an Oriole for life.
But in a baseball sense, losing Markakis isn't the end of the world. While he's a good player with a keen batting eye and two Gold Gloves in his career, his power numbers have declined the last few seasons, leaving one to wonder if the 31-year old outfielder will live up to the four-year, $44 million contract he inked with the Atlanta Braves earlier this offseason.
Unfortunately, the deal he signed with the Braves is likely a little too pricey for a player of his abilities. It's fortunate that Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette makes baseball decisions for the Orioles with his brain and not his heart.
Still, it's a tough one to swallow for Birdland.