Much Ado: The Baltimore-DC metro area has picked up a lot of players this off-season, but they have something in common that will vex Orioles fans: they're all Washington Nationals. (Then again, Orioles fans are probably not the least bit upset that they didn't land big prizes like Vinny Castilla and Cristian Guzman for the small sum of $23,000,000. By doing nothing, Orioles VP of baseball ops Jim Beattie has already established himself as the smarter of the two Jims running clubs in the region.)
Given the absurd market that developed for most free agents this winter, the Orioles might win in the end for having sat this one out. Sure, they probably threw some cash at a few of these guys, but to their credit never panicked and said, "We must land this guy." Carl Pavano, one likely target, signed with the Yankees for four years and a hair under ten million per; while the Yankees made a more attractive target than Baltimore, it's likely that the O's could have had Pavano if they had gone to five years or $45 million. Some teams in the Orioles' position might have.
The only signing to make some noise in the Inner Harbor was the two-year pickup of Steve Kline. The lefty reliever market was set when Rheal Cormier, a lesser talent, signed with the Phillies for two years, $5.25 million. Kline's good enough, but he's not going to vault the team into the playoffs. These sorts of pickups are like eating at Applebee's: serviceable, good portion size and you needed to eat something, but you come away feeling like fast food would have been a better value.
Second Act: We should qualify all of the above by saying that the Orioles aren't out of the woods yet when it comes to avoiding desperation. They seem hot in pursuit of Carlos Delgado, another player with a big STAY AWAY sign around his neck. Mind you, that's no knock on Delgado, who hits consistently and for power. Rather, it's a testament to the realities of this off-season: Troy Glaus, four years, $45 million; Richie Sexson, four years, $50 million.
Delgado's agent got some laughs when he said that his client would not take a cut from his last contract, which paid him $17 million annually, and which the Blue Jays would gladly have shed almost the minute it was signed. But if Glaus ($11 million) and Sexson ($12.8 million), who are worse bets, can fetch what they have, who's to say the agent won't be right?
Baltimore has done a good job so far of walking away when the price goes too high. If the bidding for Delgado goes the way of most of this winter's studs, it will take restraint to prove that those wise decisions have been intentional.
We are a fantasy baseball league whose draft is scheduled for April 14. Ten men enter (or nine or eight), and one man leaves.
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