The Orioles had a great year in 2012, and are looking to build on that for 2013. They’ll need some help to get over the hump from playoff team to World Series contender. The question might be – how much are they willing to spend? Baltimore, itself, is just the 26th largest TV market in America. But, because of its proximity to the D.C. area, they draw a lot from that market as well. However, they were able to make the playoffs with the 19th largest payroll on Opening Day, (just one spot ahead of the Nationals) with an $81.4 million payroll. The difference in my recommendations for the Nationals and Orioles is going to largely be based on the fact that the Nationals likely are able to sustain a larger payroll for a longer period of time, since they technically are in the larger market. So, I would say the Orioles’ payroll probably doesn’t need to rise above around $90 million.
Who’s Under Contract?
- The Orioles have 6 guys under contract already for 2013: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy, Wei-Yin Chen, and Wilson Betemit. That accounts for $45.82 million in payroll.
- Pre-arbitration players include Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Pedro Strop, and Steve Johnson. Now, whether or not both Arrieta and Britton would make the major league team in 2013 remains to be seen. Baltimore also has Dylan Bundy (the #2 prospect in all of baseball), who’s close to being ready to crack the major league staff. Also, Xavier Avery (OF) and Joe Mahoney (1B) look to be ready to make the move to the big leagues. The question would be whether or not either is ready to be an everyday player at the major league level – something Showalter would have to decide in the Spring. Regardless, the Orioles look to have 6-8 pre-arb. players on their opening day roster, accounting for around $3-4 million in payroll.
- Mark Reynolds – anybody ready to pay around $9 million for a guy that bats .220 with a .785 OPS? That’s probably what Reynolds would get in arbitration. If the guy was hitting 40 HR like he did in ’09 (with an OPS near .900), I’d be more comfortable with the low batting average. But, there are better options that Baltimore should pursue.
- Robert Andino ($2 mil.), Lew Ford ($600K), Omar Quintanilla ($800K), and Steve Pearce ($700K) also aren’t really worth what they would cost in arbitration, considering the seasons they just had.
- Endy Chavez, Ronny Paulino, and Nick Johnson were all 1-year guys that I doubt Baltimore would consider re-signing. Especially considering the young talent they have coming up in their farm system.
- Jason Hammel – I know he had a very good year . . . when he was healthy. But, do you really want to pay a guy $6.5 million (what he’s expected to earn in arbitration) – or, at best maybe $5-6 million if they offer him a 3-year deal – when he just turned 30, and had his first season ever with an ERA under 4.00?
- The Orioles have a lot of arbitration eligible players, and trying to decide who stays and who goes was not easy. The obvious choices, I think, were Matt Wieters ($4.6 mil.), Chris Davis ($3.3 mil.), Darren O’Day ($2.2 mil.), Troy Patton ($800K) and Jim Johnson ($6.9 mil.). All of these were too important to this club’s success in 2012 to let them go. And even though I think that’s a little high for Johnson, it’s better than releasing him to the free agent market.
- In the end, I also felt like it was worth holding on to Tommy Hunter ($1.8 mil.), Brian Matusz ($1 mil.), Taylor Teagarden ($800K), and Nolan Reimold ($1 mil.). Hunter and Matusz might end up battling guys like Arrieta and Britton for a spot in the starting rotation, or they can be useful in the pen as well. Teagarden isn’t great, but for $800K, he’s a fine back-up catcher to Wieters. Reimold could be either their everyday left-fielder, or a quality bat off the bench. We’ll see how he performs in the Spring, and whether or not Avery is ready to step into the big leagues.
Who Do They Go After?
- Let me start this section by saying . . . Josh Hamilton is NOT right for Baltimore. First, if they locked themselves into a contract like his, they would be suffering from it in just a few years, because they wouldn’t be able to keep key pieces around him. The Orioles don’t have the luxury of taking that chance. Second, offense is NOT the problem in Baltimore!! They hit the second most home runs in baseball last year. Granted their overall OPS ranked 12th in baseball, but they still have some very good pieces in place, and can add offense at a much cheaper price than Hamilton.
- So, without Hamilton in LF, that leaves Reimold & Avery to battle it out and/or platoon there. The other hole in the offense is at 1B, if you’re letting Mark Reynolds go. Chris Davis can play some there, and if Mahoney is ready, that’s a fine choice. But, to shore up the 1B/DH position, I think Baltimore should take a good look at Carlos Lee. He’s a short-term option that gives you some versatility alongside Davis and possibly Mahoney. Sign him to 2-years at $10-12 million, and you’ve added some good offense without breaking the bank. Plus, at worst, he doesn’t work out and you have to rely more on Mahoney than you thought.
- This leaves us with what really is the problem in Baltimore – starting pitching. They had one of the worst starters’ ERA’s in the game in 2012, and their bullpen just happened to be strong enough to pick up the slack. But, you can’t keep doing that to your ‘pen. This is another reason I decided that letting Hammel go would be the best choice, because that frees up the salary to go after Brandon McCarthy. Give him 5 years/$70 million, and you have your ace for the foreseeable future. Plus, by the time that contract runs out, you should have several young guys ready to step up to the big leagues, if they haven’t already.
- One more roster spot to fill – Ryan Theriot. He’s a versatile middle-infielder who also has some experience at 3B and in the OF. And, he’s only going to cost around $1 mil.
In the end, this roster will cost the Orioles about $90.5 million. The starting rotation would be 1. McCarthy, 2. Chen, 3. Gonzalez, 4. Tillman, 5. Arrieta/Britton. The starting lineup would be 1. Roberts, 2. Avery, 3. Weiters, 4. Jones, 5. Markakis, 6. Lee, 7. Davis, 8. Hardy, 9. Machado. For about $90 million, that looks like a nice team.