The Orioles won the American League East for the first time since 1997 this past year. They followed by sweeping the Tigers and making it to the American League Championship series where there were then swept by the far more momentous Kansas City Royals. Big picture, it was an incredibly successful year for Birdland, one that proved to be the start of something bigger so long as everything stayed the same… only it hasn’t.
The Orioles lost their leading power hitter Nelson Cruz (whom they’d practically stolen considering his output) to the Mariners and lost fan favorite, lead-off man Nick Markakis to Atlanta. (Side Note: Why bother paying for Markakis when you’re just going to trade everyone away and play money ball?) Now it appears that the general manager that put this unit together, Dan Duquette, is working on a deal to become Toronto’s GM. Whom have the Orioles brought in to counter these losses? Well… nobody really. They resigned Delmon Young to handle the absence at DH, but that’s a very lone bright spot on an otherwise crappy offseason report card.
Let’s take a look at the San Diego Padres. Their offseason activity has been exactly opposite of Baltimore’s. They traded for the young, and at times very promising, Wil Myers from Tampa Bay. They added the in-prime Justin Upton from Atlanta and approaching prime Matt Kemp from division rival Los Angeles. For the mound? Just James Shields, no big deal.
Am I going to pick the Padres to win the NL West over San Fran or LA right now? No. But if I were San Diego, would I be excited? Hell yes.
The stories aren’t exactly comparable; San Diego finished third in their division (17 games back), so something had to give, whereas Baltimore has steadily improved every year the Buck Showalter has been manager, but the city of Baltimore must be thinking.. the players were there to grab… why didn’t we get one? Why does it seem like we’re settling for an ALCS appearance?
In their defense, Baltimore did flirt with the notion of grabbing Matt Kemp but didn’t want to give up Kevin Gausman or promising pitching prospect Dylan Bundy. Baltimore’s rotation was their weakness last year and widening the hole in that rotation wouldn’t exactly been the improvement they were looking for. Also, Chris Davis, Matt Weiters, and Manny Machado were all missing from last year’s playoff rosters. Davis had a year to forget following his extraordinary year to remember, and the law of averages says he’ll improve this year. There’s also the nuisance that is the defensive shift in which Davis was particularly victimized by, but he’s already hinted that he may be looking to bunt down the third base line this year. Weiters was regarded as one of the best offensive catchers, if not all around catcher, in the American League, and though Caleb Joseph and Nick Hundly did an admirable job filling his spot, his return should mean more consistency in the 5 -6 spot of the lineup. Machado has already proven he deserves to be in the conversation that includes Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, his presence at third base speaks for itself.
They’ll be making their return in 2015, and Baltimore seems to be counting on their contribution and the continued success of Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza. Maybe it’s the result of GM limbo, but it seems like a quiet, border-line neglectful offseason. Or maybe it’s really a calculated and patient resistance to spend money. Much like the personality of Buck Showalter himself. He’s never been the flashy or big splash type. You SHOW up and you #BUCKleUp, as Adam Jones tends to tweet.
Who knows, I may be wrong, but I don’t see any reason why we should resist expecting much of the same from Baltimore in 2015.