While everyone else is building around defense, the Orioles are happy to take the sluggers other teams are throwing out.
Baltimore Orioles (89-73)
Seth Smith acquired from Mariners
Vidal Nuno acquired from Mariners
Signed Welington Castillo from Diamondbacks for 1 year, $6 million
Signed Johnny Giavotella and Chris Johnson to minor league deals.
Matt Wieters signed with Nationals
Yovani Gallardo traded to Mariners
Steve Pearce signed with Blue Jays
The world: “Defense matters.”
Orioles: “Hold my beer.”
— Dave Brown (@AnswerDave) March 11, 2017
Every year, I look at what the Orioles did in the offseason, and every year I think they’re on the brink of becoming irrelevant. Then they go out and win a bunch of games and I feel like an idiot. So this year…I’m completely baffled by the Orioles’ moves and I figure they’re on the brink of becoming irrelevant. You have to stick with what works.
I mean, at the end of last year, the O’s had an abundance of first base types, and a surfeit of corner outfielders. But Mark Trumbo, Steve Pearce, and Pedro Alvarez were all coming off the books. They would have money to upgrade their defense in front of a pitch to contact pitching staff with a genuine corner outfielder. And it kind of looked like they would go in that direction when they acquired Seth Smith for Yovani Gallardo. Smith isn’t a plus defender, but he is actually an outfielder, and hits righties well.
Instead, Baltimore re-signed both Trumbo and Alvarez (admittedly, the latter for a steal on a minor league deal). Trumbo is slated to play right field again, while they’re toying with the idea of teaching Alvarez to play the outfield too. They also signed Welington Castillo to replace the departed Matt Wieters, which is probably a wash if he stays healthy.
Anyway, it was weird to see the Orioles, in a league that is increasingly recognizing the value of defense, go all 2000 A’s and say, “we don’t need no stinking defense.” It’s a gamble, but no more than overpaying for Chris Davis or neglecting the starting rotation in favor of a lights out bullpen. And those are gambles that the Orioles have been winning for four of the last five years. Plus, when the rest of the league zigs, it can make sense to zag and identify undervalued pieces like Alvarez who can be snagged for a minor league deal.
Still, even if everything works, it’s not likely to help Baltimore get past the Red Sox in the AL East. Barring some kind of disaster in New England, the Sox are the better team. At best, the O’s will be fighting again for a wild card with the Blue Jays, Yankees, Tigers, and whoever among the Mariners, Rangers, and Astros doesn’t win the AL West. It’s going to be an exceptionally hard row to ho. But Buster Showalter and Dan Duquette have been proving me, and everyone else, wrong for the last five years. So while I expect their seams to start showing, and for the Orioles to finish at or below .500, you should probably expect to see them in October.