Say it with me Orioles fans: Patience.
GM Andy MacPhail has a plan to improve the once-proud franchise in Baltimore. That plan just doesn’t involve them competing in 2009. The moves the O’s made in this year’s Off Season tell us that much. If you’re looking for a template the O’s are going to be following under MacPhail, think Rays, not Red Sox. Youth, athleticism and defense.
The Orioles didn’t make many major moves in improving their big league roster for ’09. Their most important move was signing RF Nick Markakis to a new six-year, $66.1 million deal, and the second largest in franchise history. Markakis, only 25, had a solid year in 2008, batting .306 with 20 home runs and 87 RBI with 99 walks, but more importantly led all major league outfielders with 17 assists.
That signing of course came after the failed wooing of free agent prize Mark Teixeira, a Baltimore native. The O’s acted decidedly un-O’s like, reportedly offering Teixeira a contract worth seven years and $150 million. Markakis, while lacking the power of Tex, is a quality right fielder and an important piece of the puzzle for the future of the team.
Their second biggest signing was brining in catcher Greg Zaun for one year, $2 million. Zaun will bring experience to a rotation that has had difficulty finding reliable arms. Zaun is only a stopgap measure, though. The team’s top prospect is catcher Matt Wieters and he won’t be up until the team thinks he’s ready for the big league.
One of the new arms is Japanese pitcher Koji Uehara, who the O’s have rolled the dice on. Japanese pitchers don’t always equal success. For every Dice K there are three Kei Igawa’s or Hideki Matsui’s.
Going back to the team’s stressing of youth and defense, they also signed shortstop Cesar Izturis, and traded for 23-year-old OF Felix Pie.
The Orioles are developing a slew of promising young arms, but much like with Wieters, MacPhail is taking the approach that they will not come up to the majors until they are ready, not when the team is ready for them.
So patience is the word, Orioles fan. The team is young and will be able to compete defensively with the other teams in their division. MacPhail is building something and owner Peter Angelos is letting him build. So according to the plan (wait and build from the farm system), the O’s had a decent off-season.
Just don’t expect it to impact the 2009 season too much.
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