With team owner Sean Angelos’s frugal free agent budget all but depleted now is a good time to review the Orioles off-season moves. Baltimore is not in a financial position to attract the big name free agents so it is a case of fiddling around the edges, trying to nab a good, relatively cheap alternative. In terms of the infamous +/- WAR rating per the offseason summary by team rankings, Baltimore is currently in fourth place at +4.4. Of course these numbers must be taken with a sizeable pinch of salt but nevertheless it’s better to be fourth from the top than fourth from the bottom.
Granted, a significant chunk of that positive WAR ranking comes from sorting the wheat from the chaff and offloading a number of player’s whose performances were detrimental to the team last season, but there are a number of new signings that bring significant past-season contributions with them into the Baltimore fold. The biggest WAR input this off-season comes from SP Mitch Brown who, along with RP Scott Oberg, hot-footed it over from the rarified air of Colorado, in exchange for a group of young prospects considered nothing more than ‘meh’ by the Baltimore GM. Together those two players put up 1.5 WAR last season and are a welcome addition to Baltimore’s restructured pitching crew. Brown, at 26, has a lot of baseball to play over the coming years. He won’t trouble the radar gun much but a combination of decent stuff, good movement, three first class pitches, plenty of stamina and a propensity to force groundballs gives him a rosey future in the black and orange of Baltimore. Oberg, meanwhile, is your typical two-pitch stuff-heavy relief pitcher, but with groundball tendencies which should help to overcome mediocre movement.
The next most significant newcomer in terms of previous season WAR is waiver claim RP Jesus A. Sanchez, who broke through at division rival Tampa Bay last year. Rumour has it that Baltimore will be continuing last year’s late season trial of deploying openers and Sanchez fits the mould perfectly with great movement and terrific control. Add to the pitching mix four-pitch groundball lefty reliever Mike Montgomery from Seattle and AAA star reliever/emergency starter Pat Young from the White Sox and the Orioles will be serving up a very different menu from the mound this season compared to last.
On offence it is pretty clear what Baltimore is looking for in 2021 – power coupled to plate discipline. Anthony Garcia from home-run school Toronto and Jose Rivera from the NL equivalent in Philadelphia will feature in the outfield and at DH and will very probably battle one another for the team’s home run crown. Both had below par seasons last time out and might be progressing towards their declining years but a team with Baltimore’s financial constraints has little choice but to squeeze every last pip out of oranges like these. Further additional batting power should come from 1B/DH Jon Singleton who signed in early September so is not officially an off-season move. He’ll strike out a lot, and is unlikely to have a particularly high average, but will get more than his fair share of walks and hopefully enough long balls to make up for the aspects of his game that are lacking.
Defensively, improvements come at 2B and catcher with the arrival of World Series winner Tim Beckham from Boston, along with Alex Avila from Atlanta. Beckham became surplus to requirements after the Red Sox signed Franchy Cordero, a player that Baltimore bid for but did not have enough wonga or hutzpah to sign. Beckham will switch from 3B to 2B predominantly but has platoon value at both positions where he will likely share time with incumbents Raul Linares and Tony Fraser. Avila is an okay catcher defensively but offers atypical power for a backstop along with a keen eye and while a high batting average is not expected he could very well deliver some key home runs from the back end of the batting order. Adding future promise in the infield will be 24 year old SS Yeltsin Gudino who was claimed on waivers from the Giants. He will be a more than able reserve for Ozzie Albies, being pretty much a slightly degraded carbon copy.
To round things off, two minor league signings were made with major league options at day 30 of the season; these were for two-time all-star SS Elvis Andrus and young RP Caleb Dirks. If things pan out as the Orioles hope is it unlikely there will be a spot for these guys when the time comes around, but they are handy in reserve to cover any early season injuries.
Time will tell whether or not these moves come good for the Orioles, but all things considered, it looks like a decent off-season. At the very least, the players signed fit the plan put in by the GM, on both sides of the ball, so now it is just a case of releasing that plan into the shark infested waters of the MLB to see if it sinks or swims.