Friday, February 27, 2009

Crazy Friday!!!

I tried to hold off from writing until things are final, but I just can’t help myself. This Friday has just been too crazy to refrain from commenting on it.

Earlier in the week, the Ravens ended negotiations with center Jason Brown, content to let him go elsewhere. Currently he’s visiting with the Rams, Dolphins and Redskins and doesn’t look to be back in Baltimore.

And I only say "doesn't look to be back" despite the certainty of it because earlier today it was reported that the Jets had signed LB Bart Scott, but according to a Ravens Insider over on Orioles Hangout, the Ravens upped their offer to Scott just as he was putting pen to paper in New York. It at least gives Scott something to think about, if not make him change his mind, since Scott was willing to leave Baltimore for the extra one million dollars that the Jets were offering.

Then there’s Ray Lewis, who wants one more payday before he retires, and who’s told friends and family members that he’s going to Dallas. Only, Dallas doesn’t want to pay him, and the only other team with the cap space to sign Lewis, the Jets, are after Scott.

Apparently, Lewis said he’d rather retire than play for the Ravens again, and is bitter that the Ravens have taken a hard line during negotiations this offseason. I am guessing it’s simply a negotiating tactic, since Lewis has already approved of new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and should have some loyalty to an organization that has stood by him throughout his career.

Oh yeah, the Ravens also signed cornerback Dominique Foxworth.

Foxworth went to Western Tech in Catonsville, MD (with my sister no less) and then went to the University of Maryland before playing 4 seasons with the Broncos and Falcons. Foxworth is still young, just 25, but isn’t known as a physical corner and is a poor tackler. Word is that the contract was steep, but that said, Foxworth will shore up a secondary that looks to lose Samari Rolle, Chris McAllister and Jim Leonhard in one offseason.

All of that still doesn’t even include players such as Jim Leonhard and Matt Stover, who are free agents, and look to be headed elsewhere themselves.

So stay tuned, because I need to take a breath and things are getting interesting.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I think I might cry!

Someone actually gave the O's some massive props!


"You have to really like what MacPhail is doing… JP Ricciardi should be taking notes.

This is the perfect way to run a team in the position that the Orioles are in. Stick to values on free agents and focus on drafting/scouting/player development. They have consistently made moves where they gave up little and acquired young, cost controlled players with upside. Further, they have still been aggressive in finding cheap, nice fits in free agency that will ensure the product on the field is respectable… theyve shown the younger guys they wont accept a culture of losing. Quite a remarkable rebuilding job… has to be considered ahead of schedule. Of course, drafting Matt Wieters and having Chris Tillman and Adam Jones gifted to you sure helps."

Are the Orioles going to the playoffs? Not in 2009 unless the planets align. But if they can stay within 5-8 games of the Wild Card in August and September, they'll force me to stop what I am doing in August and September to watch them play. Maybe even get out to the Yard too, which pretty much doesn't happen for me after June ends.

Of course the 2009 season could turn out like the last couple of seasons, but Andy MacPhail has done his best to see that it doesn't happen.

Has he done enough? If he signs Braden Looper, and he's rumored to be close to a deal, then I think he has.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

O's ink Wigginton to 2-year deal...

Andy MacPhail didn’t rest for a minute after completing yesterday’s Rich Hill trade, signing Ty Wigginton to a 2-year deal this morning.

Wigginton has played 7 seasons with the Mets, Pirates, Rays and Astros. He’s a versatile player, having logged most of his time as a 3B, but also has experience at 2B and 1B. He’s got some good pop in his bat, having hit more than 20 home runs in each of the last 3 seasons. He also hits LHP very well. Overall, he’s nothing to write home about (he strikes out too much and doesn’t walk enough) but he’s not a bad option to have for the next 2 years. He’ll be 31 this season.

Unless the O’s pick up Melvin Mora’s option for 2010, the O’s are without a 3B after this season, so this buys 3B prospect Brandon Snyder the entire 2010 season to get ready for the job.

Also, the Wigginton signing could be an indicator that more moves are yet to come, and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of Brian Roberts, Luke Scott, Aubrey Huff or Ryan Freel were on their way out of Baltimore.

The trade rumors surrounding Brian Roberts date back to last offseason. And with Roberts asking for a 4-year extension of at least 10 million per year, it's unlikely that the two sides will come to an agreement before opening day. Second base is Wigginton's second-most-played position, so one doesn't have to be a genius to figure that signing Wigginton could mean that the "Brian Roberts Trade Saga" is nearing completion.

Luke Scott was penciled in as the full-time DH once Felix Pie was acquired, and Scott has said he’s not comfortable in a full-time DH role. Scott is a good guy and a team player and there is little doubt that he’d accept any role he’s given, but you’d like to keep him as happy as possible. But, after signing Wigginton, it gives the O’s the ability to use a Huff/Wigginton platoon at 1B, meaning whoever is not playing 1B can DH. More bad news for Scott -- Wigginton can also play 3B, 2B and the OF -- since Scott is pretty much stuck in LF.

It’s less likely that Huff will be the one sent packing, since there was zippy interest in him at the deadline last year, and that has trickled over to this offseason as well. And Huff, like Wigginton is pretty versatile, having played 3B well enough throughout his career, so if there was a guy to be sent packing between Huff and Scott, my money is on the less-versatile Scott.

Ryan Freel was acquired in the Ramon Hernandez to the Reds trade, and like the other guys mentioned, can play pretty much anywhere except at catcher and SS, so it’s safe to presume that he’s not going anywhere. But, Wigginton makes Freel somewhat expendable, since they can play the same positions, and since Chris Gomez is the only other player on the roster who can play SS, it’s likely that Gomez stays on the roster and Freel is added to the “potential outgoing players” list.

Gomez, despite being 38, appears to be the O’s defensive replacement at SS when Caesar Izturis is removed late in the game for a pinch-hitter. And you can bet your money that the O’s are not going to play the 8th and 9th inning of a close game with a defensive liability at SS. So it’s safe to presume that Gomez is staying until the O’s acquire a younger and better SS alternative.

But the kicker is this. If the O’s go with a 12-man pitching staff, which is something they haven’t done since 2006, they could keep everyone and have a decent bench for once and some great flexibility.

Take a look at this versatility:

Roberts, 2B
Markakis, RF
Mora, 3B, SS, OF
Huff, 1B, 3B, DH
Wigginton, 1B, 3B, OF, DH
Scott, LF, DH
Wieters, C, DH
Jones, LF, CF
Pie LF, CF
Izturis, SS
Freel, IF/OF
Gomez, IF
Zaun, C

One thing is sure, the O’s have plenty of options in 2009. A lot of guys can play here or there, and over a long 162-game season, that makes a difference, as you can rest several players while not suffering through a huge drop-off in on-field talent.

The Orioles were winless on Sundays for most of the 2008 season because they rested their starters and had AAA-fodder playing in their place.

Thankfully, that won’t happen as much in 2009, and Wigginton is just more proof of that.

Monday, February 2, 2009

O's acquire Rich Hill

Andy MacPhail continued his wheeling and dealing 2008-2009 offseason by trading for Cubs LHP Rich Hill.

Even better, he acquired Hill for a Player To Be Named Later and removed Brian Burres from the 40-man roster, which essentially makes it a Burres for Hill trade.

And I can live with that every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Rich Hill was chugging along in his career until 2008. In 48 starts over 2006 and 2007, he was 17-15 with a 4.28 ERA, 273 strikeouts and 102 walks. Nothing amazing, but for the Orioles, he would have been the second best pitcher behind Guthrie over that time.

Then, 2008 happened.

Hill only made 5 starts for the Cubs in ‘08, seemingly forgetting how to throw strikes. He walked more batters than he struck out, and was sent to the minors to work on his control. It only got worse. In 10 starts at single-A Dayton and triple-A Iowa, he struck out 46 batters, walked 39 and had a 6.63 ERA.


So, while Rich Hill instantly becomes the most talented pitcher on the O’s, he also becomes the biggest question mark as well. Can he get back to the success he had in 2006 and 2007 when Rick Kranitz was his pitching coach? Or will his meltdown continue in Baltimore?

In short, designating Brian Burres for assignment was worth finding out.

While Burres looked decent at times during his 3 years in Baltimore, he was horrible most of the time, and like the 2008 version of Rich Hill, couldn’t throw strikes consistently.

So while the O's may be re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic by replacing Burres with Hill, at least one of those chairs could turn out to be pretty dang comfortable.