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January 2005 Archives

January 7, 2005

A tale of two Carloses

Unlike last year, when the Orioles began the free-agent shopping season by treating themselves to Miguel Tejada and Javy López, no free-agent sluggers have landed in Baltimore this offseason. Fans of the orange and black, watching other teams make the big moves, are getting impatient and frustrated. The local media are no different; everyone following the Birds seems to be hoping that their team will buy, buy, buy like it did a year ago. But this year, high prices and a heavy dose of fiscal discipline have left the team empty-handed thus far, although the O's have been in competition for a few of the top names.

Coming into the offseason, most observers agreed that the Orioles needed to upgrade their pitching. But after being rebuffed by Carl Pavano, the Orioles apparently have decided to take a pass on this year's middling selection of free-agent starting pitchers. And after signing left-hander Steve Kline, the O's don't seem to have much interest in the market for relievers either. Co-VPs Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan have narrowed their focus to acquiring a new starter or two at first base or in the outfield. The team also could improve its bench depth, particularly at backup catcher.

This article and those that follow will assess how the market for hitters has evolved for the Orioles, beginning with the first basemen.

Continue reading "A tale of two Carloses" »

January 14, 2005

An NRI scan

The Orioles' bleak midwinter continues. This week's signings of pitcher James Baldwin and infielder Chris Stynes to minor-league contracts with spring-training invites only serve to remind fans of how little new talent the club has added this offseason. Baldwin, Stynes, and fellow non-roster invitee Brandon Marsters fall under the category of "depth" acquisitions who stay ready in case something unforeseen happens to a member of the major-league roster.

If Baldwin pitches in a game for Baltimore this season, it probably would be bad news because it would mean that something went wrong with some of the team's younger pitchers. A 33-year-old starter, Baldwin had some success with the White Sox early in his career. But despite being named to the American League All-Star team in 2000, he's never been much better than a league-average starter, and his last decent season was 2001—i.e., eons ago. Last year, he was exiled from the pitching staff of the fourth-place Mets and clunked around in Triple-A for the rest of the season. Nowadays, Baldwin's primary asset appears to be his control, as his curveball no longer has the bite it once had. Sifting through Baldwin's most comparable pitchers on Baseball-Reference.com, one name pops out that should be familiar to Oriole fans: Rick Helling. Yes, that same Rick Helling who posted a 5.71 ERA for the Orioles in 2003 and did not pitch in the majors last year. So to sum it up, don't "go tell it on the mountain" that Baldwin is coming to the Orioles' camp. (But if you have the time, go read some of the writings by his namesake, who was a prose pro and an insightful thinker about American social issues.)

Stynes is another player who ideally should not see much playing time with the Orioles in 2005. If he makes the big-league roster, it will probably be because he beat out Chris Gómez to become the backup infielder or (horror of horrors) because of an injury to one of the Orioles' infield starters. Stynes, who turns 32 next week, is two years younger than Gómez, but similar to the other Chris in that he's bounced around as a mostly part-time player in the past few years. He's posted a batting line of .275/.335/.399 in his career, putting him a notch ahead of Gómez as a hitter, particularly in the power department. However, Stynes has played virtually nil at shortstop in the majors, while Gómez has logged over 1,000 games there. Since Miguel Tejada plays almost every inning of every game in the field, the Orioles might be able to make do without a true shortstop on the bench and thus keep Stynes instead of Gómez. Stynes' skill set (he has played second, third, and a bit of outfield in his major-league career) makes him a fine right-handed complement to David Newhan.

Another spring-training invitation went to 29-year-old catcher Marsters, who hit .210 in 60 games for the Rochester Red Wings (now the Twins' Triple-A affiliate) in 2004. Marsters, a defensive wizard behind the plate, might assist the big-league squad by warming up some of the Orioles' pitchers in February and March, but his anemic offense destines him to be a minor-league backup at best.

Less than six weeks before pitchers and catchers are to report to Fort Lauderdale for workouts, all that Baltimore's front office has to show for its efforts is left-handed reliever Steve Kline, along with a bunch of nondescripts signed to minor-league contracts. Yawn.

January 30, 2005

Sosa? So-so

According to the latest reports (Baltimore Sun, Washington Post), Slammin' Sammy Sosa is about to bring his bat—and his baggage—to Baltimore. The Orioles have reached a tentative agreement with the Cubs that would send second baseman Jerry Hairston and two minor-leaguers, second baseman Mike Fontenot and right-hander Dave Crouthers, to Chicago in return for Sosa and $12 million, which would help cover the slugger's $17 million salary in 2005 and the $4.5 million buyout of his 2006 option (which would have been worth $18 million if activated). Sosa's unusual contract also has a $3.5 million severance award that the Cubs have agreed to pay. Sosa would waive his no-trade privilege and void the part of his contract that was to trigger his 2006 option in the event of a trade. In turn, his 2007 club option for $19 million also would become void. (Some sources suggested earlier in the week that relievers Jorge Julio and Kyle Farnsworth were in the mix as possible trade material, but the most recent reports did not include them in the deal.)

There are other hurdles to clear before the transaction becomes official, although none appears especially imposing. The cancellation of Sosa's 2006 and 2007 options would require the consent of the players association, and the commissioner's office would have to approve the deal because of the amount of money involved. And of course, all the traded players would have to pass physicals. So the deal cannot be finalized until sometime next week.

Continue reading "Sosa? So-so" »

About January 2005

This page contains all entries posted to The Orioles Warehouse in January 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2004 is the previous archive.

February 2005 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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