As Orioles fans wait for a move or two, they might want to appreciate being in a sweet spot. For at least the next two seasons, the Orioles have control over their most important players: Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, Jim Johnson and Wei-Yin Chen.
Johnson has two years left under club control, Wieters and Davis three each. Hardy, Markakis and Chen have two years left on their contracts. Jones, of course, signed a long-term extension last season, and Machado is years away from free agency.
It’s not that the Orioles are standing pat this off-season. In many ways, there’s no choice. A vital third of the club, and that’s not including Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, who may join the starting staff later next season, is theirs in 2013 and 2014.
Important choices can wait. Extensions for Johnson and Wieters don’t have to be discussed now.
Several fans have asked about a possible extension for Wieters. Few teams, and especially not the Orioles, look forward to dealing with his agent, the powerful Scott Boras. But while the Orioles might like to lock up Wieters for the long term now, it’s probably not in the catcher’s interest to do so.
His defense is superb, and if his offense perks up more, he’ll be a much more valued commodity next year.
The team still does need a big bat, and they’ll look elsewhere to find it. Traditionally, many of the Orioles’ top home run hitters: Frank Robinson, Jim Gentile, Ken Singleton, Brady Anderson, Albert Belle, Rafael Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, Aubrey Huff, Mark Reynolds, Davis, Hardy and Jones, were all acquired from outside.
Since 1991, the Orioles have had only one home grown player lead the team in home runs: Markakis led the club with 23 home runs in 2007.
Growing the team organically is fun, but can be frustrating for fans. There aren’t any great power prospects in their system, though Machado could certainly blossom into one.
Jones and Davis were both acquired by Andy MacPhail early enough in their careers so that the Orioles could have each for several years before making hard decisions. It’s almost as if they’re home grown.
Dan Duquette is probably right in not wanting to surrender a draft pick as the price for signing Adam LaRoche or Nick Swisher as a free agent. The Orioles will pick later this year, and might like to try and take a position player instead of a pitcher as they’ve done four of the last five years.
The farm system is still short, and while Duquette deftly dealt last year to cover up its shortcomings, he knows that’s not a long-term solution.
Only by having several strong drafts and continuing to beef up their international scouting, can the Orioles shore up the system. While there are signs they’ve begun to do that, it’s a long process.
-The Sports Legends Museum of Maryland will host the annual “Babe’s Birthday Bash” on February 8 from 5:30-9 p.m. It’s held each year at the Museum at Camden Yards.
Unlimited food and beverage is available. Parking is free. Tickets are $55 in advance and $60 at the door.