Sports Outside the Beltway

An O-Turn?

The hiring of Andy MacPhail last year brought hope to Orioles’ fans that the end of the team’s 10 year drought may soon be over. Of course any turnaround effected by MacPhail will be complicated by the fact that the Orioles play in the same division as two of the best run and richest franchises.

Making matters worse is that any turnaround will almost certainly necessitate the Orioles getting worse (relative to the competition) before they get better as the Rays seem ready to improve.

Matters were complicated by the fact that even as the Rays were gradually moving in the right direction the Orioles were moving in the wrong one.

Since then we’ve run through some real crackerjack front office types, from the absurd Syd Thrift to the nice-but-overmatched Mike Flanagan, who has been paired up with Jim Beattie and Jim Duquette. Too many cooks, maybe. Or maybe it was that all the cooks weren’t any good to begin with. I mean, we hired the guy that traded Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano, you know? Then we wound up with Zambrano on our team this year.

But I’m getting sidetracked now by silly Jim Duquette decisions. MacPhail has said all the right things so far, and done a few of them, too. Like getting rid of Victor freakin’ Zambrano, and recognizing that Tejada had to be dealt, and at least paying lip service to offers for Bedard and Roberts.

(And the Orioles made matters worse by taking some of the sting out of the Kazmir deal for the Mets by repeating the error and trading the Mets John Maine for Kris Benson!)

Now certain things seem to be getting better though. For one thing, John Sickels believes

This system is underrated. While some of the more-heralded guys like Brandon Snyder look overrated to me by other analysts, there is some growing depth here, and several of the Grade C+/C guys have the potential to move beyond those grades.

The Orioles still have work to do getting their farm system to the level of the Yankees, Red Sox, or Devil Rays. But they are making progress.

And it appears that now the Mariners are showing increased interest in Erik Bedard according to Ken Rosenthal.

The Mariners are continuing their aggressive pursuit of Bedard, major-league sources say, and there are growing indications that the teams could be moving closer to a deal.

The Reds also remain interested in Bedard, but the Mariners are willing to trade their top outfield prospect, Adam Jones, while the Reds will not part with their best minor-league outfielder, Jay Bruce.

Maybe waiting to deal wasn’t so much a matter of indecision but carefully biding time.

The A’s strong returns for right-hander Dan Haren and outfielder Nick Swisher in recent trades seemingly has increased the Orioles’ leverage. The addition of Bedard, meanwhile, would give the Mariners a potentially dynamic rotation to compete with the Angels in the American League West.

Getting off of the O’s for the end, this is a fascinating observation. We usually read about how the earlier free agent signings “set the market” for later players of similar ability. It never occurred to me that the same market principle could work for teams making trades.

This is reflective of two trends in baseball. The first (more basic) trend is the greater attention being paid to talent and its worth to a team. (This is likely bad news for the kinds of players that the Orioles have acquired recently who were valued more for their “veteran leadership” than their on field talent.) And the other related trend is the increased visibility of the GM. Since judging, acquiring and developing talent is becoming more important, the GM’s role (and the organization he puts together) has become more important too.

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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