Biggest Winners and Losers from the Baltimore O's Offseason
The 2014 MLB offseason has been a strange one.
It started off hot and got even hotter just before the winter meetings, with signings being made and dominoes falling left and right. Then, suddenly and without warning, it got cold and has stayed that way.
The cold spell is probably due to every team and free agent waiting for Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka to sign, and now that he has, we may see a flurry of activity around MLB.
Until then, though, let's analyze what the Baltimore Orioles have done so far this offseason, and take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the offseason for the Birds.
Please note that this is subject to change as the offseason still has a few weeks remaining, meaning there's still time for the O's roster to change.
Winner: Ryan Webb
For all the nothing that the Orioles have done this offseason, signing Ryan Webb is a really good move.
The right-hander went 2-6 with a 2.91 ERA last season with the Miami Marlins, appearing in 66 games and throwing 80.1 innings. His career ERA of 3.29 is really solid, and O's fans seem excited to see what he can do to help the team close out tight ballgames.
Webb is the winner here though, because he goes from playing on a crummy team (the Marlins) to a possible contender in the Orioles. And he gets a nice little pay day: $4.5 million over two years. That's solid coin for a one-inning type reliever.
Webb was a smart move for the O's, and it was a smart move on Webb's part to sign with a potential contender. Here's hoping he can help his new team reach the playoffs.
Loser: Grant Balfour
When the Orioles agreed to terms on a two-year, $15 million deal with closer Grant Balfour, the Aussie thought he had found a new home.
However, concerns over the animated pitcher's physical results caused the O's to back out of their deal, leaving the team without an established closer and Balfour scrambling to mend his reputation and find a new deal.
Now don't get me wrong, the Orioles are certainly losers in this situation due to the fact that they lost the chance to sign a quality arm to add to their bullpen mix. But it's been over a month since the issue surfaced and Balfour has yet to sign with a new team.
Maybe the Orioles were on to something in their caution with Balfour. If he is in fact damaged goods, then the team dodged a bullet in backing out of the agreement.
But whether the O's are right or not, it certainly seems to be hurting Balfour's market, making him the biggest loser in this situation. As I stated, Balfour has yet to sign with another team, which is quite peculiar considering both the amount of interest in him before his agreement with the O's and the quality pitcher that he is.
It'll be interesting to see what happens with Balfour as spring training approaches.
Winner: Tommy Hunter
Tommy Hunter is a beneficiary of this winter inactivity.
It appears now that the hard-throwing righty is the leading candidate to be the closer on Opening Day, giving Hunter a chance to prove himself in that role and only increase his value.
Should he find success, he'll be considered one of the more elite bullpen arms in baseball and find his paychecks to be getting fatter.
Should he fail, he'll go back to being a setup man for the team, where he had success last season and likely will continue to.
It's a win-win for Hunter. Either he finds success in a new role and ups his value, or he goes back to a role he's previously had success in.
Loser: The Fans
O's fans have been hoping for an offseason of activity for two years now.
It has yet to come.
For years, Orioles fans heard from front office personnel that the team would spend when it starts winning. What's the point in spending on a losing team when a few guys could turn a last-place team into a first-place team.
Well, the O's have started winning. For two years now, they've posted winning records. And the money still hasn't been spent.
The O's have a great core of players—one of the best cores in baseball. They're a few complementary players away from being world-beaters for the next couple of seasons. Yet the front office has been reluctant to make any major moves this winter, opting instead to sign no-names and never-weres.
The fanbase has become restless. They want to see their team win, and they want to see the moves made to put the team over the top. Not necessarily a big move, like signing a Tanaka or an Ellsbury, but the small-to-mid-level things that really help make a complete team.
These fans have had a hell of a winter. Maybe the team's young prospects will grow this season and help the O's make the playoffs once again.
Unless that happens, though, the fans will stay restless.
Winner and Loser: Peter Angelos
The Orioles ranked 15th in baseball in 2013 in team payroll at $90,993,333. Since the end of the season, the team has let Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth and Scott Feldman walk in free agency, and traded Jim Johnson. They're set to receive another $25 million from the new national TV deal MLB agreed to.
Yet, somehow, the team is looking like they'll have a lower payroll in 2014 than they did in 2013, as Baseball-Reference projects the O's to have a payroll of $82.8 million this coming season, even after arbitration settlements with many O's players and the projected earnings of catcher Matt Wieters.
Orioles fans are wondering where the money is going. The team has yet to spend significantly at all, meaning there's only one place the money could go: into the pockets of the owner, Peter Angelos.
Angelos is certainly entitled to make some money off of his baseball team. After all, he worked to be in the position of being able to own a baseball team, so it's only fair that it benefit him as well.
But at the end of the day, the number one priority of a sports team's owner should be to spend enough to field a competitive team. After all, that's how a team makes more significant money off of ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, playoff money, etc.
If Angelos is unwilling to spend and the team isn't as good in 2014 as it has been the last two seasons, then he's going to hear about it from the fans. This kind of inactivity when the team clearly has the resources available is unacceptable to most fans. Not to mention that most fans wouldn't want a huge signing anyway, just enough to complement the existing talent on the roster.
Angelos' wallet has been the real winner of the O's offseason, but his perception and public image among fans has been the loser.