This Orioles offseason has started like most others under Dan Duquette’s tenure: plenty of chatter and rumors, very little movement. The Manny Machado saga has continued to drag out, revealing an organization without direction or leadership.
How did we get here? I feel as though I blinked and the 1998-2011 Orioles returned. At what moment did this promising and exciting core fizzle out and usher in the return of the dark times?
After some research and Jedi-like meditation, I found it.
Travel back in time with me to 2014. If you need a reminder of how phenomenal this time was, take a moment and reminisce with me. I’ll wait:
That was great, wasn’t it? That postseason run, which saw the O’s drop four one-run games to the Royals in the ALCS, was accomplished largely without Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, or Chris Davis. Wieters and Machado missed extensive time due to injury, and Davis the final 25 games due to suspension.
As an O’s fan, 2014 appeared to symbolize the Baltimore Orioles’ return to prominence. A team with a great mix of veteran and young talent seemed poised to be a force in the AL East for years to come.
Alas, such hopefulness proved fleeting.
In fact, the O’s haven’t won a playoff game since 2014, and have appeared in only 1.
Why? Well, I believe it can be traced back to this particular offseason and the moves that followed it. The Orioles had something special in 2014, and should have made another run with that group. Instead, they elected to replace Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis with Travis Snider, Alejandro De Aza, and the Island of Misfit Toys.
The Orioles also elected to not re-sign Andrew Miller, whom they traded for at the deadline and who was an integral part of their playoff run.
It’s not necessarily that they didn’t bring these players back; it’s what they chose to do instead that defines their blunders.
Cruz signed a four-year $57 million deal, while Markakis inked a four-year $44 million contract (for those keeping tally at home, that’s $101 million). Miller received a four-year $36 million deal, bringing our grand total to $137 million. At the time, it didn’t seem realistic that the O’s would spend that kind of money on three players.
Oh ye of little faith.
Dan Duquette and the Orioles turned around after the 82-win 2015 campaign and signed Chris Davis to a seven-year $161 million deal and Darren O’Day to a four-year $31 million contract (I love O’Day, but give me Miller for $5 million more over the length of the deal every day of the week).
So, you could have kept the band together for 2015 and been a legitimate World Series contender plus locked up Markakis, Cruz, and Miller over Davis and O’Day AND saved $55 million (Manny money)?
Don’t worry, we’re not done yet.
During the 2015 campaign, a season which saw regressed starting pitching and an offense that couldn’t do enough to overcome this, Duquette made another deal at the trade deadline. This team’s flaws were obvious, and the savior for a “win now” philosophy was… Gerardo Parra.
Parra came in for 55 games and batted a gentleman’s .237, with an abysmal .268 OBP. But the Orioles didn’t part with much to get him, so I can… oh that’s right, they traded Zach Davies, who was 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA last year with the Brewers.
At least the O’s aren’t starved for pitching.
The 2014-2015 debacle was cemented with this move: Tommy Hunter for Junior Lake. This one still grinds my gears, because if a team is in an alleged “win now” mode, and you trade a young pitching prospect for a couple months of Parra, then on what planet did it make sense to trade Big Game? It didn’t. It was nothing more than a salary dump to account for the increased cost incurred from the Parra acquisition.
The Orioles were at a fork in the road in 2014-2015. They chose wrong, and have paid it for ever since. The O’s have been playing checkers, while division rivals have been playing chess.
It’s finally caught up to them, and as we watch this Machado trade fizzle and turn into a debacle, it’s difficult to see how they get back to the playoffs anytime soon
I’ll be in exile on Ahch-To.
Don’t try to find me.