Couldn’t the O’s Simultaneously Rebuild AND Compete?

sunset view of oriole park at camden yards
Photo: @asianmegan

As the beautiful sounds of baseball near their return I find myself in a glass case of emotion in regard to the 2019 Baltimore Orioles (and beyond). On the one hand, they have done a phenomenal job this offseason changing their course. It seems that each one of their personnel hires from Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal, to Brandon Hyde and his coaching staff have received great praise both nationally and here in Baltimore.

From the perspective of a fan I’m really excited to see what this group can do to rebuild this thing from the ground up. That’s the positive spin.

The other side of this coin has me dreading the next three seasons and the 300 losses that will come along with them. The Orioles have made it clear (with their lack of activity) that they have zero interest in being competitive in 2019.

Is it wrong to understand the need for a rebuild yet still want to not watch a team lose 110 games? I don’t think so.

 

Lose at All Costs

Like a pair of Rayban Wayfarers and a craft beer, tanking is all the rage right now in Major League Baseball. Per Spotrac, the average MLB payroll for 2019 is $118,755, 719.

Guess how many teams are below the league average? Go ahead and guess, I’ll wait…

Twenty-one. 21 teams are currently slated to spend below the league average in 2019.

In fact, 15 of those 21 teams have a payroll below $100 million. The Orioles rank 28th with a projected payroll around $61 million. The Rays come in at a cool $35 million, a ghastly $167 million behind the Boston Red Sox (that amount is equal to the Los Angels Angels’ Payroll).

With this type of payroll disparity and over 2/3 of the league spending below “average,” it’s clear that losing has become the new winning.

 

MLB is Happy

Rob Manfred

The love of the tank has been a dream scenario for Major League Baseball. With 2/3 of the league mailing it in, the perennial big spenders/markets have been free to do as they wish – Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs. Their success = big money, and MLB enjoyed their 16th consecutive year of record-breaking revenue, as they eclipsed $10.3 billion in 2018.

The winners here are obvious, as owners, and in turn the league, have never been richer. The losers are equally obvious, as the fans and free agents are left to suffer.

From my vantage point, the best solution to this is a salary cap/floor. The players union has always been opposed to this idea as it would obviously limit the ability for teams to spend, but we’ve reached that point naturally. With 2/3 of the league tanking, there simply aren’t enough funds available for the remaining nine teams to pay these free agents what they’re looking for. It is not acceptable to have a $167 million gap between the lowest and highest team payrolls.

That’s a laughable model.

For reference, the gap between the lowest and highest payrolls in the NFL for 2018 was about $70million.

 

Why not sign Free Agents?

Back to the Orioles.

Why not sign some veterans to make the 2019 season more palatable? This roster as currently constructed is awful (horrendous, disgusting, pitiful), and I don’t understand the rationale for playing these guys just for the sake of filling out the lineup.

Nick Markakis just signed for $4 million. Nelson Cruz, $14.3 million. Jonathan Schoop, $7.5 million. Troy Tulowitski, a gentleman’s $550,000.

Now granted, none of those guys may have wanted to come here, but for argument’s sake, signing those players, all of whom signed one-year deals, would fill major deficiencies for 2019. Furthermore, it would have moved the Orioles to a payroll number around $87 million, jumping them up to 22nd in MLB (by no means outrageous even during a rebuild).

What would those guys have done for the W/L record? I don’t know, but I know they would have put some butts in the seats at the Yard, and I’d much rather watch Nick Markakis in RF over Joey Rickard, or see Nelson Cruz in the on deck circle over Mark Trumbo. These guys would serve as nothing more than a bridge to the future, and who knows, maybe throw us a bone of excitement.

But hey, if you’re the type of fan that enjoys the Steve Wilkersons and Rio Ruizs of the world, 2019 is for you!

 

Orioles are Different Now

But Joe, things are different with the Angelos sons.”

I hope and pray that this turns out to be true, and I love the moves and commitments they’ve seemingly allowed Mike Elias to make. My pessimistic side however would caution that it’s easy to talk funding for international scouting and analytics when your payroll is the lowest it’s been since 2004, and about $80 million lower than last year’s figure.

But Billy Joel is coming, the Orioles have never allowed a concert like this before!!!

With attendance at an all-time low in 2018, someone has to bring people down to Eutaw Street, and I’m not sure 600 AB’s from Renato Nunez is going to get the job done.

Rebuilds aren’t glamorous, I get that. But can’t there be a better way then another off-season of “Chris Davis is working hard” articles (shout out MASN) and an Opening Day lineup that looks like this?

I’d like to think so.

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