Remember last offseason? It sure was easy for O’s fans to say that Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis could be replaced. Players like Everth Cabrera, Travis Snider, Delmon Young, David Lough and Steve Pearce would find a way to make up for the team’s stars leaving in free agency, right? Sure they would. Buck Showalter would again find a way to squeeze every bit of talent out of those guys, and the lost production would easily be replaced.
The reality is that Cruz and Markakis have been greatly missed in a very inconsistent lineup and only one of those players (Pearce) that were expected to pick up the slack is even still on the Orioles’ 25-man roster.
A lot of fans (myself included) thought that Cruz had hit his peak with the Orioles last year, after hitting 40 home runs with the team. He proved the naysayers wrong though, as the outfielder has already hit 37 home runs with Seattle, is batting .318, and has reached base in 35 consecutive games.
The Orioles have seen power from Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Manny Machado, but not much otherwise. Injuries have made J.J. Hardy a shell of his former self and his power numbers are gone. Cruz would have made a huge impact in the middle of the Orioles’ lineup, as Snider, Young and Lough all couldn’t hit.
Markakis seemed replaceable as well and Baltimore could have found someone to replace his declining numbers. Nori Aoki was available last winter, and though there is no guarantee he’d have accepted an offer from Baltimore, it was perplexing that they showed no interest in him at all. He is hitting .297 with a .361 OBP in San Francisco, just the kind of OBP man the O’s have been lacking for years. Meanwhile, Markakis has managed to bat .299 so far this season and has continued his solid play in the field.
Something else the Orioles have really missed from Markakis is his quiet leadership. The team is going through a losing streak (now up to six games) and hasn’t been able to find a way out of it. Machado has vented his frustration and is too young to lead a team out of this situation with words. Jones has set a great example, but it would have been better to see Markakis lead along with Jones, especially in an outfield that has seen many new faces throughout the season.
It’s sad to say that the offseason was a failure for the Orioles and the main reason as to why the team is on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned. Two key fixtures of the Orioles’ playoff run last year weren’t properly replaced and we’ve seen way too many different players try to fill the voids they left.
The biggest hope for Baltimore now is that the front office sees this as a lesson and doesn’t repeat their mistakes this winter. It would be in the team’s best interest to bring back Davis and Wei-Yin Chen in order to keep together a core that is barely still strung together.
Losing them and trying to replace them with journeymen or AAAA players would could very well result in the same sort of failed year in 2016 that we’re seeing in 2015.