Every time I’ve been excited about the beginning of a new chapter of Orioles baseball, I have never once considered that Peter Angelos wouldn’t fund the team with enough dollars for the team to contend. Now, how he and his baseball people have chosen to spend the money is a vastly different story.
When Pat Gillick strode into town in advance of the 1996 season, off of his back-to-back world championships in ‘92 and ‘93 in Toronto, I was convinced we had the man who would build the Orioles of the future into a powerhouse.
After two exciting and contending seasons in ‘96 and ‘97, the Gillick relationship with the owner soured. When he left with his cadre of scouts, it wasn’t long before Mike Mussina was allowed to escape as a top free-agent pitcher, and the team spiraled into a 14-year oblivion that was turned around in midstream by some heavy lifting from Andy MacPhail when he took over in 2007 as president of baseball operations.
But while MacPhail was an important player in Orioles front office history, the win-loss record never showed the extent of his good auspices. The new spring training home in Sarasota, the signings of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, along with the acquisitions of Adam Jones, J.J. Hardy and Chris Tillman, helped build up a base of onsite talent that allowed Dan Duquette to shrewdly add just enough pieces to help Buck Showalter develop a clubhouse culture based on fundamentals and self-belief.
However, during the Duquette years, Dan and Buck hardly ever presented ownership with a unified front to battle for ways to make the success that was maintained from 2012 to early 2018 truly a sustainable environment.
What truly has this Orioles follower and fan excited by the new regime is they are building this thing from the ground up. The emphasis will never move away from development in general manager Mike Elias’ world.
Despite the presence of Chris Davis’ $23 million annual price tag (OK, I know a chunk of his $161 million is deferred) on the books, along with Alex Cobb’s $14 million and Mark Trumbo’s $13.5 million, the other 27 players on this roster are making peanuts. And that is the way this ship will sail for the next few years.
Get used to it and just pray that when the next turn of the screw arrives and the Orioles are good enough and on the verge of winning once again, that management will be exceedingly careful about who it lavishes with the next big O’s free-agent contracts.
Think about this amazing factoid: After Adam Jones‘ highly successful five-year contract, the next five major free-agent signings the Orioles have made in attempts at winning, once their real window had closed, cost the club $336.5 million.
You read that last sentence correctly — that is $336,500,000 for Chris Davis ($161), Mark Trumbo ($37.5), Darren O’Day ($31), Ubaldo Jimenez ($50), and Alex Cobb has two remaining seasons that bring his total cost up to $57 million.
The current active Orioles payroll — with Davis included for 2019 — is just over $50 million at $50,018,367. While they owe both Cobb and Trumbo all their money, the money doesn’t show up as current. So if you remove Davis, which the club will most assuredly do before the 2020 season takes off, you see the payroll will come in next year at around $26 million. Trumbo is off the books after this season, and Cobb — if healthy enough — will show up as a $14 million addition next season.
So the 2020 payroll will probably show up as about $45 million to $50 million. The time for spending more isn’t now. There will come a time when this franchise will be poised to win again, and at that time, we’ll just hope that this regime, headed by Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal, and guided by the best analytical information at the time, won’t make a series of such head-scratching and breathtakingly expensive long-term free-agent deals.
Stan “The Fan” Charles is founder and publisher of PressBox.