Here's a quick recap of the moves this winter (not in chronological order):
- Traded Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Reds for Ryan Freel, Justin Turner, and Brandon Waring.
- Signed Nick Markakis to a six-year, $66 million extenson.
- Signed Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million dollar contract.
- Signed Ty Wigginton to a two-year, $6 million dollar deal.
- Inked Cesar Izturis to a two-year, $5 million dollar contract.
- Avoided arbitration with Luke Scott: one-year, $2.4 million deal.
- Signed Mark Hendrickson to a one-year, $1.5 million dollar contract.
- Gave Greg Zaun a one-year, $1.5 million dollar deal with a 2010 club option.
- Avoided arbitration with George Sherrill: one-year, $2.75 million deal.
- Dealt Garrett Olson and Henry Williamson to the Cubs for Felix Pie.
- Let Brian Burres, Luis Hernandez, Alex Cintron, Juan Castro, Lance Cormier, Rocky Cherry, Brandon Fahey, Kevin Millar, Freddie Bynum, Jay Payton, and Daniel Cabrera leave for other teams. (Mostly the Blue Jays and Nationals)
- Traded Randor Bierd to the Red Sox for David Pauley.
- Signed Donnie Murphy, Justin Christian, Robby Hammock, Chad Moeller, John Parrish, Brad Hennessey, and Chris Gomez to minor league deals.
- Received Rich Hill from the Cubs for a player to be named later.
That's a lot of small moves. So, besides the big contract extension given to Markakis, which certainly needed to happen, the Orioles signed a few players to relatively cheap one- and two-year deals. The O's didn't lose any player of significant talent in their trades, and they acquired a couple of players with some upside who could pan out: Pie, Hill, Pauley, Hennessey, etc. And if they don't, that's fine.
The important thing is that the Orioles didn't throw a ton of money at one player who could really hurt them down the road. This offseason didn't have any Albert Belles, David Seguis, Javy Lopezes, or Rafael Palmeiros. MacPhail already knows that this team needs to build from the ground up; he's not going to jeopardize that.
Back to the point, though; a few smart baseball writers are on board with what the Orioles are trying to do. Not that it's a huge deal, but I'm at least surprised -- and moderately excited -- that the Orioles are actually earning some props for apparently doing something right.
Tom Verducci is impressed with the Orioles' outfield and young talent:
Realistically, they have no shot at the playoffs, not in the AL East. But Baltimore actually has an honest-to-goodness shortstop now, Cesar Izturis, and under Andy MacPhail has a deep collection of young arms that will audition throughout the season. Only the Rangers allowed more runs than the 869 yielded by Baltimore pitchers last season, so improved run prevention should not be too difficult. With an exciting young outfield (Felix Pie, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis) and the next great catching prospect (Matt Wieters), the Orioles at last are on the right track.
Keith Law, who gives a straight-forward answer, believes the Orioles are making smart moves:
john (baltimore, md): Have you been impressed with Andy MacPhail with the Orioles? Player development for the O's seems to be going in the right direction?
Keith Law: Yes, and yes.
And Jayson Stark recently talked with an MLB scout who likes the addition of Rich Hill to the rotation.
"I think Rich Hill can win 10 to 12 games in Baltimore," [said the scout.] "He's a back-of-the-rotation starter, but he's a major league pitcher. He's left-handed. And he's going to be around the right people. [Pitching coach] Rick Kranitz will be good with him, and [manager] Dave Trembley will be good with him. So he should be a lot more relaxed than he was in Chicago."
Just like last offseason, most, if not all, of the moves the Orioles made during this offseason seem to serve a purpose, and none of them will cripple the Orioles in any way going forward. The Orioles are at least somewhat better at this point than they were a few months ago. What else can you ask for? (And if your answer is: Sign Adam Dunn or Ben Sheets, then you have failed Orioles Rebuilding 101.)
(Thanks to Cot's Baseball Contracts for some O's salary information.)