That the Orioles aren't one of the teams two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani is considering during baseball's version of a dating show comes to the surprise of no one, given Camden Yards' reputation for being tough on pitchers and the possible uncertainty that will face the club during the term of the pending contract.
What they should’ve come out of this weekend feeling fortunate for is that the New York Yankees didn't make the cut either. If they had, and the most prized international free agent in a generation ended up in pinstripes, they'd have no one but themselves to blame.
As the Orioles moved nearly all of their international signing bonus slots since the new system went into effect July 2, they made two significant trades with the Yankees that helped give them a reported $3.25 million bonus pool to lure the former Nippon Ham Fighter to the Bronx. On July 2, they sent bonus slots to New York for Triple-A reliever Matt Wotherspoon. On July 31, they sent more for right-hander Yefry Ramírez.
The Orioles have long held that their proclivity for trading the international signing bonuses and sitting out the high-priced signing market each July is a strategic decision by ownership. They've long valued players that are more developed, even if the upside might not be there.
In Wotherspoon, they have an effective fastball-slider reliever who could be in the mix to shuttle back from Triple-A Norfolk at some point next season.
Ramírez, 24, went 5-0 with a 3.66 ERA with Double-A Bowie to bring his season mark to 15-3 with a 3.47 ERA in a full year in the Eastern League. He runs his fastball up to 95 mph, though he can struggle to command it at times, and has a very effective changeup. While a dark horse, Ramírez will likely get a long look in spring training for a rotation spot, just as every other starter on the 40-man roster will.
So as it stands, there could be more present value in the Orioles' side of the deal. In five years, the Yankees spending millions in the international market could hurt the Orioles, especially compared with their own inactivity.
But what would have made those trades disastrous on every level would have been if the Orioles, who have to operate on the margins of most markets in an effort to keep pace with the Yankees and their ilk, helped them overcome an international amateur market slanted towards equity and possibly favoring the smaller clubs to land Ohtani.
It's going to be hard enough for the Orioles to cobble together a rotation that can compete with the young cores in New York and Boston, to say nothing of the rest of the American League contenders in Houston and Cleveland.
For the Yankees to have added Ohtani and the Orioles to have been complicit in it would have been an ignominious start to an offseason that will define the franchise for years to come.