Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Commentary: O's lack of offseason moves puzzling

I stopped second-guessing Ozzie Newsome long ago.Trade up? Trade down? Jettison a popular and useful player? It's all good.

If the Ravens draft Manti Te'o this April, I'll assume Newsome spoke at length with him and that Te'o has his head on straight. If the Ravens draft the imaginary girlfriend of Manti Te'o this April, I'll assume Newsome watched her run a 4.3.

The Ravens' general manager gets the benefit of the doubt based on a long and unimpeachable track record.

As for the other pro sports team architect in Baltimore? Well, one year does not a track record make.

Of course, it's hard to criticize the moves made by Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette over the winter for one simple reason: He didn't really make any.

Duquette will largely get a pass in this region because he took over a franchise that hadn't sniffed the playoffs in 14 years and helped build a team that won 93 games, knocked out the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers and would've dispatched the New York Yankees if not for Raul Ibanez's out-of-body experience in the AL division series.

Still, it's difficult to understand Duquette's inaction. Standing pat usually means losing ground.

The Orioles' offseason was a success only if their top priority was allowing key contributors Mark Reynolds and Joe Saunders to sign elsewhere. Their most high-profile move was re-signing Nate McLouth, who was unemployed nine months ago. Their main acquisition was Jair Jurrjens, who has upside but also dwindling velocity and medical issues.

The Orioles have 29 pitchers in Sarasota, Fla., for spring training. Depth is a good thing, but it sure seems they missed a chance to package a few of those arms for a middle-of-the-lineup bat.

Or to, you know, spend some money on a quality free agent, which they haven't done in about a decade.

Duquette would, apparently, argue that it's better to have 15 or so hurlers competing for the starting rotation, enough left-handed relief specialists to turn every game into a 3 1/2-hour mix-and-matchfest and to stick with the lineup that got them to the postseason last year.

I've seen the Orioles' offseason ranked anywhere from around 25th to 30th in Major League Baseball. It might've ranked lower but, well, there are only 30 teams in MLB.

The Sporting News gave the Orioles a "D" grade. It's hard to dispute that. The writer handing out the grades spoke for many when he said in a video on their website, "When I look at the Orioles, I shake my head. They haven't done anything."

Meanwhile ...

The Toronto Blue Jays transformed their team, pillaging the mismanaged Miami Marlins into giving them Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilion Bonifacio. They also stole National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets. And signed All-Star Melky Cabrera. (OK, Cabrera likely won't repeat his juiced-up 2012, but he's still an upgrade).

The Jays weren't the only team making major additions. The Angels signed former MVP Josh Hamilton. The Indians signed Reynolds, Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. The Royals remade their rotation. The Athletics swung eight trades. (There are lots of lousy organizations. What, the Orioles couldn't raid a few of them?)

Obviously, Duquette felt like the Orioles were in good shape already. And a true believer could make the case that the Orioles actually have added some significant pieces because Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold were long gone by the time Baltimore played in the postseason. Plus, they'll be getting a full season out of Manny Machado.

Still, Duquette & Co. are banking on a lot of players with thin resumes to repeat what they did down the stretch in 2012.

A lot of longtime Orioles fans liked to compare last season to the "Why Not" year of 1989, when a bunch of young players defied the odds and nearly won the AL East. The Orioles kept their team largely intact that offseason, but starting pitchers Jeff Ballard and Bob Milacki were not the second coming of Palmer and McNally and the Orioles regressed to 76 wins in 1990 and 67 the next year.

In retrospect, the Orioles of 2012 look like less of a fluke than that team, but counting on them to go 29-9 in one-run games? To go 16-2 in extra innings? To finish 74-0 when leading after seven innings?

Not likely.

They could've used some reinforcements and the guess here is that Duquette will come to regret not being more proactive in the offseason. Of course, Duquette didn't make any big-splash moves a year ago, either, and that worked out pretty well.

He has a long, long way to go to catch Newsome, but a repeat postseason appearance and he'll get the benefit of the doubt next winter.