Remember before the baseball season when I chatted with ESPN's Keith Law about the Orioles, and he fired up the fan base by saying that the Orioles were "clearly the worst team" in the AL East? Well, right now, it looks like Law got that one right. But to his credit, he made a point not to rub salt in the wound when he appeared on 105.7 The Fan with Ken Weinman and Vinny Cerrato to discuss the Orioles on Wednesday.
"I just didn't like the strategy," Law said of the team signing Vladimir Guerrero, Justin Duchscherer and Derrek Lee during the offseason. "One of the criticisms I raised at the time was that they were spending all this money on veteran free agents to fill out a club that is not going to contend for a playoff spot. Isn't that probably taking money away from the amateur signing budget? Maybe the draft? Maybe international?"
But Law said the most troubling thing about the last-place Orioles, who trail the Red Sox by 18 games in the AL East, is the regression of the young starting pitchers, widely considered to be the organization's strength.
"What is going on with the arms in Baltimore?" Law said. "Chris Tillman lost velocity somewhere between Triple-A and the majors. Brian Matusz, I understand he had an injury earlier this year. Is he still injured? It looks like he has lost four or five miles per hour on his fastball. This is starting to become a little bit of a chronic problem. ... I don't know if this is a developmental thing or just rotten luck, which it could be, but something isn't working in the Orioles' player development of pitchers."
He mentioned Brandon Erbe and Matt Hobgood as two others who regressed after joining the organization, and he also expressed concern with Zach Britton, who was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
His solution? Trade "every veteran who's not nailed down."
"If you're the Orioles, you have to just accept that you're going to lose 100-plus games this year," said Law, a former member of the Blue Jays organization who now writes for ESPN's Scouts Inc. "You're probably going to lose 100-plus games next year. You need to go out and deal any veteran player who is not likely to be part of the next good Orioles team. That's anyone who is not under contract for 2013 or beyond. You've got to trade them for prospects, even if it's a mid-level prospect. Trust your scouts. Go out and add the depth to your farm system. Sometimes you get lucky."