Orioles in the Drivers Seat with Roberts

January 30, 2009 |

I know it seems kind of crazy and far fetched that the O’s could ever be in control of a situation when it comes to a player staying or coming to Baltimore.  But, the stars have finally aligned, and not a minute too soon.


With this nation’s current economic situation finally impacting the free agent market, the available pool is separating into two distinct groups: “Top Tier Superstars,” desired by big market clubs and “Everyone Else.” Unfortunately, for Brian Roberts he falls into the latter.


Don’t get me wrong, Roberts is a very good player, but in today’s market the demand for a “.290-12-60” second baseman is dwindling. Unless you’re a hitter who has MVP potential or a pitcher with dominant stuff, there is little hope of getting a contract similar to those signed in past years.


For example, last winter Carlos Silva – a control pitcher capable of posting the league’s average ERA in his 180-200 innings signed a 4 year/$48 million contract before the 2008 season. Now, Jon Garland who is very similar, if not slightly better, has to settle for 1 year/$7.25 million guaranteed ($1 million of this is related to his 2010 option).


With Roberts, you have a fair comparison to Orlando Hudson, who by the way is learning a hard lesson in economics this off-season. Hudson is a top notch defender who is also 31 years old, and with stats very similar to Roberts – minus the swipes. If you want to argue Roberts is slightly better, fine. But, it’s close enough to compare to a player who is drawing minimal interest this winter.


Now, this is where it gets trickier for Roberts ….. has anyone wondered why Juan Cruz hasn’t signed a contract, yet? If not, check his numbers, http://www.baseball-reference.com/c/cruzju02.shtml he would be a nice addition to any bullpen and could possibly close out games with his quality stuff….. the catch is Cruz is a Type-A Free Agent. If a team signs a Type-A Free Agent, they lose a 1st Round pick to the team that the free agent leaves unless they pick in the Top-15, at which point they’d lose their 2nd Round pick, instead.


With many teams no longer able to match the bankrolls of a few select franchises, draft picks are coveted and considered more valuable than ever.  Roberts will likely be classified as a Type-A Free Agent, which is determined by the Elias Sports Bureau to be in the Top 20% of all players based on the previous two seasons. And, this is just one more factor working against him.


As of now, the Baltimore Sun is reporting that Roberts has been offered a 3 year/$30 million deal, but he is apparently thinking he can do better.  Should Brian Roberts realize he has been offered an extremely fair deal, when all factors are considered?  And, is he really in a situation where he no longer maintains the upper hand?


Sure, Roberts can threaten to try free agency following the 2009 season, but at the current time, the Orioles will probably be very comfortable with compensatory draft picks.  In fact, the picks (they would also get a sandwich pick between rounds 1-2 in addition to the pick from the team that signs him) would probably be more valuable than anything you could deal him for this spring or at the trade deadline.


Are Roberts and his representatives wagering the economic situation will be better next winter? I would think most teams will take a beating in attendance this coming summer – and it will be an even more conservative free agent market next winter. Also, the last time I checked, the Yankees and Red Sox do not need a second baseman.


Roberts strikes me as a bright guy, and he also seems quite reasonable. Therefore, I would expect him to close this deal with the Orioles very soon. His leverage is diminishing by the day and will take an even greater hit as soon as he sees the deal Hudson lands over the next couple weeks.


It’s hard to believe …. but, when it comes to Brian Roberts and the current “Oriole Way” of taking forever to sign players, the Birds actually find themselves in the driver’s seat.