An industry insider chimes in on MacPhail and Orioles in Orlando

December 09, 2010 | Drew Forrester

Now that everyone is departing Orlando and heading back to their respective home cities, the dust has settled on the 2010 baseball winter meetings and we’re all left to evaluate who won, who lost and what business is left on the table.

Here’s MY opinion on what Andy MacPhail accomplished in Orlando: He improved his team’s offense. How would I characterize the improvement? Moderate. After all, the two principals coming to Baltimore are a #4 hitter (Mark Reynolds) who strikes out a lot and will be happy to hit .260 and a decent-fielding shortstop (J.J. Hardy) who is a vast at-the-plate upgrade over Cesar Izturis but he is what he is: a #9 hitter, in all likelihood.

I can’t call a pseduo-power-hitter coming off the worst year of his career and a #9 hitting shortstop anything other than “moderate” improvement.

But, hear me clearly on this: MacPhail DID improve the team in Orlando.

He just didn’t improve it nearly enough for any of us to rush out and buy season tickets for 2011.

Save that kind of reaction for Boston, where the Red Sox proved – again – that they’re aren’t willing to settle for mediocrity.

As Thursday rolls around and we see what transpired in Orlando, the facts of the last four days are basically undeniable. The Orioles pulled off two trades. They, as is their M.O., spent no money on free agents. It’s distressing to see the club continue to bankroll the fan’s money and not upgrade their lineup by putting that money to good use every off-season, but you’d have to almost be a fool these days to believe the Orioles are going to be big spenders in the winter.

I guess I’m a fool, because I assume at some point they WILL spend money on players. Alas, every December they pull the wool over my eyes. Just like they did in Orlando this week.

With my review of MacPhail’s efforts out of the way, I thought I’d turn things over to a major league baseball insider who was IN Orlando and was helpful throughout the four days in providing WNST.net with tidbits of information as the players and agents circulated throughout the hotel spreading “the word” about what deals were on the table, off the table, etc.

In the event you need any sort of clarification on the authenticty of this insider, he was the one who sent me a text at 11pm on Tuesday night to tell me Koji Uehara was no longer on the open market because he had just agreed on a deal with the Orioles. Orioles.com didn’t “announce” the signing until Thursday morning and then credited “The Sun” for “reporting the signing of Koji Uehara” late Wednesday night. Well, if you follow @WNST on Twitter, you’ll see a tweet that went out at roughly 6am on Wednesday morning saying the deal was done.

That should cement the authenticity of WNST’s insider.

He’s also the person who gave us the Mark Reynolds trade about 90 minutes before anyone else had it on Monday.

More cement.

I asked him for his review of MacPhail’s work at the meetings and here’s what the baseball insider had to offer:

“Andy’s Andy. He’s never in a hurry. But his activity level was heightened throughout the week, particularly once he got Reynolds out of the way. It was almost like once the Reynolds deal got done, he was able to breathe a little easier. But everyone knows Andy doesn’t do anything on the spur of the moment. He’s going to take his information, study it, watch the rest of the league to see what goes on with players, salaries and contracts, and then make his move accordingly. He’s lost players that way, but he never spends money that he doesn’t have or doesn’t want to spend.”

What about the rumored deal for Derrek Lee?

“It all came down to years. Derrek was looking at 3 or 4. Andy wasn’t willing to go that far. In fact, no team was. There were rumors floating around on Monday that the Orioles told Lee’s agent they were willing to go that far but that might have been floated by Derrek’s people to try and get some other teams to get involved.”

And Carlos Pena?

“Pena’s guy (Scott Boras) said the Orioles made an “impressive attempt” to land the former Tampa Bay first baseman. Pena himself said he was impressed with Baltimore but that he really felt like the Cubs wanted him.”

MacPhail said he didn’t make an offer to Pena.

“Well, someone’s not telling the truth. An offer can either be written or it can be something like Boras saying to Andy, ‘We’re not doing anything for less than $10 million a year’ and MacPhail replying, “Well, we’d look at that if the years made sense.” That gives Boras the foundation of a deal. $10 million per – now we just have to get the years right. Clearly someone isn’t on the up and up though. Pena’s guy says an offer was made and Andy says he never made an offer. A lot of that goes on at the meetings, not just with Andy MacPhail.”

They gave Kevin Gregg a 2-year offer, what happened to that?

“I didn’t hear much about Kevin Gregg. There was a story on Wednesday night that Boston and the Yankees were both in the running, which would probably eliminate the Orioles. But I didn’t hear much about Kevin, personally.”

Looks like Adam LaRoche is the guy now.

“Either Baltimore or Washington. He’s a streaky player. I wouldn’t have any interest in him because I think he’s just far too unreliable. He’s been a National League player forever except for one month in Boston, so my guess is he’s inclined to stay there. But if the Orioles want to pay him a little more or give an extra year, they might get him.”

And the J.J. Hardy deal?

“I don’t know anything about the players Andy gave up so I can’t make an evaluation of the trade right now.  I’ve seen J.J. a lot.  He’s a good player, a solid player.  He won’t do anything outstanding but he’ll make a lot of contributions.  I think his people put a little too much value on him, personally, but that’s the nature of agents.  If I’m Andy, I’d be a little concerned about J.J.’s injury history.  He gets nicked up a lot.  I don’t know how he’ll fare facing C.C. (Sabathia) and Lester and Price and those guys in the East but he’ll hold his own against the 4′s and 5′s (pitchers) at least.”

The overall improvement of the Orioles?

Honestly, there wasn’t much interest around the league in Mark Reynolds.  His 2010 really scared people off.  I think the Diamondbacks did well to get some quality for him.  The Orioles might have literally been the only team in the league willing to give up major leaguers for him.  J.J. will be tough to re-sign because his people put a big value on him.  If Andy can get him done for 3-4 years at a reasonable price, that will turn out to be a good deal since he didn’t have to give up any major leaguers for him.  I’d give Andy a “C+” based on what the Orioles needed.  They needed a first baseman far, far more than they needed a shortstop.  But if they get LaRoche or Lee in the next two or three weeks, that grade goes to a B+.”

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