Baseball winter meetings: Drew’s idea for a pair of signings

December 06, 2009 | Drew Forrester

With a rare off day for Sunday football in Baltimore, I thought I’d turn my attention to the other team in town.

No, not the Blast.

The Orioles.

Remember them?  You used to go to their games.

They’re still around, actually, and the entire baseball world is heading to – of all places – Indianapolis for their annual winter meetings this week.

The big question in Baltimore is:  Will the Orioles do anything?

If you want my “guess” as to what they’ll do, it’s this:  Not much.

If you want my idea of what they SHOULD do, I’ll be happy to tell you.

There’s no sense in beating someone up for what they’re NOT doing if you’re not willing to give your concept of what they SHOULD be doing.  So, I’ll do that here.

Maybe this will all turn out like my “ride your bike to the ballpark idea” that I gave them on the radio a few years back.  It was one of many promotional concepts I’ve talked about on the air, giving away free ideas to try and help them get more people in the ballpark.  Lo and behold, a year or so later, the Orioles “developed” a concept called “Ride your bike to the Ballpark Day”.

So who knows?  Maybe they’ll read this and do what they did with the bike-to-the-ballpark idea.

I wouldn’t care.

Understand something:  I’m writing this with complete understanding that the players I’m mentioning will actually cost money and there’s a high likelihood the Orioles won’t be willing to spend any money this winter.  So please, refrain from any blog comments like “that guy costs too much” or, “Drew, are you kidding, the Orioles aren’t going to shell out that much money this winter!”.

I realize their recent history shows they won’t spend a lot of the money they’ve collected-and-saved over the last few years, but this is MY contribution on what they SHOULD do this winter.

First off, the team needs to find a first baseman.  And, preferably, that first baseman should be able to hit.

It’s NOT Michael Aubrey.

It’s NOT Nolan Reimold (he’s NOT a first baseman…that’s just a small detail).

It’s NOT Luke Scott.

It should be Adam LaRoche.

A 30-year old left handed hitter, LaRoche has hit more than 20 HR’s in five straight seasons and spent parts of three of those years in the National League’s equivalent to Baltimore — Pittsburgh.

He’s played 793 career games at first base and has a total of 33 errors, never once reaching double-digits in errors in a single season.

Last year, splitting time between Pittsburgh, Boston and Atlanta, he made roughly $7 million dollars.

He’s looking for four years and $36 million (aren’t we all?), which means he’ll take 4-$30mm or 3-$22mm.

He’s not Rafael Palmeiro at the plate and in the field, but he should benefit greatly from the dimensions of Camden Yards.

The man can hit and he can field.

Sign him.

The two negatives working against LaRoche?  Because he spent time in Pittsburgh and labored there in front of 12,000 fans throughout July, August and September, he might not be willing to do that again.  At some point, veteran players want to play in an environment where the crowds are bigger than a mid-week NHL game.  So when approached by the O’s, LaRoche might have his agent say, “No…we’re gonna hold out for something better.  Thanks anyway.”  LaRoche is annually a very slow starter.  That was no more evident than a season ago when he hit .311 in the final 81 games, with an OBP of .377 and an OPS of a whopping .915, among the best in all of baseball.

This might be the occasion when the player says, “I want 4 years, $32 million” and the Orioles have to prove they actually want to win by saying, “You got it.  See you in Baltimore for the press conference.”

They should sign Adam LaRoche (career numbers here).

I don’t think I can help the O’s at 3rd base.  The best candidate (Chone Figgins) is going to head to Seattle.  The next-best-candidate is Adrian Beltre, and I’m quite certain the O’s are going to stay engaged to minor league prospect Josh Bell, whom they acquired in last summer’s deal with the Dodgers for George Sherrill.

The industry leaks have the Birds signing Pedro Feliz as a 3rd base stop gap until Bell is ready to become the next George Brett. Feliz makes perfect sense in one way:  He’s cheap.  He’ll play for $5 million.

So while I think they should have signed Figgins or Beltre, they didn’t – or won’t, in Beltre’s case – and I’m actually OK with anyone starting and playing regularly at 3rd as long as it’s not Ty Wigginton.

But there’s still another player the O’s should sign.

No matter how big that tent in their pajamas is for the corps of young pitchers on their roster, the O’s still need a veteran pitcher that can chew up innings, take heat off the bullpen, and allow their young staff the opportunity to grow at their pace.

There’s a pitcher available to them who fits that criteria, precisely.

Actually, he was available last off-season as well, and the O’s passed, probably because he was almost reaching his 30th birthday.

His name is Jon Garland.

After a not-so-pleasant stop in Arizona, Garland was dealt to the Dodgers just before the deadline and is now a free agent.

Industry rumors are that Garland would like to stay on the west coast (he’s from southern California), but he’s been in L.A. (both teams) and Arizona so far.  It’s only San Francisco, San Diego, Oakland and Seattle left to choose from, right?

What if none of those teams want him?

The O’s should swoop him and get him now, he’s EXACTLY what they need.

Jon Garland’s career numbers are here, and one quick glance will show you exactly why the Birds need him.

Since becoming a starting pitcher in 2002, guess how many starts Garland has missed?  That’s 9 full seasons in the big leagues, by the way.

How many starts has he missed in 9 years?

If you said, “Gee, Drew, I don’t think he’s ever missed a start”, give yourself a Royal Farms coffee tomorrow morning.

Jon Garland has pitched 9 straight seasons in the big leagues and hasn’t missed a start.  And in 6 of the last 7 seasons, he’s thrown over 200 innings.

Jon Garland isn’t going to win a Cy Young award, by the way.

His WHIP is higher than you’d like.  He doesn’t strike out many guys.  He doesn’t walk many, either, though.  And his ERA is right at the league average.

He’s a scaled down version of John Lackey, essentially.  Lackey’s better, but Garland’s strengths sort-of mirror Lackey’s in that he throws every 5th day, gets into the 7th inning most nights and keeps his team in the ballgame.

Garland’s not a thrower, he’s a pitcher.  Just like John Lackey.  So if the O’s aren’t going to shell out REAL money for a bonafide starter like Lackey who will give them 200 innings, why not give out penny-pinchers money to Garland?

They need a veteran starter that will take the ball every 5th day and work 200+ innings for them.  They need a starter that will ease the burden on the bullpen in July when they’re taxed from being overworked in May and June.

They could use Jon Garland, for sure.

And please, refrain from writing something like:  “But, Drew, he’s going to get lit up in the American League East.”

Yeah, so would EVERY OTHER PITCHER IN BASEBALL not named Sabathia or Santana or Lincecum if they moved over to the American League East.

If you’re going to throw out the “he’s going to get lit up in the American League East” line every single time a pitcher is discussed, then the O’s should just pass unless they plan on moving into the Nati0nal League East.

And, I should remind all of you, the O’s play OTHER teams besides the Red Sox and Yankees.  They do, really.

And before you say, “Garland wouldn’t want to pitch here”, let me remind you that right now, he’s a man without a job.  And let me also remind you that this time last year, he wanted $50 million for four years and wound up signing what was essentially a one-year deal in Arizona for roughly $6 million plus bonuses.

For all I know, Jon Garland might “just want to get paid” and he’ll take the O’s $27 million for 4 years and say “Where do I sign and can you get me Ravens season tickets as part of the deal?”

The O’s brass can’t use the “out of our age demographic” excuse like they did last year when Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez were available.

There are rumors floating around that the Birds might take a re-gamble on Erik Bedard.  Or oft-injured Ben Sheets.

Garland pitches every 5th day without question.  Bedard and Sheets get a hang nail every 5th day without question.

So there you have it.

I say the O’s should sign LaRoche and Garland — and Beltre, at this point, since they missed out on Figgins — and at least APPEAR as if they’re trying to win in 2010.

I realize players cost money and the O’s haven’t really wanted to spend much of their loot in recent years, but these are players that could help the team in ’10 and beyond.

The meetings start on Monday in Indianapolis.

Will the O’s do anything to show the fans they’re trying?

My guess:  Probably not.

But I’d sure like to be wrong.