I’ve been very critical and skeptical of the Orioles over the past few months, but I’m willing to give credit where it’s due. The Orioles signing of relief pitcher Mike Gonzalez was a good one and significant for a number of reasons.
1) The fact that the team spent some money and a draft pick on a free agent closer rather than selling us on the idea of “Koji for closer” signifies that they are at least attempting to be relatively competitive in 2010.
2) The Orioles forfeited the rights to their 2010 2nd round draft pick to the Braves as compensation for signing Gonzalez. I’ve heard some people question the wisdom of giving up a second rounder to sign a closer to a team that just lost 98 games. I understand that reaction at first glance, but upon further review if the Orioles weren’t concerned about losing the pick then the fans shouldn’t be either. The team has gone over MLB’s slot recommendations to sign draft picks over the past 3 years and we shouldn’t expect the 2010 draft to be any different. The Orioles can afford to lose a 2nd rounder for Gonzalez because they’re developing a reputation for drafting and signing top talents to above slot contracts.
3) The 2010 Oriole bullpen figures to be stocked with power arms. Jim Johnson was often a man on an island last season, especially after the trade of George Sherill. Add Gonzalez to Johnson, and sprinkle in youngsters Kam Mickolio and David Hernandez (who figures to be converted to a reliever) and you have 4 legit power arms. A finesse bullpen will be eaten alive in the AL East, as we’ve seen far too frequently over the years. The combo of Gonzalez, Johnson, Hernandez and Mickolio features the kind of pure stuff that can get out of any jam.