Gimme an Owe?

June 24, 2009 | Thyrl Nelson

Do the Orioles owe Koji a spot in the rotation? Do they owe Roberts four more years?


As this season slowly grinds toward the trade deadline, and with the Orioles out of contention yet again, trade rumors have begun swarming like Jacobs Field midges around this club. Most of the names have been predictable, players coming up for arbitration or free agency, and players, who age-wise, don’t seem to fit with the blueprint that the O’s are building for the future.


One name that may come to as surprise to O’s fans, that has begun to pop up in rumors is that of Brian Roberts. Roberts, after all, has been the subject of a great number of trade rumors over the previous 2 seasons, as one of those players that the team was in danger of losing to free agency for no compensation.


After signing a 4 year contract extension in the off-season though, at what most (myself included) consider to be a bargain price, it appeared that Roberts future in Baltimore was pretty secure. If you believe the speculation though, that may not be the case.


With a payroll friendly contract, and well established reputation for offense, Roberts may now represent the most value of any of the O’s potential trade pieces, outside of their young nucleus. And at 31 years old, Roberts is just the type of ‘tweener that probably keeps MacPhail awake at night, contemplating.


The decision probably comes down to one simple question, but answering it certainly won’t be easy. Can Roberts be a contributing part of the team that we envision to be contenders, 2 or 3 years from now? That unfortunately can open up a myriad of other questions, that also seemingly must be answered in order to make a prudent decision regarding Roberts’ future.


Do the O’s owe Roberts anything?


Outside of Melvin Mora, no one else in uniform has had a better seat for the decade plus of futility that the O’s have languished through. Indeed, most of the sentiment to trade him last year may have been based on the fact that fans believed it unlikely that Roberts wouldn’t take his first opportunity to jump ship and sign on with a contender.


Instead, despite all of the misery that he’s endured here, Roberts signed on for 4 more years, just when the light at the end of the tunnel was coming into focus. It either speaks volumes for him as a man, and an Oriole, now sold on the process and committed to see it through, or it could speak more to his priority on winning, that he’d be comfortable volunteering for 4 more years of this.


If Roberts truly wants to be here and see this through, I do think that the O’s owe it to him to keep him around. But the O’s still owe it to themselves to listen to any offers that a team may be willing to make, for any player. And if the value is right, well, business is business.


But if the Roberts is being shopped (and no one is officially saying that by any means), then I expect Koji to be in the bullpen by his next turn in the rotation. If Koji is remaining in the rotation, simply because the O’s negotiated that with him during the off-season, then flipping Roberts after he just re-upped despite his long suffering tenure on the team makes no sense at all.


If Koji expects to stay in the rotation, he’d better live up to his end of the bargain and pitch like a starter. Roberts has already lived up to his end of the bargain here, as far as I’m concerned. If he wants to see this thing through, I think the O’s owe him that opportunity much more than they owe Koji a spot in their rotation.


With all of that said, Roberts might be thrilled at the prospect of being traded to a contender. If not, it would open up a whole new bunch of questions.


In signing with the O’s for another 4 years, do you think Roberts is sold on the young group and their chances going forward? Or has he simply grown comfortable with losing, and based his decision on other priorities?


Whether or not to deal him probably lies in the answer to those 2 questions.