As with most things related to Orioles baseball, when it comes to their reported pursuit of free agent designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero it seems that the fan base is split. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising considering not only that there’s little that Orioles fans can come together and agree on these days, but also because from an organizational standpoint, the goals of this year’s team are still anybody’s guess.
There’s little doubt that the Orioles will go forward into 2011 as a much better version of themselves. There’s the undeniable Showalter factor, the expected development of a number of young players who continue to build their Major League acumen, the acquisitions of guys like Mark Reynolds, JJ Hardy, Justin Duscherer, and Kevin Gregg; across the board the O’s look like a better team than they did going into last season. Even the stopgap acquisition of Derrek Lee is something that O’s fans could possibly see as positive, as with the Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Tigers, Angels and a number of other notable big spenders pretty well set at first base going forward, the O’s could see significant opportunities in free agency in coming seasons.
Still, the question remains, not what should we expect from this team this season, but what are they expecting from themselves? Wildcard significance into the last month of the season? I doubt it. A run at .500? Won’t be holding my breath for that one either. How about a ticket out of the AL East basement? Maybe. A 10-game improvement from last year’s 66 win total? Now we’re probably talking.
So what’s the use in bringing in Vladimir Guerrero anyway?
Are they looking to part ways with Luke Scott?
Unlikely, Scott is younger and although he doesn’t provide Guerrero-like prowess at the plate, his career is arcing upward while Vlad’s seems to be trending the other direction. Maybe though, with all of his political rhetoric this off-season and a date at the arbitration table looming the O’s are looking to cut bait with Scott. Still, if the market is this cold for a one-dimensional Vlad, then it can’t be much bigger if at all for a one and a half-dimensional player like Scott.
Does he add protection for the young players the O’s are hoping to develop around him?
Again unlikely. With Vlad in tow, the O’s lineup would likely feature Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Derrick Lee, Mark Reynolds, Scott and Guerrero in some order in the top six spots. That leaves Hardy along with the only 2 young developing everyday players in Matt Wieters and Adam Jones relegated to spots 7-9 in the order.
Nolan Reimold might stand to benefit more long-term in that scenario as he’d likely be optioned back and forth between the O’s and the minors all season on his one remaining option. As for Felix Pie, as the likely 4th outfielder in that scenario any upside you envision for him, or even the real opportunity to assess his place on this team could be stalled for another season.
What it would accomplish, in concert with the Duscherer acquisition is providing the team with an opportunity to stick Chris Tillman, Zach Britton, Reimold and Josh Bell back in the minors to begin the season, at least creating the perception of organizational depth.
It’d be remiss not to consider the possibility, strike that, to not expect injuries. In the case laid out above, most roads point to Pie. He would be the guy called upon to fill any outfield positions, and if needs arose at first base or DH, those would likely be filled by Scott, pressing Pie back into duty in left field. An injury at second, third or short would likely fall on Izturis and of course catchers are catchers.
Maybe the last and most important question is where is the pride that we’re supposed to feel as Orioles fans?
Are Vlad and his management team really running the O’s through the motions again?
We’re not, after all, that far removed from the Guerrero courtship of 2004, where he reportedly accepted less money than the O’s were offering to sign with a much more competitive Angels team, citing concerns about Baltimore’s Dominican community or lack thereof. I’m no census taker, but the Dominican population in Baltimore hasn’t spiked recently to my knowledge.
So here we are again, bidding against ourselves in an otherwise cold market for an aging, one-dimensional player who’s still reluctant to sign…and we’re still trying to play ball.
It’s time to salvage some pride Orioles. Let Guerrero walk, before he does it to you anyway. State your goals for the season and put your money where your mouth is. If you can’t deliver a winner or even a modicum of hope at this stage in the game, then at least give us the perception that you still have some pride. Otherwise our reasons to have pride in you are dwindling or have dwindled)…along with our hopes.