Tag Archive | "free agency"

Is Adam Jones’ Contract Bad for the Orioles?

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Is Adam Jones’ Contract Bad for the Orioles?

Posted on 02 January 2014 by Thyrl Nelson

 

I wonder what it would be like to be a fly on the wall of the Adam Jones house this off-season. Jones, the unquestioned leader of the Orioles has never been shy about voicing his opinion. He’s lashed out at his critics, at critics of the team, at the media from time to time and even at fans who may have left games too early for his liking. In an off-season where the organization has done nothing to appease its fans, those fans have begun to sound off about their displeasure. If Jones is the leader that he claims to be, the leader that he seems to be, the leader that we need him to be, then it’s time he lashed out at this organization with the same spirit, pride and vitriol that he’s been willing to exercise on those outside of it. The Orioles aren’t listening to our concerns, maybe they’ll respond to his.

If we’re not happy, then Jones can’t be happy. He just finished up the first year of a 6-year contract extension, He earned less in 2013 than he would have gotten in arbitration had he not taken a leap of faith on the Orioles, and the 5-years and $77 million that he has remaining on that deal are laughable in comparison to the deals that older and arguably less valuable players have been handed in this, the off-season in which Jones would have been a free agent himself.

It’s a fair bet that Jones in free agency could have gotten $25-$50 million more over the next 5-years than he’s due to make under his current deal. It’s feasible he could have gotten 2 or 3 more years on a deal this off-season than he has on his current one too. And what are the Orioles doing with the savings? How is the club rewarding its leader for the hometown discount he’s given them? Maybe they’re saving up for his next contract.

The off-season isn’t over yet, but the Orioles are looking more and more like the organization we’ve been accustomed to over the last decade and a half than the one that we’d hoped they were becoming. And it looks like Jones will have plenty of opportunity to understand the fans whose frustration he was unable to understand or empathize with before. Jones will find out what the fans are feeling, the same way that Brian Roberts, and Miguel Tejada, and Nick Markakis and so many others forced (or tricked) into giving the best years of their careers and the best years of their lives to an organization that’s not committed to winning.

Old habits die hard, and old dogs don’t learn new tricks. We’d hoped otherwise but little has changed in Baltimore since the dismantling of the 1997 team and reluctantly we’re all accepting that it won’t change anytime soon. And Adam Jones will learn to accept it as well…like it or not.

Jones has been the Orioles best and most natural leader and “face of the franchise” since Cal Ripken. As fans we can appreciate that even if Jones can’t appreciate the reasons for our pessimism. I wonder how much Jones really knows about the history of Ripken and the Orioles. I wonder if he knows about the “Ripken Cap” or the artificial salary ceiling that the Orioles had when nobody was allowed to earn more than “the face of the franchise”. It’s a safe bet that rather than using the savings Jones has given the Orioles, they’ll instead use his salary as a reason (or excuse) not to pay anyone more than his heavily discounted, highly team friendly, well below market annual salary.That won’t bode well for keeping talent like Chris Davis or Matt Wieters around or for adding future talent through free-agency. Leave it to the Orioles to make one of the better value deals in baseball today into a detriment to the team.

Enjoy your stay in Baltimore Adam…this is how we reward loyalty.

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The Impending Free Agents List

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The Impending Free Agents List

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Brett Dickinson

After deciding which players will be cut from the Ravens in order to clear cap room (as noted before: http://wnst.net/nfl/the-cut-list/), Ozzie Newsome will have more tough decisions on who can fit in the budget to resign. Needless to say this is the Wizards toughest offseason ever.

Everyone knows the big names that are impending free agents and everyone has their opinion on who is the top priority (well besides the Quarterback being No. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 priorities). No matter who is resigned, there will be huge pieces to a championship run on a different roster next year.
This is my list of the Unrestricted Free Agent resignings for the Ravens (from most likely to least likely):

The “Bet on Yourself” Guarantee:

Joe Flacco (QB): The question is not if Joe will be back but for how much? Flacco could eat up a lot of cap room or all of it depending on where he thinks his market it at. Drew Brees contract is the starting point, whether it is more or less, is the multi-million dollar question.

The “Jersey Sales” Category:

Ed Reed (S): Reed’s decision will basically come down to his willingness to take a massive pay cut. He has spoken before about wanting to re-up his contract for one last pay day (namely the last two offseasons). In the end, a team, like New England (and man crushes Bill Belichick and Tom Brady) or Indianapolis (with his former Defensive Coordinator, Chuck Pagano at the helm), will offer him enough to leave Baltimore.

Paul Kruger (LB/DE): To break out in his contract year, Kruger earned himself a hefty payday at a position of need for every team. Someone is going to over extend for his potential to become an elite pass rusher; an offer the Ravens will not be able to match with so many others on this list.

The “Core of It” Category:

Danell Ellerbe (LB): With the retirement of Ray Lewis, and the possible cutting of Jameel McClain, Danell is probably the most important piece for Ozzie to bring back on the defense. He had an excellent 2012 campaign and could be the center piece for the linebacker core for years to come. If Flacco is priority 1-5, Ellerbe is 6; unless his price tag is a ridiculous number, Ellerbe will be back.

Cary Williams (CB): After having a rough start to the season, Williams had one of the better years for corners in the league. That should turn into lucrative contract offer from some team in need of help on the back end (which is a lot). Cary cashes in and replaced in the starting lineup by Lardarius Webb; not a too shabby consolation for Ozzie.

Bryant McKinnie (LT): This situation will be the most difficult and simply weirdest for the Ravens Front Office. Not starting until the playoffs, maybe sitting in Harbaugh’s” dog house,” McKinnie proved to be a valuable piece. His return all comes down to the loyalty to the team and how scorned he felt during the regular season. If he is back, he serves as stop gap until they can draft a Left Tackle anchor.

James Ihedigbo (S): His fate really relies on what is done with Ed Reed; as if Reed goes, the Ravens cannot afford to let him walk. He filled in nicely as a role player and is a good fit for the defense.

The “Rest (not coming back)” category:

Ma’ake Kemoeatu (DT)

Ryan McBean (DL)

Sean Considine (S)

Chris Johnson (CB)

Billy Bajema (TE)

Ricky Brown (LB)

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No Rest for the Wizard

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No Rest for the Wizard

Posted on 19 February 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

Obviously when setting the tone for the Ravens’ off-season, everything takes a back seat to resolving the Joe Flacco contract situation. The importance thereof is only magnified by the realization that there are so many questions still to be answered, so many decisions still to be made; but until the Ravens know for sure what their quarterback’s financial future may hold, everything else is essentially on hold. That however doesn’t diminish the fact that there are important decisions outside the QB position to be made before the Ravens begin their title defense and prepare for the 2013 campaign.

Conceding that the importance of Flacco’s deal is paramount to everything else, here are the next 5 major points of consideration for the Ravens to deal with this off-season in order to have hopes of a 6th straight post-season trip.

 

#1 – Suring Up the Left Tackle Situation

 

If Flacco was the biggest difference maker for the Ravens in the playoffs, then further investigation is merited in determining what helped him turn his season, and his reputation, around. For my money, it began with the offensive line. After a season in the proverbial “dog house” Bryant McKinnie was finally given a chance to show and prove, and from there the offense never seemed to look back.

 

In the lead up to the Broncos game, no one seemed to have any concerns about the Denver secondary. Hindsight might suggest that to have been a result of the constant quarterback pressure the Broncos were able to count on from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Without that pressure however, the Ravens found and readily exploited cracks in the Broncos secondary that no one seemed to know were there in the first place.

 

McKinnie and the Ravens began this season on unceremonious terms, and pretty much kept things that way until the end. Having proven his value, albeit over a 4-game stretch, there’s still no real assurance that the Ravens will or should trust McKinneie enough to agree to terms on a multi-year deal. On the other side of that coin, there’s no good reason to think McKinnie will feel any special brand of loyalty to the Ravens when others come calling on the open market.

 

What’s undeniable about the whole episode is that by replacing Michael Oher with McKinnie at LT, the Ravens were able to move Oher to his natural RT position where he represented an improvement over Kelechi Osemele. Osemele then moved to the LG position that the Ravens struggled to find an answer for all season too. This three-fold improvement made the Ravens line exponentially better; and no matter how they address LT going forward, any “solution” involving moving Oher and Osemele back to the positions they played for the majority of 2012 has to be considered multiple steps backward.

 

#2 – Replacing Jim Caldwell

 

Continuing with the theme of what was different for the Ravens offense at the end, the departure of Cam Cameron and the elevation of Jim Caldwell to the offensive coordinator position would seem to be the other major factor. The performance of Caldwell’s offense has been celebrated widely within the fan base, and certainly hasn’t been lost on the league at large either.

 

In an off-season where everyone seems dissatisfied with the impact of the Rooney Rule and the lack of minority hires made in filling head coaching vacancies, Caldwell will all but surely be a hot head coaching candidate at the end of next season. Even getting to the Super Bowl again, and therefore delaying the process for teams interested in Caldwell might not be enough to slow his roll.

 

In what looks to be a lame duck season for Caldwell with the Ravens, it’s important to figure out if the next guy in line is someone already on staff, or how the team can look to groom a next guy in line, potentially by hiring him as a quarterback coach / OC in waiting.

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Will Breaking the Bank Bust the Cap?

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Will Breaking the Bank Bust the Cap?

Posted on 07 February 2013 by Thyrl Nelson

Joe Flacco is about to get paid. There’s no question about that, and now that he’s hoisted his first Lombardi trophy, everyone seems to be okay with it. Turn back the clock a couple of weeks and there were few who were willing to consider Flacco as anything more than an average to a slightly above average QB. Turn it back a few days and Flacco was knocking on the door of most people’s top 5’s.  Now after winning the Super Bowl, even the biggest and longest tenured of Flacco supporters have to be surprised to see folks ranking him anywhere between 1st and 4th among the NFL’s best signal callers.

This is the way of the fan however, and of the national media as well. You almost have to wonder how much differently the same people would be grading Flacco’s place in the hierarchy if the Ravens defense had failed to keep Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers out of the end zone and Flacco’s Ravens had lost the Super Bowl as a result.

 

None of that matters now. Flacco has risen to the occasion, not only on the grandest of stages but also at the most opportune time…just ahead of his contract negotiations.

 

Over the last few weeks for Flacco, everything has changed, and nothing has changed. That’s because the quarterback and his agent have maintained all along that they’re expecting a contract that will set the market and not just one that conforms with the market. Meanwhile, the Ravens have been trying to be fiscally responsible, while also having to acknowledge that allowing the QB to get away was simply not an option. Neither of those things has changed a bit. As leverage goes however, the pendulum has swung mightily in the favor of Flacco’s camp, and the Ravens at least have to feel more confident in the capabilities of the quarterback that they were undeniably beholden to anyway.

 

Now the question becomes whether it’s in Flacco’s best interest to squeeze every nickel possible out of the club, because he can; or if the QB might be better served in leaving a bit of money on the table in order to allow the Ravens, in a salary cap environment, to continue to put talent around him.

 

This question would seem to put Flacco in a bit of an awkward position. While Flacco has an agent, Joe Linta, to do his negotiating for him, he also has to decide for himself what’s best. The QB likely has designs on winning more titles; perhaps building a resume that could be considered Hall of Fame worthy at some point, and of course on getting paid too. The agent wants to get him paid not only because he’ll earn his commission off of the contract he negotiates, but perhaps just as importantly because having negotiated the NFL’s biggest QB deal would represent a substantial feather in his cap that would surely be helpful in attracting future clients.

 

Flacco also has to consider that while his leaving money on the table in order for the Ravens to be better able to acquire and retain talent should benefit him, he’ll still have no real say in how that money is spent. Lets not forget that the Ravens spent approximately 1/3 of their salary cap last year on 4 defensive players in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata. That’s more than they spent on the entire starting offense, including Flacco himself.

 

Throughout his time as a Raven, Flacco has seen a virtual revolving door of talent on the offensive line and in the receiving corps, and a steady commitment to retention of defensive players who may now be on the downsides of their careers. While this makes Flacco’s achievements, along with his ability to stay healthy, that much more impressive, it may also strengthen his willingness to take all that he can get financially and continue to take his chances with the talent that General Manager Ozzie Newsome is able to put around him with what’s left.

 

What hasn’t changed about these negotiations is that both sides will eventually reach an agreement that keeps Flacco around for the long term. What has changed about these negotiations is likely everything else. The answers are coming. Now it’s time to hold your breath and hope that those answers are the right ones. .

 

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Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

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Just Say No to Josh Hamilton

Posted on 08 November 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

It’s a bad pun, I know, and despite reports to the contrary there’s not an ounce of me that believes that the legendarily tight-fisted Orioles have any real intentions of bringing in Josh Hamilton through free agency, but it’s the first week in November, still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting and the suddenly “frustrating” Ravens are preparing for an anti-climactic match up against the Oakland Raiders. So just for a second let’s pretend that the Orioles rumored interest in Josh Hamilton is real.

If there’s any part of this “news” that Orioles fans can view as a positive, it’s that maybe the Orioles are (or will be at some point) genuinely interested in spending some money to bring in some veteran talent. The down side is that there’s little to be excited about at the top end of this year’s free agent class, and that those leading the talent parade, Josh Hamilton and Zach Greinke, both have enough question marks to make “Buyer Beware” the understatement of the off-season.

 

On the surface, this seems like little more than an Orioles effort to do what they’ve become really good at in recent off-seasons. It seems like another Orioles attempt to insult their fans’ intelligence by feigning just enough interest in a free agent superstar to grab a headline or two, but not enough interest (or money) to actually catch said superstar’s attention. There’s no better time than now to do that, as the market hasn’t begun to be set on Hamilton yet, so whatever the Orioles are wiling to offer today is better that any of the numbers we’ve heard so far. That’s because so far we haven’t heard any real numbers, from the Orioles or anyone.

 

This is the same Dan Duquette who claimed last off-season to be waiting for the sharks to finish feeding before venturing out to feed off of what was left. Why on Earth would we now believe that the Orioles have after one moderately successful season changed courses completely?

 

If they have, the timing couldn’t be worse. In this (what we hope is) the post steroid era of Major League Baseball, we’re quickly learning that players can no longer be expected to live up to the lofty contracts that take them well into their mid and late thirties. If the Orioles were compelled to pass on a 27-year old Prince Fielder with a bit of a weight problem last season, there’s no logical reason to consider a long-term alignment with a 31-year old Josh Hamilton with an array of baggage in tow.

 

The improbability of last year’s success was amusing to the fans that watched writers and analysts struggle to explain it, but as the team itself prepares for next year and beyond, the source of their amusement has left them in an awkward position. At every position other than second base (and a starting pitcher or two) there’s a guy from last year’s team who either projects well for next season or who at least merits another look in 2013. There have been plenty of years in which free agent bonanzas would have been both welcome and necessary, and in all of them the Orioles failed to pony up. Now, with legitimate and justifiable reasons to stand pat, the Orioles would like us to believe they’re ready to spend? And on Josh Hamilton no less?

 

I’m certainly not averse to the Orioles opening the purse strings if they feel inclined to do so, but there are plenty of reasons to be apprehensive if that spending begins with Josh Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton on the wrong side of 30 in the post steroid era and not only is he an all or nothing type of proposition; Hamilton is also a guy who’s sat out too many games for health related reasons when he was on the right side of 30; and how his indiscretions have lent themselves to the aging process is the subject of much speculation and debate.

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Reynolds’ Bum Rap

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Reynolds’ Bum Rap

Posted on 04 September 2012 by Thyrl Nelson

There are no players on the Orioles, and few in Major League Baseball, perhaps few in the history of Major League Baseball as confounding or as difficult to assess as Mark Reynolds has been. In fact, when it comes to assessing Reynolds’ skill set and therefore his value, the discussion can be downright divisive.

Those who have no tolerance for Mark Reynolds will point to his battles with the Mendoza line and his annual assault on the 200-strikeout plateau as evidence of his not having much of a clue at the plate. The walk numbers that he routinely amasses however seem to tell a different story. Reynolds goes to the plate with an idea of the strike zone, and rarely seems willing to compromise that idea or to cater it to the game situation at hand. His inability to move runners with productive outs seems to stick in the crawls of his bashers, while the resultant lack of double plays provides plenty of fodder for his supporters.

 

It’s not easy these days to suggest that Buck Showalter is doing much, or anything wrong, when it comes to managing the Orioles. We seem to be in universal agreement (a rarity among baseball fans) that JJ Hardy is misplaced at best in the #2 spot in the order, but even that has given way to the “In Buck We Trust” mantra and mindset. So far though, throughout his Orioles career, Buck Showalter has handled “the Mark Reynolds situation” badly.

 

Reynolds is clearly not a good 3rd baseman, a reality Orioles fans were forced to face head on last season, and a reality seemingly corrected once Reynolds transitioned to first base last season. Still, for some inexplicable reason, Showalter and the Orioles sent Reynolds home last off-season with the idea (and intention) of sticking him back at 3rd base. They did so, unsuccessfully again, and how much of an impact that has had on the other elements of his game is, like everything else about Reynolds, debatable.

 

The Photo Shopped pictures of Reynolds eating sunflowers seeds in various comical locales fed the notion (and may have led some to believe) that Reynolds was indifferent to the game going on around him. Others believe Reynolds may care too much and that maybe having to make the throw from 3rd to 1st, across the diamond , had a mental impact on his game and caused him to be less than focused elsewhere. Whether that’s true or not, Reynolds at first base has been at the very least better than serviceable, and lately he’s arguably been pretty good there. And, coincidentally or not, he seems to have picked things up at the plate since being assigned to first as well.

 

For those who find themselves counting the days until Reynolds’ departure…beware. Reynolds’ contract situation is like all other Reynolds related subjects precarious. He has an $11 million club option at the end of the season, but will also finish 2012 short of the 6 years of MLB service time required to make him a free agent. That would seem to make the Orioles likely to buy out his option and offer either arbitration, or a longer-term compromise of a contract.

 

As things stand today, Reynolds’ .347 OBP ranks him 25th in the American League. In simpler terms there are only 24 guys in the entire AL this year who are more difficult to get out than Mark Reynolds. Of the 12 guys sitting above him in OBP, about half have anywhere near the power potential Reynolds possesses, in fact only 12 of the 24 players above him have more than the 16 homeruns that Reynolds has in this, a down year for power based on his career standards. Turning Reynolds walks into singles puts him in good company (OBP and power-wise) with guys like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, all of whom are looking down the barrels of $20 million or so per season paydays while Reynolds (at $11 million) is being treated like a plague on the Orioles.

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