Here’s the deal with the Orioles’ signing of outfielder Colby Rasmus in February:
It was fine in the club’s typical, throw-it-against-the-wall manner.
A minor league pact for a former everyday outfielder who had dealt with injury and a self-inflicted exile from the game in 2017.
Fine. Take a chance. Whatever.
But it never should have been more than that. It never should have been considered anything but a baseball lottery ticket on par with Alex Presley, Michael Saunders, et cetera.
Rasmus, who was placed on the restricted list Tuesday after informing the club he didn’t want to continue playing for personal reasons, shouldn’t have been Plan A for right field.
He was. And that was a huge mistake.
In late February, I had a conversation with an Orioles executive in which I sounded my drumbeat of the offseason: The Orioles needed to sign outfielder and leadoff hitter Jon Jay.
The exec’s response: “Then what do we do with Colby Rasmus?”
My response: “I don’t care what you do with Colby Rasmus. Leave him at Triple-A Norfolk and see what he can do since it’s a minor league deal. Let him exercise an out clause. Cut bait. It shouldn’t matter.”
Rasmus, I was told, was likely the Orioles’ starting right fielder against right-handers, maybe their full-time right fielder if all went well. That was why they signed him. Case closed.
I thought then — and I think it now – “What a terrible idea.”
Rasmus, 31, was coming off a season in which he was still dealing with a serious hip injury and had decided to leave the Tampa Bay Rays to get away from baseball for a spell. And they agreed to a $3 million deal with Rasmus that included the potential of $2 million more in incentives.
That’s like an expired lottery ticket.
Now, to be fair, Jon Jay would not have made this Orioles’ season a success. He’s had a good year – hitting .286 with a .352 on-base percentage for the Kansas City Royals and Arizona Diamondbacks – but Mike Trout couldn’t carry this woeful offense to a season of respectability.
Still, Jay and Rasmus received the same salary — $3 million for one year (though Jay’s was a guaranteed, big league deal).
Jay was good enough in 59 games with the awful Royals that they dealt him to Arizona for two minor league pitchers.
Rasmus played in 18 games with the awful Orioles – divided nearly in half by 10 weeks on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his surgically repaired left hip – and he hit .133 (6-for-45) with 19 strikeouts and one homer, which improbably came against Washington’s Max Scherzer.
The Orioles were hoping when he came back from injury that maybe they could turn him into a trade-deadline piece. But after that homer versus Scherzer in the first at-bat of his return, Rasmus had only three hits in his next 23 at-bats. That trade dream faded quickly.
Rasmus made roughly $1.5 million from the Orioles so far this season and is now headed back to his farm in Alabama.
He shouldn’t be blamed here, not really. He walked away from roughly $1.5 million instead of going through the motions. Heck, if he had continued to play poorly he soon would have been designated for assignment, passed through waivers and collected that paycheck without having to swing a bat again.
He deserves props for realizing it was time to hang it up. It saved the Orioles money and a 40-man roster spot. And we don’t know what went into his decision, so I’m never gonna judge someone for making such a personal call.
The Orioles’ front office – whether it was Dan Duquette or Brady Anderson or the Angelos family or whomever made the final call – is to blame here.
Never, I repeat never, should Rasmus have been considered the answer for the Orioles in right field. Not coming off the injury. Not coming off the uncertainty of him leaving baseball months prior.
When the Orioles signed Rasmus, I received a text from an executive in another organization that said, “Colby Rasmus? Does he even want to play anymore?”
I responded with two words.
Five months later, the answer is no.
It wasn’t hard to see that coming.
The Orioles, however, took that risk — and foolishly made him Plan A.