I’ve been sensing a lot of panic in Birdland this past week or so. Text messages, emails, social media comments. More panic than usual, actually.
And I think the calendar is what is doing it – that and the fact the Orioles still only have two members of their rotation written in pen.
I understand the sentiment. The Orioles were a last-place team in 2017, pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 13 with their first workout the next day, and the Orioles have filled no holes from an 87-loss club by Jan. 18.
For a moment, though, allow me to be Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House and profess, “All is well.” (Yes, I know it is an outdated reference, but if you haven’t seen Animal House, that’s on you, not me.)
OK, so all isn’t quite well. But I think the panic may be a bit misdirected.
Normally, if a team hasn’t done anything to improve itself by mid-January then it should be full-fledged, breathing-into-a-bag time.
This isn’t a normal offseason, however. With three-plus weeks left in the “traditional offseason,” the majority of top free agents are still available. You could put together a pretty solid 25-man roster with what’s remaining on the open market. And most teams haven’t done a whole lot to get better for the upcoming season.
So, see, there’s no need to panic that the Orioles are running out of time. Nothing really has changed since the winter meetings, and there are still ways for the club to improve considerably for 2018. It simply takes money and a keen eye.
Now, here comes the dose of reality that I like to splash on occasion.
I’m still not sold that the Orioles will do much in free agency to make themselves better this winter. That they are fishing from the same pond that they were in December, and that the best Orioles’ fans can hope for is a couple lower-tier starting pitchers that are looking to rebound in 2018.
Just because Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish and Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb are still available doesn’t make me think that the Orioles have changed course and will land one of them.
The only way that happens is if the market continues to gather frost and the panic happens on the other end, and free agents start to take lesser deals just to have jobs. If that does occur, the Orioles are in a good spot because that’s executive vice president Dan Duquette’s wheelhouse.
I kept saying throughout the 2013-14 offseason that the Orioles weren’t going to sign slugger Nelson Cruz because his demands wouldn’t plummet to the depths where the organization was comfortable. And then it happened, Duquette jumped in and secured the best one-year deal in franchise history.
That could happen again this year. Of course, you’d need three Nelson Cruz types this year, and at least two would have to pitch.
The reality: The odds of striking one-year, free-agent gold three times in one offseason aren’t good. And the odds of the Orioles suddenly deciding to spend considerable money to take advantage of the glut of free agents right now seems even worse.
I guess what I’m saying is if you want to panic, you have my blessing. But not because the Orioles’ shopping list isn’t filled on Jan. 18 and not because time is running out before spring training begins.
Panic for the right reason: Because there’s just no indication that this team is going to fill its obvious holes with quality/proven replacements for 2018.