A year ago, the plan for Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette seemed to be to bring back the same team as in 2012 to compete in 2013. Notably, the only major league free agent signed last off-season was Nate McLouth, who did not come from outside the organization.
That plan cannot happen for a second year in a row. Earlier Friday, Scott Feldman was reported to be signing with the Astros. Now, McLouth has departed for the Nationals on a two-year deal, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. McLouth had been seeking $12 million over two years. Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reported that the terms are $10.75 million over two years for McLouth's deal with Washington with an option for a third year.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for the O's not retaining McLouth with their deciding to tender both Nolan Reimold and Steve Pearce, as well as the pending fringe 40-man signing of former Giants outfielder Francisco Peguero. There's always the possibility of Henry Urrutia, as well. McLouth would have probably been better than those players, but perhaps not for the cost he is seeking. The O's had McLouth's services for $2 million in 2013 after grabbing him off the scrap heap in the middle of the 2012 season.
The O's were reported to have interest in bringing back McLouth, though they never acted like it to me. If they were interested, but they weren't interested in beating the Nationals offer, does that really count as them being interested? McLouth showed he had game left over the past season and a half, and that's the kind of offer a player with his skill set is commanding in this market. It seems like yet another case of the Orioles talking up interest without wanting to actually spend the money it takes to get players in this market.
Again, there is the possibility this is a wise strategy in the long run. In the meantime, the Orioles will continue to miss out on whoever they say they want to sign.
Rosenthal indicates that McLouth will technically be a fourth outfielder for the Nationals, but he can back them up at any position. The O's really only needed a left fielder, with Adam Jones and Nick Markakis locked into the other two outfield spots.
You might think that would make McLouth more valuable to the O's if they saw him as a left fielder. They may have only viewed him as a platoon player, though. He had a .753 OPS against righties and a .640 OPS against lefties. The market says that's a player who gets about $11 million guaranteed, but that doesn't mean it would have been best for the O's to pay him that.
One thing that the O's will lose out on is his speed. McLouth stole 30 of the 79 bases that the O's stole as a team last year. He ended up batting leadoff for lack of anyone better for a while; his .329 OBP was nothing special, except for the fact that it was second-highest on the Orioles. Who might lead off now is an interesting question, the answer to which is not yet known.
As a fan, it's disappointing to see another player from the magical 2012 season depart. It's also disappointing that it seems the O's aren't even in the picture for these lower tier signings of players they claim to want to retain. This year, they won't even be bringing back last year's team. Feldman and McLouth are gone. There are still better players out there on the free agent market to replace them, but will the O's shell out the cash to pay any of them?
The Base Bandit shall ply his trade in Baltimore no longer.
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