I'm assuredly in the minority, but I believe the Orioles have done about as well this winter as realistic expectations could have hoped for.
Hyun-Soo Kim is a bargain, and at $3.5M AAV through 2017, his importation presents nothing but a low-risk, high-reward scenario in what is presumably left field. Mark Trumbo's availability for a 29-year-old Quad-A catcher should ease the DH burden the Orioles couldn't answer a year ago, even if his swing-and-miss tendencies don't align with the club's on-base needs .
Though Matt Wieters accepting the qualifying offer came as a bit of a surprise, the Orioles' retain a 29-year-old player that possesses above-average offensive and defensive tools, and even more, has a winter of extended pay-days as hopeful incentive. Darren O'Day may be 33-years-old, but age has turned more into a benefit than a detriment for one of baseball's best relievers. His submarine-style delivery is actually less-stressful on the arm and shouldn't raise significant worry even into his age 37 season. O'Day, who owns a 1.92 ERA and 88.7 LOB% (+15.8% over league-average since 2012) the past four years, is a savvy reinvestment as baseball continues its reverence for stockpiling late-inning arms.
Depending on your stance, the gem, or the clunker of the offseason is Chris Davis, who shattered any and all franchise free-agent records with a 7-year, $161M deal. I understand the risk in designating the kind of money the Orioles placed in Davis' stead, but the structured deferrals in his new contract create what is actually a fairly compromising situation (our Alex Conway did very well in explaining the Orioles not-so-risky risk of Davis). Still, if you are opined to say that Davis wasn't worth the $1.01M per home run he's donged since 2012, just know that securing Davis is a matter of now, not an issue of then. All of these contracts snag eventually, but it's necessary in order to retain such services, especially when the owner tilts the scale in his favor.
I've seen numerous dissenters suggest the Orioles didn't do enough to raise the desired win total from 2015, only to bring back the same players that contributed to last year's 81 wins.
And your point is?
As far as I'm concerned, the Orioles brought back one solid player, added a pair of entertaining wild cards, while also ensuring two of the best players on the open market are to wear orange and black through their remaining glory years. Good teams have good players and for the past four years, the Orioles have been a very good team. Duquette not only made the Orioles better, but in what seems to be more concerning of a Buck Showalter managed team, the core of the clubhouse also remains intact.
Though there isn't a formula weighing on the importance of friends spending 9-plus months together, yet Showalter seems to believe in the merits, and he's kind of smart.
But enough positivity.
While I would consider this winter a success, the Orioles are still staring down the gun barrel of a starting staff made almost entirely of lackluster stuff. My daily scanning of the Twitterverse is enough for Neil DeGrasse Tyson to question the physics in its existence, and one Twitterversal theory I continue to stumble upon is the Orioles' alleged interest in starters Yovani Gallardo and Doug Fister. As much as fans are hoping for one more splash, whether that's through trade or the likes of Gallardo or Fister, the Orioles seem more likely to kneel at the alter of the baseball gods and pray that Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez can regain any sort of competence.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the only route the Orioles can take.
I like Yovani Gallardo. I think he's a better pitcher than he's given credit for, but at the cost of the 14th-overall pick in June's Amateur Draft, the Orioles would only be getting a clone of what they already have. Gallardo's fastball sits around 88-94 MPH, with an OK slider and averagely-deceptive changeup, and for the past two years, he's garnered a -1.01 FIP. His K% has steadily fallen from 18.6% in 2013, to 17.9% in 2014, finally to 15.3% this last season. His contact rate has risen consecutively by 1% the past three years as well, while his swinging strike frequency has seen its increment demise. Gallardo is reportedly seeking four-years, and as the Ubaldo experiment continues it's topsy-mostly-turvy trajectory, Duquette should feel disinclined to meet demands.
Gallardo's reliance on sliders and changeups in 2015 did well to minimize fly balls and allowance of home runs, and he's someone that has pitched no fewer than 180.2 innings since 2009, but he is, in sorts, a clone of what the Orioles already have. The Orioles could plug in Vance Worley or Tyler Wilson and probably ask for much of the same, though maybe not to the same effectiveness of Gallardo, but at a club-friendly price.
Fister is an even further case of "meh", as his fastball velocity dropped to a scanty 86.4 MPH average, while his ground ball rate appears to be heading south. A move to the American League wouldn't bode well for a soft-throwing, low-strikeout, high-contact righty that is probably going to require $5M-$6M simply on reputation.
As it has been since Showalter came to town, the Orioles are going to have to rely on dingers and FIP-defying ERAs, but it's hard to find proper causation in forfeiting a first-round pick or needlessly adding to an already record-breaking payroll when the remaining market dittos your current disposal.
I can see why Tyler Wilson wouldn't energize a fanbase, but I thought he pitched well in limited action. Like Gallardo and Fister, he doesn't strike out the opposition and is reliant on weak, effective contact, but he has a mound presence to him and an understanding of how to pitch that mimics Orioles' pitchers on their best of days. I'd rather see the O's test the waters with Wilson than add a veteran pitcher because sometimes, as my dad would say, the best move is the one you don't make.
It also isn't farfetched to expect Tillman and Gonzalez to bounce back somewhat, seeing as how it couldn't get any worse. Jimenez has the stuff to pitch at a Gallardo-like appearance, and as most of you know, I'm a Kevin Gausman fanboy. While that does leave one vacant hole in the Orioles rotation, there is surely an in-house candidate or soon-to-be-made-available someone, somewhere, somehow to fill the void. It really wouldn't surprise me if Duquette's plan all along was to target the likes of Davis and O'Day while banking on a return to form from Tillman and Gonzalez, as well as the benefit of Gausman as a full-time starter. He isn't much for words, but Duquette does tend to mix in surprises with a heady approach.
I mean, look at that face? Do we ever know what to expect from that sour grape? In what is the new "Oriole Way", the success of the club hasn't originated from the rotation being something it isn't, it simply has been what it is capable of: being good enough.
2016 doesn't look to be much different.