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Saturday Bird Droppings: The Orioles are in the midst of a youth movement on the mound

It’s all about the arms today, but first a little rant about the Nolan Arenado trade.

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Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

There was some legitimately huge news in the world of baseball last night. The Colorado Rockies are trading their star third baseman Nolan Arenado (plus $50 million) to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for some prospects that, to this point, are not expected to be significant.

Arenado will turn 30 shortly after the start of the 2021 season. He has a deal that runs through the completion of the 2026 season, however there is an opt-out after 2021 and it sounds like this trade will give him an opt-out after 2022 as well. If he does stick with St. Louis he is due $199 million over the next six seasons. Colorado will be paying a quarter of that.

Some folks online are claiming that this move is part of the Rockies effort to replicate the Rays model. This is, of course, ridiculous. You are more than welcome to critique the Rays and how they approach building a team. They certainly come off as a little too “budget-conscious” quite often. However, they also have a robust analytics department that tends to make reasonable moves with a logical goal. That’s not what the Rockies have done.

In fact, Colorado significantly reduced their analytics department earlier this offseason. On top of that, their owner sent a letter to fans preparing them for these losses, saying “there will be nothing normal about this offseason as the industry faces a new economic reality, and each club will have to adjust.” For the Rockies, apparently, that means cutting salaries across the board.

Look, we don’t have access to the Rockies accounting books, and I won’t pretend that the lack of in-person attendance for the 2020 season didn’t impact their bottom line in some way. But MLB teams make most of their money outside of the stadium, through TV deals and sponsorships plus smaller revenue streams like apparel sales. A lot of that money is shared across markets to keep things competitive. So, it’s not as if last season completely changed the math here. Organizations have been signaling for a couple of years now that they want to lower payrolls and this is more evidence of that. Not every money-saving move means that team is trying to be like the Rays. Sometimes they are just being cheap.


Orioles’ use of pitching depth to protect prospects could look different in 2021 | The Baltimore Sun
This is the first time in a long time where the Orioles are slated to have a fairly young rotation full of guys that they are actually expected to count on for the entire season. John Means, Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin should each get significant innings.

Eshelman on return: “It was ultimately what I wanted to do” | School of Roch
There aren’t many people who can do what Thomas Eshelman does. The right-handed pitcher’s average fastball last year was 86 mph, and yet he was competitive. It will be valuable to have him back in the mix as a spot starter or long man out of the bullpen.

Dreaming big on pitching prospects | Steve Melewski
More pitching talk! It’s easy to get worked up with thinking about the Orioles young pitchers. While Adley Rutschman is the headliner for the team’s latest crop of prospects, it seems like the hurlers, as a group, are taking over. Beyond Grayson Rodriguez and D.L. Hall there are oodles of interesting arms down on the farm, like Michael Baumann and Zac Lowther. They won’t all pan out, but it is fun to think about.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Joe Kerrigan turns 67. The right-handed pitcher appeared in 26 games for the 1978 O’s and then in just one game for the 1980 squad. Altogether he had a 4.74 ERA and 42 strikeouts across 74 innings.

Happy 78th birthday to Davey Johnson. He spent eight years of his playing career with the Orioles from 1965 through 1975. He won two World Series titles, earned three Gold Gloves, and was sent to three All-Star games during his time as the team’s everyday second baseman. After he retired from playing Johnson got into coaching, including a stint from 1996 through ‘97 as Orioles manager. He won AL Manager of the Year in 1997 but, due to disagreements with owner Peter Angelos, Johnson tendered his resignation following the season.

Finally it is the birthday of the Walt Dropo (b. 1923, d. 2010). The first baseman spent 13 seasons in the majors, and he wrapped up his career with three seasons in Baltimore from 1959 through 1961. He appeared in 155 total games and posted an OPS+ of 105.

This day in history

2003 - Cal Ripken Jr. is elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame. Arguably the greatest Oriole of all-time, Ripken was a shoo-in, earning the induction unanimously from the local media that voted on the honor.