Good morning, Birdland!
As promised, the baseball Hot Stove has been cranking out moves early this year thanks to the impending lockout at the start of December. Not only has this happened on the free agent front, but there have been a few high-profile contract extensions. José Berríos determined last week that he was staying in Toronto long term. On Tuesday, Wander Franco committed to Tampa Bay (or at least the Rays organization, wherever they end up) for the next 11 seasons with an option for a 12th.
It’s a massive deal for a massive talent. The 11 years are worth $182 million, an AAV of $16.5 million not including some reachable incentives. This is a situation where it works well for both sides, although Franco is almost certainly leaving money on the table long term. However, it gives him life-changing money as a 20-year-old and security that he is going to cash in regardless of injury or anything else moving forward. The Rays are taking a risk of sorts. Injuries and under-performance happen, and that possibility exists here. But if Franco comes even close to playing up to his talent, he will be worth at least twice what this contract pays him.
Now, this is being mentioned in an Orioles blog because Franco was an all-world prospect prior to being called up in 2021. There was no question that he was the best minor leaguer in the game. But once he left, a new player took that mantle, and that player is Adley Rutschman.
Rutschman is older and players a different position than Franco. And, if we are honest with ourselves, he is not regarded quite as highly as Franco. But still, most talent evaluators love him and think he will be the best catcher in baseball shortly.
So, if Rutschman comes up in 2022 and crushes the league, could the Orioles explore something similar to this Franco deal next winter? The years won’t be as long as he is already three years older than Franco, but the idea of buying out all years of control plus a few on the free agent market is appealing. It would extend the window to win and secure an organizational cornerstone for years to come at a premium position.
There are things about the way the Rays do business that are not interesting to me as a fan. They constantly trade away familiar faces. The way they handle a pitching staff is not sexy, although it is effective. And the current talks of playing home games in multiple cities is all kinds of ick. But they have been on the forefront of locking up their young guys as soon as they think they will be high-level big leaguers. That’s something I could get into.
MLB trade and free-agent matches | The Athletic (Jim Bowden)
I remain in the mindset that the Orioles will actually hand out a major league deal or two this winter. Yes, I’m really going out on a limb here. For me, they absolutely have to get a starting pitcher that they can depend on for 150-ish innings of mediocre performance. The other obvious need is a veteran catcher that can revert to a backup role once Rutschman is dubbed “ready” by the club. Anything beyond that would be appreciated but not expected.
Notes on Hall of Fame ballot, Hays’ recovery and Jones’ passing | School of Roch
Baseball has been the sport I follow closest for my entire life. It’s important to me. But for whatever reason, I just cannot bring myself to care at all about Hall of Fame discourse. Should they be in? Should they not be in? Did they play long enough? Were they a good enough person? It is exhausting, and all so insanely subjective. If/when the next good Oriole gets in, I will be happy, but I can’t see myself slapping the proverbial pavement for someone on the fringes of the discussion. It’s just not that interesting to me.
Orioles Reportedly Discussing John Means In Trade Talks | MLB Trade Rumors
This was the “big” story of the day, and it is utterly boring at its core. Of course the Orioles are talking about John Means. They should be. Look, he is a good pitcher, and if this team was near ready for contention I would be livid about the thought of moving a steady, controllable rotation piece like this. But winning is a still a ways off, and Means would be worth a haul on the trade market. His skillset is similar to that of Eduardo Rodriguez, who just got a big check in free agency. Teams would need to pay something similar in terms of prospects if they want to get their hands on the O’s ace.
Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!
- Damian Moss is 45. The Australian lefty played in 10 games for the 2003 O’s after arriving along with Kurt Ainsworth in a trade deadline deal that sent Sidney Ponson to the Giants.
- Ben McDonald turns 54. A former number one overall draft pick and current Orioles broadcaster, the 6-foot-7 McDonald spent seven seasons in Baltimore from 1989 through 1995, accumulating a 3.89 ERA over 155 appearances.
- Fred Been is 79. The right-handed pitcher appeared in three seasons with the O’s from 1968 through 1970 but played in just seven total games for the club.
- The late Jim Northrup (d. 2011) was born on this day in 1939. He concluded his 12-season big league career with parts of two season in Baltimore from 1974 through ‘75.
This weekend in O’s history
1982 - Cal Ripken, Jr. is named AL Rookie of the Year after slugging 28 home runs in his debut season for the O’s.