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Saturday Bird Droppings: The Orioles new lease of Camden Yards hits another snag

The offseason marches on, dizzying details on the lease, and where in the world is Shohei Ohtani.

MLB: New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Good Morning, Birdland!

For at least a few minutes on Friday it seemed that the ever-lasting conversation around the Orioles’ lease of Camden Yards was coming to an end. Outlets were reporting that a “tentative” agreement was in place. All sides just needed to cross some T’s and dot some lowercase J’s. Hooray! But within the blink of an eye that story changed again.

Instead, it seems there remains work to do. Maryland State Senate President Bill Ferguson had some issues with the agreed upon deal. Specifically, he doesn’t love handing over a 99-year ground lease of public land to Orioles ownership, a situation that grew murky this week over the potential sale of the club. That was enough to halt talks once again.

To be fair to Ferguson, he’s got a point! The proposed terms of the ground rent situation are laughable. The team would pay a total of $94 million over 99 years and be granted the right to develop the land. That’s $950,000 per year, a number that will only appear smaller as time marches on and inflation does its thing.

Stadium deals are notoriously cruel to the localities in which they are done. The way the Orioles are asking for their handout is quite unique. They don’t want a new stadium. After all, Camden Yards is a marquee venue in MLB specifically and professional sports at large. But they would be fine with cheap development rights to a ton of prime real estate right around the park, plus the $600 million that the state has already promised them in upgrades to the existing setup. Clever, John. Very clever.

What should be a larger part of these sorts of conversations is what, exactly, the state and city get back in return for these generous offerings. Not in a corrupt or untoward way, but literally. If the Orioles want all of this financial support, then the state and city should get an ownership stake in the team. It sounds like the Angelos family is planning to offload the Birds anyway. You want to show you’re committed to Baltimore? Let the taxpayers reap some of the revenue directly, or maybe a Green Bay Packers-style set up.

Nothing like that seems to be on the table, and you can be sure that MLB isn’t interested in setting that precedent. But it would help quell the other concern raised by Ferguson. Who exactly is going to be owning the Orioles beyond 2023?

While a sale does not appear imminent, it would seem that the Angelos family has at least floated the possibility to interested parties. The Baltimore Banner explained why it doesn’t make sense to sell while the patriarch, Peter, is alive. But given the elder Angelos’ poor health, that reality could set in sometime soon.

Different ownership groups present their own challenges, something that makes sense to be weary about when talking about such a wide-ranging deal like this.

All told, the story remains somewhat unchanged. A deal appears closer than ever and will probably get done sometime soon. Both the Orioles and the state of Maryland appear ready to go month-to-month if the December 31 expiration date comes without a resolution.

Please, Mike Elias, distract us with some player moves. We beg you!


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Roch says in here that doing something like signing Eduardo Rodriguez to a four-year, $80-million deal “never seemed like a realistic maneuver” for the Orioles. OK...then they just aren’t gonna sign a free agent starter. At least, not one that’s anything more than an innings eater.

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It doesn’t feel like we learned a whole lot. This Winter Meetings was very similar to 2022, when the only meaningful move that the team emerged with was the signing of Kyle Gibson. This year it was Craig Kimbrel, albeit for a little more money than what Gibson got. For now, it’s the same old Orioles. But that can change quickly with one or two aggressive trades.

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I mean, sure. At the moment it’s really only the Yankees so far that have done anything of note. Juan Soto is a huge addition, Alex Verdugo is a good fit, and if they also land Yoshinobu Yamamoto then it has to feel like a pretty nice offseason in the Bronx. It sounds like the Blue Jays have a real shot to sign Shohei Ohtani. If that happens, it will send shock waves throughout baseball. Scoring runs was Toronto’s problem last year. Ohtani would help.

Orioles birthdays

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

  • Hunter Harvey turns 29. A former first-round pick, the O’s hoped to make Harvey a frontline starter. Injuries derailed his development and he ended up pitching parts of three seasons in the team’s bullpen from 2019-21.
  • Tony Batista is 50. Known for his unique batting stance, Batista spent three seasons in Baltimore from 2001-03. That included an all-star game selection in ‘02.
  • Tony Tarasco celebrates his 53rd. Between 1996 and ‘97, Tarasco was a backup outfielder for the O’s. Unfortunately he will go down in history as the player was prominently victimized by a certain Yankees fan during the ‘96 ALCS.
  • Darold Knowles is 82. He pitched in five games for the 1965 Birds.
  • The late Billy Klaus (b. 1928, d. 2006) was born on this day. He spent two seasons playing around the Orioles’ infield from 1959-60.

This day in O’s history

1965 - Frank Robinson is traded from the Reds to the Orioles in exchange for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldshun, and Dick Simpson.

1994 - Free agent catcher Matt Nokes signs with the O’s.

1999 - The Orioles sign free agent designated hitter Harold Baines.

2008 - In an effort to open up playing time for Matt Wieters, the Orioles trade Ramon Hernandez to the Reds to Ryan Freel, Justin turner, and Brandon Waring.

2009 - The Orioles acquire starter Kevin Millwood from the Rangers in exchange for reliever Chris Ray.

2010 - J.J. Hardy becomes an Oriole. The shortstop is dealt (along with fellow infielder Brendan Harris) from Minnesota in a deal that sends Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey to the Twin Cities.