No really, the Vlad signing was bad.

But this is the part I really disagree with:

The Orioles are in the unenviable position of being the cellar-dwelling team in the AL East. If their path to the top wasn’t already hard enough, the strong play of Toronto last season, its strong offseason, plus the ability to function as a big-market team has made it even tougher for Baltimore to compete.

Players notice that. Baltimore has tried for years to lure superstars to its team, but it’s simply not happening. These free-agent veterans the Orioles have been signing? Their options were so limited, they were forced to choose Baltimore. None of them — with the possible exception of Gregg — had many options.

Across the Beltway, Washington has been in a similar pickle and openly admitted to having to overpay Jayson Werth to entice him to the nation’s capital. The Nationals feel they are beginning their window of opportunity after seeing an influx of young players into the team, and that’s why they brought Werth in. Grumble all you want about how wildly overpaid he was — and I’ll grumble along with you — but players have absolutely sat up and taken notice. The Nationals are suddenly a more appealing destination than before.

Grumble about Werth all you want, but I can just as easily argue that the Red Sox overpaid for Carl Crawford if that’s the route we want to go. Heck, I can pretty much argue that just about every free agent with multiple suitors winds up being overpaid, that’s just the nature of the business. The main difference between Werth and Crawford is their isolated value so much as their team’s position in the short term. The Nationals are at least a couple of years away from competing, and by the time they get there Werth will most likely be a declining player who won’t help them that much. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are a team in position to compete now who can benefit from adding ap layer like Crawford in the short run, which makes overpaying him in the out years easier to justify. But the Orioles are much closer to the Nats than they are to the Red Sox, and frankly they’re probably even farther away from legitimate competition than Washington.

And this is where I think Evan’s premise just goes fundamentally wrong:

What these veteran players will do is add wins to the Orioles — and also cause other players to take notice. You can’t help but notice the name Vladimir Guerrero. Or Derrek Lee. And while J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds are lesser-known names, they’re also notable. They will all help Baltimore take the next step forward. What if these veterans raise Baltimore’s profile enough that the O’s are able to sign someone like Prince Fielder next season?

[…]

At some point, an aggressive step forward has to be taken, otherwise it’s going to be more of the same no matter how hard you try to build from within. Then the fans will just keep disappearing from the park no matter how much you push how exciting Felix Pie can be. And before you know it, these disappearing fans cause a slash in the budget, which leads to even more dominoes falling. There’s a lot more to the game than just playing time on the field.

I think a lot of people in baseball believe this, and I think it’s spectacularly wrong. There’s very few individual players I’d pay to see play, and I’m a much bigger baseball fan than 99.9% of the populace. Are Orioles fans excited now? Sure. If the Orioles are well below .500 and solidly in last place on July 1st will the fans be buying tickets to see 36 year old Vladimir Guerrero? Not a chance. The secret to getting fans to the park, assuming a “normal” market, is to get the baseball right. Win and they will come, lose and they won’t. It’s really that simple.

And that’s why, ultimately, this comes down to a pure baseball move, and in that sense it’s a horrible one. The bottom line is that Vlad is a very mediocre player right now who probably won’t give the Orioles too many more runs this year, and will cost them a chunk of whatever he does add by forcing Luke Scott to play left field. At best he’s probably a one or two win player, and that still leaves Baltimore in the A.L. East cellar in all likelihood. Is that worth $8 million? I certainly don’t think so. And that’s $8 million that really could go an awfully long way in the draft or Latin America (if the Orioles actually took Latin America seriously anyway). Prospects are the last thing anyone in a city like Baltimore wants to hear about right now, but ultimately that’s how the Orioles are going to have to rebuild their team. Signing players like Vlad is what the Pirates and the Royals tried to do for years, to disastrous results.

And when the team is clearly int he midst of their 15th straight losing season, Baltimore fans won’t be any more eager to go to Camden Yards than they were before they lit $8 million on fire.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

14 thoughts on “No really, the Vlad signing was bad.

  1. williamnyy23

    If the $8 million will really hamper spending elsewhere, I'd agree with you, but I am not so sure that's the case. Although I don't think fans will come to see Vlad, I think attendance will be higher if the Orioles can hover around .500 deep into the summer. Does Vlad alone do that? No, but if you starting adding a win here and a win there, and get a few surprises, you just might have a .500 team.

    • Well there's always an opportunity cost, no matter how much money you have, and remember that it's Peter Angelos ultimately making the decision. But local reports say that they have dipped into MASN revenues (which I assume are down as well in the past year, incidentally) this offseason. That would suggest the opportunity cost is relatively high here.

    • billybeaneismyhero

      I understand there's an intrinsic value to the Orioles reaching .500 for the first time since 1997, but logically, spending all of this additional money to go from 70 to 75 wins or even 81 wins just doesn't make any sense. That money could've been used toward the draft, player development, or a player that will still be able to help them when they're ready to contend in a couple of years. I agree that attendance could be marginally higher if the remain at or above the .500 mark into mid-August, I'm not convinced the additional gate revenues will justify their additional free agent and trade expenditures.

      While it'll only take 1.6 WAR for Vlad to justify his $8M salary (or $5M with $3M deferred), signing him was an inefficient use of resources. With Vlad having no other serious suitors, he was backed into a corner. The Orioles merely needed to sit back and let him come to them at their price. Instead, they fell for the oldest trick in the book (mystery team), and signed him to a contract that could have netted them Manny and Damon for the same price. They got played, and now they have egg on their face.

      • oriole1952

        Sorry, But O totally disagree. If you read the Oriole boards you would see how charged up the fan base is going into Spring Training. I wasn't a real fan of the signing, but I think the biggest value in signing him is for intangibles rather than performance. The O's have been a top 5-10 team $$ wise since Andy MacPhail has been GM in spending on draft picks. Do you think NOT sidning Vlad will suddenly send Peter Angelos rushing out to sign a boatload of International FA's? Dream on. The players are hyped, the fans are amped and they have Buck from the 1st day of ST. The signing of Vlad is just 1 move and the $8m is for this year only, better than Werth's burden on DC.

        • billybeaneismyhero

          It's no doubt a lesser burden than Werth's contract with the Nats, but nearly every contract is. The problem is two fold: (1) they signed him to an $8M deal when he could've been had for $2M if they waited it out, and (2) Vlad doesn't make the team a contender, therefore the signing was virtually meaningless. They maybe added two wins to their win total, which is hardly worth it for a team that's trying to rebuild a franchise.

          Every move the O's have made this season have been patchwork moves. Lee and Vlad will only be around for a year. Hardy and Reynolds have name value, which hints at improvement, but neither are long term solutions. They've improved themselves marginally All they've done is fool a few thousand Oriole fans into thinking the Orioles are finally trying to put together a contender. I'm sorry, but they're not. They're a 75 win team at best–even with Showalter. If their young pitching staff takes a big step forward, then they might be able to become a .500 team. If not, they're still the bottom dweller in the AL East. That's a lot of money spent to tread water.

  2. isdtyrant

    Actually, I think lighting $8 million on fire after a game would be a bigger draw than commiting it to Vlad.

  3. Elwood Larf

    I think Toronto is the team with its head in the clouds right now. Too many things went right in Toronto last year, and they're going to have to count on all those things going right again. I think the Orioles can (but not necessarily will) pass the Jays and contend for 3rd in the division. The bullpen and lineup are both solid, and the rotation has some talent, too. Defense will probably be the biggest problem. Mark Reynolds is a lousy 3rd baseman, Derek Lee is past his prime on both sides of the ball, and Brian Roberts isn't getting any younger, either, and can never seem to stay healthy. True, JJ Hardy is never going to be mistaken for ARod or Nomar in their prime, but the fact is that there's a chronic shortage of shortstops these days and there aren't very many who are better. Even so, there's a very good possibility Buck Showalter can motivate these guys enough to turn out a respectable team that can at least keep things interesting. Anyone who thinks I'm reaching here might do well to remember the 2008 Rays. There's always a surprise team on its way.

  4. dmcgrain

    Can you explain why Vlad is a "very mediocre" player right now? Defensively? Sure. On the base paths? Sure. But at the plate? Hardly. Few Ks. Plenty of pop. And in all likelihood more valuable than Pie or Scott at the plate. And purely as a DH… how is that a loss?

    I'm still not sure why some people are talking as if Scott or Pie was somehow the perfect solution at either spot anyway. Neither is perfect. And the best news is that if either player is truly performing 'through the roof' in the Spring, there are ways to get them at bats.

    • Well, you said a good chunk of it. He's an injury risk, slow, can't play the field at all at this point, and really all he does well at this point is hit left-handed pitching. His nice looking numbers last year were the product of a mostly fluky first few months, after which he was considerably less productive. And even then, Scott was the better hitter two last year.

      And sure, Vlad makes them better than starting Pie or Riemold, but a) how much better and, b) at what cost? Good enough to make the playoffs or even to seriously compete for 3rd place int he division? Probably not. So is that worth $8 million this year? Not really.

      And to be clear, I would have liked the signing a whole lot for them if they'd held firm on their offer of $2-3 million. It certainly doesn't make them worse this season, but at that price, they're using a lot of money they didn't need to and could have spent on something else, and that will hurt them in the long run.

    • billybeaneismyhero

      To be fair, Scott has been a more effective offensive player in each of the last two seasons per the wRAA metric than Guerrero. The fact that Vlad is mediocre in so many facets of the game kind of proves that he's a mediocre player. He's a 1.5-2.0 win player at this point, which makes him fringy at best to receiving 500-600 PAs.

  5. Ryan

    "There’s very few individual players I’d pay to see play, and I’m a much bigger baseball fan than 99.9% of the populace. "

    Personally, I think this is where you get it wrong. It's precisely because most are less into baseball than you that a team like the Orioles feels it needs star power to put people into the seats. People who care less (and know less) about baseball are more likely to attend because of one name.

    • But for casual fans, the list of "stars" worth paying to see, especially non-pitchers, is smaller than mine. I mean, in the last 15 years, who would you say people actually bought tickets to watch? Taking 1998 out of the equation, I'd say it's probably just Bonds, Pujols, and A-Rod. And maybe not even Pujols.

  6. section 34

    I don't understand Yankee fans criticizing $8 million, which is probably what the Steinbrenners use to light their cigars with.

    Moreover, it's not really $8 million. At what level would it be a good signing? If Vlad signed for $5 million, would anyone care?

    Yes, he has become a slightly above average major-league hitter. But he displaces 4th outfielder Felix Pie from the everyday lineup, so he makes the Orioles better. If Nolan Reimold really is better than he looked in 2010, he'll prove it in AAA and be getting regular playing time by July.

    As for attendance, how many tickets do the Orioles have to sell to pay for $8 million? About 200,000 tickets sold should pay the difference between Vlad's salary and somebody making the minimum. Is it inconceivable that excitement over this year's team will boost sales by 5-10,000 a game for a while? I agree that nobody pays to see Vlad specifically, but the Orioles have some buzz in Baltimore, and that sells some tickets.

  7. Rob M

    All the moves the Orioles made I went and bought a 29 game plan. I would not have done that without these moves this year. I am not alone, as a friend that hasn’t followed the Orioles since 2001 currently went in half with me.

    Also, many people seem to think that Andy McPhail is an idiot. If that 8 million to Vlad would mean we spend less in the draft, I bet Andy wouldn’t have pulled the trigger. He knows Vlad is here for 1 year only and isn’t part of the long term plans. Do people really believe McPhail is so short sighted?

    The future of the Orioles is in their young pitching. Keith Law says we should just go all in with a youth movement yet we do not have any minor league 1B/SS/3B ready to help the club. Please do not say Bell at 3RD, Reimold at 1B either as our poor young pitchers would go on strike after another earned run scored because of lousy defense. Really not sure why the Vlad signing is getting so much negative buzz. He is signed to a 1 year deal while playing DH yet I keep reading articles like this. If Reimold tears it up in triple A there is always a chance we flip Scott/Vlad for prospects. Its nice that the Orioles have options there as well, something that has been very lacking with the big league club.

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