Monday, November 29, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse Named Victor

A few things I read in a Britt Ghiroli post yesterday have me all worked up about Victor Martinez again. (Bear with me, there's a point here...)

Orioles fans are upset about losing Martinez, and understandably so. He would have been a nice addition...

If losing Martinez showed anything, it is that the Orioles are going to struggle to sign any big-name free agents. To think they are going to solve their holes in the infield and batting lineup without making a trade --likely costing them a young arm or two -- is naive.
They aren't getting away from MacPhail's mantra of stockpiling young arms. But if they are going to keep up with the "buy the bats" approach, it will take more than opening their wallets for the Konerko's and Pena's to field a competitive team next spring. It will probably take a trade.... 

I'm not going to pick on Ghiroli here, her view is reflected by every local mainstream writer on the Oriole beat. There are a few truths that just seem to be givens concerning the Orioles' pursuit of Victor Martinez:

1. Martinez would have been a good fit for Baltimore.
2. Not only was offering Martinez $48 million for 4 years the correct thing to do, the Orioles probably should have offered more.
3. Martinez didn't want to come here because Baltimore is not an attractive destination for free agents and thus:
4. The Orioles must pay through the nose to attract even moderately attractive talent.

I won't argue the first point. Martinez playing first base over the next three or four seasons would have been just fine. The problem comes with the price and length of contract the Orioles offered to try to get him.

To address the second assumption, I will refer you back to this post and restate that while Martinez' bat is a superior one for a catcher, it is middling compared to other first basemen in the league. It ranks somewhere above Adam LaRoche and under Todd Helton over the past four seasons. Martinez was not going to catch much, if at all, in Baltimore. (Apparently, he won't be catching much in Detroit either...)

That greatly reduces his value. Period. Think about it this way: Is anybody clamoring to lock up Luke Scott to a four year deal for $12 mil per season? No. Nor should they. But over the past three seasons, Scott has posted an OPS over 20 points higher than Martinez (and has played about 50 more games over that stretch too). But Martinez is the middle-of-the-order bat Baltimore needs? Thinks about that. Not even the hitter that Luke Scott is. Closer to Adam LaRoche in production. Is this the big bat Andy MacPhail promised? (And I'm not even factoring in the 2nd Round pick the Orioles would have lost in the 2011 draft...)

Remember when Miguel Tejada was signed last offseason and many in the media (and Dave Trembley himself) penciled him in as the cleanup hitter? Seems silly now, right? It was because they remembered Tejada as he was in 2006, not as he was in 2009. Three years of declining power didn't seem to be a signal to anybody that this was a terrible idea. Fans and media alike are remembering Martinez' value as a catcher, not the value he will provide going forward as, primarily, a first baseman or a DH.

You know what other scenario it reminds me of? Javy Lopez. I'm still of the mind that the Orioles dodged a bullet when Martinez picked Detroit.

Speaking of jilting Baltimore, why is it that Boston is not being maligned? Were they not also rejected? Is anybody assuming that Boston is an unattractive destination? That their money is no good to free agents? Of course not. Baltimore is more attractive as a destination than it has been in years. Martinez didn't give Boston the chance to up their offer either. He liked the Tigers' money and their general situation. That doesn't make other destinations unattractive, not necessarily. That's just Baltimore's inferiority complex talking.

But even if that were true, why should Baltimore strap itself down to a bad, multi-year contract just to land somebody? That doesn't work, folks. Javy Lopez. Miguel Tejada. Albert Belle. Spending money for money's sake, just to land a player, doesn't solve the losing. It's counterproductive. If the right deal isn't there, you have to let it go. You can't expect the club to panic. You should hope for just the opposite. You also can't throw a big money, multi-year deal at a middle-aged, middling bat just to "do something". But that's exactly what MacPhail did. And he acts like this was a big thrust of his offseason plans.

So the fans and mainstream media shouldn't be asking why the Orioles couldn't land Victor Martinez. The real story, the real question that should be asked is this: Why were they pursuing him so hard in the first place?

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