While the Orioles are still mathematically in contention, I think it’s fair to say that their postseason chances have taken a serious hit this past weekend against Tampa Bay. On a side note - and this is something on which I’ll spend some time this off season on Birds Watcher - I don’t feel that the 2013 Orioles were any worse off than the 2012 team. But I think that a lot of the competition around the Orioles - such as Boston, Cleveland, and Tampa Bay - simply got better.
If, in fact, this week brings an end to the 2013 season, it might also bring an end to the career of Brian Roberts in Baltimore. Roberts’ contract is up at the end of the season, and it remains to be seen whether or not the O’s offer the 35-year old second baseman a new deal. Roberts’ injury problems have been well-documented over the past few seasons, as have his rehabs and his long roads back to the majors. Roberts has indicated that he’d like to keep playing after 2013, but that remains to be seen. The aforementioned injury issues, along with his status as a new father might come into play as the offseason goes on.
I’d like to see the Orioles bring Roberts back. Some folks might disagree with that idea, and that’s certainly OK. (And when I say I’d like to see them bring Roberts back, I mean with a one-year contract with a team option for a second year.) For so many years, Roberts was perhaps the Orioles’ lone bright spot in a world of darkness. The two-time All-Star was a de facto team captain over a long period of time. There will be some folks who will bring up Roberts’ durability, and that’s a legitimate question. However, keep in mind that once he returned to the Orioles at the end of June, he’s managed to stay off the disabled list.
That’s all well and good, but many will argue that when you’re talking about being a contending team (which I expect the Orioles to be in 2014), you can’t get stuck worrying about bringing back an aging player who might be a fan favorite. And I agree with that concept. However, what are the Orioles’ other options at second base going into 2014? Alexi Casilla is a free agent after the season, and the Orioles could certainly bring him back if they wanted. But I think Roberts is a better second baseman and a better hitter. The Orioles also have Jonathan Schoop in the minors, and he might well be the second baseman of the future for this franchise. But are the Orioles prepared to run him out there on opening day as the starting second baseman?
If a contending team can’t afford to get caught up in the emotion of re-signing an aging fan favorite, they probably can’t afford to start a rookie at second base on opening day. That’s why I would think bringing Roberts back would be in the team’s best interests. This is not to say that they shouldn’t give Schoop some serious reps in spring training and that he couldn’t perhaps be called up at some point, perhaps getting some tuteledge from Roberts.
Obviously, the Orioles could also go outside the organization to find 2014’s second baseman, but all of that remains to be seen. But I do hope that fans at the very least recognize that this week might be the final one of Roberts’ career as an Oriole. Roberts is a career .278 hitter who has a career OBP of .349. We all know his story by now, and we know the struggles he’s had the past few years. However, before that, he was one of the league’s best stolen base threats, and as I said above, he was often a lone bright spot for this franchise.
It’s unclear whether or not he’ll return, so I suppose it would be premature for the team to do anything to honor him. But if this is his last week as an Oriole, he should know that his contribution to the franchise won’t be forgotten. He was a solid player for the O’s, and Orioles fans will always remember those who performed well for the team.
Domenic Vadala blogs about the Orioles at Birds Watcher, and his opinions appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.