More random thoughts and ramblings

The Orioles played their final game on Sept. 29. Are they any better today?

No.

About the same?

No.

It's still early, right? We're not supposed to be fooled by the flurry of trades and signings. We haven't reached the Winter Meetings yet. This date qualifies as "early" for the offseason. But the Orioles have backpedaled by removing Jim Johnson, Nate McLouth, Brian Roberts, Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel from the roster.

Oh yeah, and Manny Machado had knee surgery.

So, how's your day going?

It's conceivable that one or more of the Orioles' free agents will return for the 2014 season. Executive vice president Dan Duquette is expected to sign a closer. Other moves are coming.

It's going to take a big one to appease a fanbase, and a clubhouse, that's getting crankier by the day.

I couldn't let the morning pass without referencing the Johnson trade. It still lingers in the air, and it's raised the ire of a few players.

The Orioles certainly did Johnson a favor financially. They really didn't want to go to arbitration with him, and he wasn't getting $10-$11 million as a non-tender on the open market. He's dealt to the Athletics and he gets paid.

I actually felt a sense of relief after reports surfaced that the Yankees had reached agreement with former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a seven-year, $153 million deal. Nice to see the big-market teams flexing their muscle again. The world feels right.

The A's are willing to take on Johnson's contract? The Twins have signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes? The Royals signed Jason Vargas and are courting Carlos Beltran? The Marlins gave Jarrod Saltalamacchia $21 million?

I'm just waiting for the Yankees to flip Ellsbury to the Rays.

I've heard that the Orioles talked to Johnson's agent about a possible extension. Kicked the tires on it, if you will. But the numbers didn't work. Not even close.

Whomever is tabbed the closer, the Orioles could do him a big favor and stop taking so many slim leads into the ninth inning. The Orioles leaned too heavily on Johnson. Too many save situations.

As for why the Orioles "settled" for infielder Jemile Weeks, that was the best available deal. They talked to the Dodgers about Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, but again, the money didn't work. Offers were pulled back. Johnson is a pending free agent with another big raise on the horizon. The Orioles weren't dealing from a position of strength.

In hindsight, it would have made more sense to trade Johnson back in July at the non-waiver deadline, but the Orioles were in playoff contention.

So, what does $10-$11 million get you in today's market? The A's get a closer with 101 saves over the past two seasons. The Orioles aren't getting a frontline starting pitcher, which is their primary need. It's going to take more than that, or a lot of creativity.

The Orioles have perused the list of non-tenders. Lots of depth-type support guys. Been there, done that.

Still lots of work ahead.

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