In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve failed to get a proper handle on the Orioles’ plans at second base.
The errors are accumulating at an alarming rate, ruining my chances of winning a hot stove Gold Glove.
I bobbled Brian Roberts. I booted Mark Ellis.
I’m all-hit, no-field.
All indications pointed to the Orioles re-signing Roberts over the winter. Plenty of folks in the organization anticipated it, including manager Buck Showalter.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette reached out to Roberts’ agent last week, according to an industry source, and the Orioles didn’t sense that the second baseman was prepared to sign with another team. It came together rather quickly.
If you had told me in October that Roberts would settle for a $2 million deal, plus incentives, I would have bet the ranch that he’d be introduced at Camden Yards on opening day. The Orioles were concerned that his idea of a hometown discount would place his demands closer to $8 million. His contract with the Yankees is pocket change by comparison.
Maybe he believes that his best chance to finally appear in the postseason will come in the Bronx. He was hurt again when the Orioles won the wild card game in 2012. He’s 36 years old and on the clock.
Roberts had long been a favorite of ownership in Baltimore. That’s why he wasn’t traded to the Braves in 2006, along with pitcher Hayden Penn, for first baseman Adam LaRoche and second baseman Marcus Giles. Well, the Orioles also had some concerns about Giles, who raised a few red flags in the warehouse, but it mostly was because of Peter Angelos’ fondness for Roberts.
A year later, the Cubs kept engaging the Orioles in trade talks for Roberts, with the rumored return including pitchers Sean Gallagher, Sean Marshall and Donnie Veal, infielder Ronny Cedeno, and outfielders Felix Pie, Tyler Colvin and Matt Murton. Not all of them. Assorted combinations.
Feel free to trace the career paths of that group.
Andy MacPhail kept shooting down each rumor, to the point where he grew agitated with the repeated late-night phone calls. I still remember him saying, “Roch, I’m not going to keep doing this.” And then he’d do it again. I always appreciated his honesty and whatever remained of his patience.
Roberts played in 1,327 games with the Orioles. One of his teammates was Cal Ripken Jr. He’s been here a long time. But injuries limited him to 192 games over the past four seasons, while he was earning $40 million from his four-year contract.
I get the sense that Roberts isn’t held in the same high regard, not with such a small return on that $40 million. In that sense, the parting of ways shouldn’t come as a complete shock to the system.
Some fans never forgave him for those long stints on the disabled list. Others never forgave him for his inclusion in the Mitchell Report. Others are pained at the thought of him wearing pinstripes and whatever new number the Yankees give him. No. 1 isn’t on the table.
It’s a mixed bag of emotions.
I’m making the bold assumption that the Orioles would have jumped at the chance to re-sign him for $2 million with incentives, especially when they seem to have ignored the rest of the free agent market. I certainly would have hammered out that deal.
It’s easy to say that it’s time to move on, but where are they going from here?
Ryan Flaherty remains the in-house favorite to replace Roberts, with Jemile Weeks also in the mix. Jonathan Schoop seems to be ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk, but we’ll see.
Roberts could have been a bridge to Schoop, the No. 5 prospect in the Orioles’ organization, according to Baseball America. Not the sturdiest of ones, but a bridge nonetheless. He stayed healthy over the final three months of the season and was one of the few Orioles who knew how to work a count.
Keeping Roberts made sense to me. So does his decision to play for the Yankees.
As Showalter says, I get that.
By the way, Roberts’ first return to Camden Yards comes on July 11, the start of a weekend series. In the meantime, let’s at least appreciate how he prevented the 1999 First-Year Player Draft from looking even worse.
The Orioles had seven of the first 50 picks and chose Mike Paradis, Richard Stahl, Larry Bigbie, Keith Reed, Josh Cenate, Scott Rice and Roberts.
As for that Baseball America prospects list, you can view it here.
The top 10 reads as follows:
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Kevin Gausman, RHP
3. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
4. Hunter Harvey, RHP
5. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
6. Tim Berry, LHP
7. Henry Urrutia, OF
8. Mike Wright, RHP
9. Michael Ohlman, C
10. Chance Sisco, C
I would have flip-flopped Gausman and Bundy, but that’s just one man’s opinion. It’s a close call.