While watching the World Series over this last week and seeing former Orioles' Steve Pearce and Manny Machado have big impacts on the series, it got me thinking. The Orioles have made some terrible decisions in the last few years. Not saying trading Manny was a bad move, or not re-signing Pearce for a second time wasn't a bad move, just thinking in general. And it wasn't just the World Series, former Orioles were littered all over the playoffs and helped out their teams all season long. It seems like the Orioles always make the wrong move, always. Some of those mistakes the last few seasons are pretty glaring. Got me thinking about which one is the worst move in the last few years.
Not re-signing Nick Markakis
Not bringing back Nick Markakis was a VERY unpopular move with fans after the 2014, but at least it made sense on paper. Or so we thought. He was turning 31 a few weeks into Free Agency, needed neck surgery, and the Orioles just weren't willing to give him a 4-year deal, they only offered him 3. Things did get sort of ugly between the team and Nick when he signed with the Braves, I believe it was over the Orioles putting it out there that he had a herniated disc in his neck and would need surgery, probably not what a free agent wants broadcasted.
Turns out it was a very bad move not bringing him back. He was Mr. Right Field for the Orioles and had played his entire career in Baltimore up until that point. Over 1,300 games played, more than 1,500 hits, 141 home runs, a .290 average, and two Gold Gloves to his name, he knew how to play that ball off the wall in right field better than anyone. Nick was THE face of the Orioles before Adam Jones and the others had arrived. When the 2014 playoffs wrapped up I think everyone in Baltimore thought it was a done deal that #21 would be back. Like I mentioned above, the Orioles only offered a 3-year deal and wouldn't give that 4th year, because the 31-year-old needed neck surgery that season. All signs point to letting that guy walk, and they did. There is no way them or anyone could picture what came after.
Nick signed a 4-year deal worth $44 million. Not breaking the bank at all. He was going to a young Atlanta team who would be moving into a new ballpark soon, and he would be the veteran that the team could lean on. I think he surprised a lot of people with his play, including all of Baltimore. In the 4 years since he signed the deal with Atlanta, he has only missed 12 games, not bad for a guy who had was kind of thought to be washed up at the age of 30 and needed neck surgery. His offense numbers have been pretty good too, a .284 average, 690 hits in 636 games, 158 doubles, 38 homers, a .359 OBP, and his first ever All Star appearance in 2018. I think those numbers are way above what anyone thought Nick would produce. He was that veteran leader, and helped guide the Braves to a division title this season and a trip to the playoffs. The Orioles sure could have used Nick when they were in the playoff hunt in 2015 and 2016.
One of their biggest mistakes after this was NOT getting any competent right fielders. Here is a list of players who have played in right since that 2014 season. Travis Snider, Delmon Young, Gerardo Parra, Chris Davis, Alejandro De Aza, Nolan Reimold, Dariel Alvarez, Steve Pearce, Ryan Flaherty, Chris Parmalee, Mark Trumbo, Joey Rickard, Michael Bourn, Drew Stubbs, Seth Smith, Craig Gentry, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Trey Mancini, Danny Valencia, Jace Peterson, Adam Jones, David Washington, Colby Rasmus, DJ Stewart, and John Andreoli. Jesus Christ. Look at that god damn list, some good players, but none of them are the answer in right. Yeah, I'd say not bringing back Nick Markakis was a bad move in Baltimore.
Not re-signing Nelson Cruz
This will go down as one of the better 1-year deals in MLB history. This was Dan Duquette at his best. Coming into the 2014 season no one wanted to touch Nelson Cruz because he was fresh off of a PED Suspension and the team signing him would have to surrender a draft pick. The Orioles signed him in late February 2014 and he didn't look back. Nelson hit the go-ahead home run on Opening Day against the Red Sox, and would finish the season leading all of baseball with 40 bombs. Not bad for a guy on a 1-year, $8 million deal. He was that righty power bat that the Orioles needed heading into the season.
Cruz was mostly a DH, but saw a handful of games in left and right field. There was no mystery though, he was here to hit bombs. He played in nearly every game, 159 out of 162, tacked on 32 doubles to go with his 40 bombs, drove in 108, hit .271, posted an OBP of .333, made the All Star team, and finished 7th in MVP voting in the AL.
There was some talk before the playoffs in 2014 that the Orioles were working on an extension with Nelson, but nothing ever came from that. It seemed like they didn't want to pay a slugger who had just turned 34. Why would you? Everyone knows power hitters start to decline at that age. Cruz ended up signing in Seattle for 4-years and $57 million. Could the Orioles have matched that or even offered more? For sure. I know a lot of people wish they did that deal over a certain adderall taking first baseman, but that's how the cookie crumbles.
Cruz just wrapped up his 4-year contract with the Marines and boy was he a bargain. Everyone talked about how Seattle is a huge ballpark where power hitting numbers decline, so there is no way Cruz could live up to that contract. His home run totals were 44, 43, 39, 37, that total leads all of baseball since 2015. He drove in 414 in those 4 seasons, had 640 hits in 606 games, hit 95 doubles, hit .284, had an OBP of .362, represented the Mariners in 3 All Star Games, finished in the top 15 for MVP 3 times, finished in the top 10 for MVP twice, and won 2 Silver Sluggers. I'd say he was worth the deal.
Not pitching Zach Britton in the wild card game
I mean I could go on all day with this one. You all know what happened. Tie game in extra innings in the 2016 Wild Card game. Zach Britton, the 2016 American League Reliever Of The Year, had just completed the greatest season by a reliever in MLB history, and he watched the game like I did, sitting down in a chair.
Brian Duensing started the bottom of the 11th for the Birds in a 2-2 game and got Ezequiel Carrera to strike out. For some reason Buck Showalter inserted Ubaldo Jimenez into the game. Not Britton, not Dylan Bundy, but Ubaldo Jimenez. The game snowballed in the blink of an eye. Jimenez gave up a single to Devon Travis. Very next pitch was a single to Josh Donaldson, and the very next pitch after that was the 3-run walk off homer by Edwin Encarnacion that still hasn't landed. Season over.
Buck was criticized for not using Britton, and rightfully so. It's still talked about to this day. He maintains that he was saving him for the lead, but that lead never came. That game pretty much was the end of the Orioles window, and it slammed shut. That is a moment that Orioles fans will never forget, and many wanted Buck fired after that. I didn't go that far, but I was preeeeeetty mad that Britton didn't get put in. Can't hold your best pitcher for a moment that may never come. Buck had a brain fart and it cost the team a chance to advance to the ALDS.
Not Extending Manny Machado Early On
This is the move that should haunt the Orioles and their fans for years to come. You draft a player like Manny Machado in hopes to retain him and have him retire in 13-15 years in your uniform. Taken 3rd overall in 2010, the Orioles knew they had a special player pretty early on. He homered as a rookie in Yankee Stadium in the playoffs, his defensive players were literally out of this world, you could tell his bat and offense were going to come around in a BIG way, and then the injuries.
He had season ending knee surgery in 2013 and 2014, could be a death sentence for some young players, but not Manny. He rehabbed and came back stronger. He's been arguably one of the top 5 players in baseball since the injuries. You'd have thought that the Orioles would have done whatever it was to keep him in Baltimore for years to come, but nope, Dan Duquette and the Front Office of the club said earlier that they hadn't reached out to Manny's camp about an extension in three years. That's unreal. That timeframe is the time to reach out to him, right after his second knee surgery at the age of 21 you offer him a deal to buy out his arbitration years and give him a deal that allows him to become a free agent and get his second big contract while he's still in his prime.
In an article on MLB Trade Rumors, it was reported by Jon Heyman that the Orioles reached out "several seasons ago" and tried to get a deal like this done. The Orioles only wanted to offer $64 million, but Machado's camp wanted something that started with a "7". So they basically let a few million bucks stand between signing Manny and not giving him an extension. Just unbelievable. Now he will head into free agency and likely get a contract north of $300 million. Could have been here in Baltimore but thank god the front office squashed that!
Trading Josh Hader for Bud Norris
This one kind of flies under the radar because the trade was so long ago and Hader was just a puppy whose racist and sexist tweets hadn't come out yet. He was drafted by his hometown Orioles in 2012 but but shipped out of town at the deadline in 2013. Hader and LJ Hoes (Hall Of Fame name) were sent to Houston for Bud Norris. Norris was a key member of the 2014 rotation going 15-9 with a 3.65 ERA and helping the Os win the division and advance to the ALCS, but fell flat on his face in 2015. A 2-9 record with an ERA over 7, he was DFA'd that season. It's hard to picture the Orioles winning that division title without Bud, but man does it hurt to look up now and realize that the Orioles could have had the most dominant reliever of the last few seasons on a cheap deal and in their bullpen.
This trade doesn't really bother anyone just because he is a bullpen piece, you can find them anywhere. They aren't as good as Hader, but they get the job done for the most part. Plus we all know there is a 89% chance that the Orioles would have found a way to screw up Vader and he'd prob be out of baseball by now, that's just the Oriole way.
-Signing Ubaldo Jimenez
I could go on all day about this one. I was unsure of the 4-year, $50 million deal the Orioles signed him to in late February of 2014, but at the end of the deal I was even more unsure of it. I was ready to ship Ubaldo out after year 1, but somehow he lasted all four years of the deal. There is no way to spin it, this was a god awful deal for the Birds. At the time it was the largest contract ever given to an Orioles pitcher, and we all thought it would prevent the Birds from spending any big money on another pitcher until Alex Cobb came along.
It's been a long time since I hated an Oriole like I hated Ubaldo Jimenez, I think Albert Belle was at the top of the list before Jimenez. Just look at his numbers in Baltimore, 32-42 with an ERA of 5.22, a WHIP of 1.496, and never finished any season in Baltimore with an ERA below 4.11. Trash. Absolute water trash.
This soured a lot of people on the front office, because they just willingly gave him the deal after he had a good second half in 2013 with Cleveland. He's out of baseball now and it's no surprise, he was god awful in Baltimore.
Trading Jake Arrieta
Stop me if you've heard this before. Jake Arrieta was a budding star in the Orioles minor league system and showed a lot of potential when he reached the bigs, he just couldn't put it all together. Sound familiar? Yeah, it's every Orioles pitching prospect ever. Arrieta was traded with reliever, Pedro Strop to the Cubs in early July 2013 for alleged racist, Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman. This trade obviously went in the Cubs favor.
Arrieta was a guy who just couldn't succeed in Baltimore. He was 27, so he wasn't young anymore, he was a guy who should have figured it out by then. The Orioles weren't letting him throw his cutter, and pitching coach Rick Adair changed his delivery. He wasn't comfortable here and was a clear change of scenery guy. Oh, and another thing. He was terrible here. Maybe that is because of what I just mentioned, not being comfortable and not being able to throw his stuff, but man was he bad. From 2010 to 2012 he had the fourth highest ERA out of any pitcher to throw over 300 innings. When Arrieta was traded in 2013 he was 1-2 with an ERA over 7. 7!! He wasn't the no-hitter throwing, guy who went 20-1 with an ERA under 1 in 24 straight starts at one point, he was a bad pitcher. His Orioles career numbers are pretty bad, 20-25 with an ERA of 5.46, and a WHIP of 1.472.
No one knew that Jake would turn into one of the best pitchers in baseball when he was traded, he looked like a guy who would be selling insurance in a year, but that trade obviously turned around his career, because he was really bad in Baltimore. Throw in how well Pedro Strop has pitched at times in Chicago and the trade looks even worse, especially considering that Feldman and Clevenger were absolute bums. Clevenger did net Mark Trumbo back in a trade, and that's a damn miracle.
Re-signing Chris Davis
Chris Davis is the gift that keeps on giving. Every year since they re-signed him to a 7-year, $161 million deal after the 2015 season, he's been awful. And that is putting it politely. Just this season he posted one of the worst offensive seasons by anyone in MLB history. But he's trying, he always wants the fans to know this is weighing on him and he is trying! When you make this much money, you can't just strike out 200 times a season, bat under your weight and then say "I'm trying!", it doesn't work like that, Chris.
He signed in late January, and for a while it seemed like Davis was going to capitalize on his monster 2015 season and cash in somewhere else. Those offers never came and the Orioles essentially bid against themselves. He's essentially a lost cause now, and is a black hole in the lineup. His glove is pretty good, but you aren't getting paid that for your glove. His deal is up after the 2022 season so hey, it's not all bad! Until you realize he's getting $42 million deferred from 2023 to 2037. You read that correctly, he's getting the Bobby Bonilla payday until 2037.
This was a deal that a lot of Orioles fans wanted at the time, but suddenly regretted it. We're not in a day and age where you can pluck someone off the street to hit 30 bombs and bat .210, and for much cheaper. You won't see the big power hitters get deals like this anymore, so good for Davis for cashing in, but man is this a bad deal for the Orioles. It's also one of the worst deals in all of sports. So instead of being able to place Trey Mancini at first, you have this albatross contract blocking him, because lets face it, you have to play Davis.
There is hope though, with a new President, GM, and Manager coming in, that group could easily take one look at Davis and say "here's your check, enjoy your vacation", and buy him out. The Orioles aren't the Red Sox or Yankees or Dodgers, so they don't just bleed money, but if new ownership REALLY wants to start over and clean house, you start with Davis. This is up there with not extending Manny when you could in terms of worst Orioles moves in the last few seasons. Some would even say that if Davis didn't get this deal from the Orioles that they could have used this money to re-sign Manny.
I can see you making an argument for any of the above decisions, but a few just stand out a little more than the others. Regardless, it will be a long rebuild process, and all of these decisions above contributed to that. You won't want to see the Orioles in 2023 though....