Brad Fauber: Nats, O’s quiet at winter meetings
Fans of the Nationals and the Orioles waited eagerly for their teams to make some moves during the annual MLB winter meetings this week. But the meetings have come and gone and, as action packed as they were, fans of both teams are still waiting.
Front office personnel from both teams returned to Baltimore and Washington following the meetings’ wrap-up on Thursday with not much to show from their visits to the West Coast, leaving both fanbases feeling a little impatient.
Orioles fans seem to be especially miffed at the team’s growing reluctance to make a big offseason splash, whether it be through a trade or a high-profile free-agent signing. Baltimore has already seen the MLB’s defending home-run king, Nelson Cruz, sign with Seattle, fan favorite Nick Markakis sign with Atlanta and reliever Andrew Miller go to the Yankees. The Orioles went to San Diego this week hoping to fill the gaping hole in the outfield and maybe add a bullpen arm, and they returned home with nothing more than two minor league pitchers they acquired through the Rule 5 Draft.
Not exactly the kind of start to the offseason that Baltimore fans were hoping for after the Orioles’ most successful season in 17 years.
Baltimore executive vice president Dan Duquette has been quoted as coming right out and saying “we are not about signing high-profile free agents” during the meetings earlier this week, which is hardly news to anyone who has paid attention to the Orioles’ offseason habits over the last couple of years. But it’s still kind of frustrating for fans to hear those words out loud.
Duquette prefers to grow talent through the farm system and bring in outside help via the trade market, the latter of which likely won’t yield the type of big name Orioles fans have been pressing for due to Duquette’s refusal to part with many of the organization’s upper-tier prospects.
Developing a strong farm system and growing some of your talent is all well and good, but Baltimore’s window for competing is right now. Can the Orioles really afford to wait around as it grows talent from within while stockpiling young, unproven talent? I’m not so sure. Not while the Yankees and the Red Sox are spending money on guys who can help them win right away.
The Nationals have been similarly quiet so far this offseason, with a trade that sent pitcher Ross Detwiler to the Rangers in exchange for a pair of minor leaguers being the only move worth note coming from Washington at the Winter Meetings.
Washington’s biggest need at the moment appears to be in the infield — specifically at second base unless the Nats decide to move Anthony Rendon back to second and pursue a third baseman instead — but nothing was done this week to fill that hole.
The Nationals also have important decisions to make regarding the futures of pitchers Doug Fister — last offseason’s prized acquisition — Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler Clippard, as well as infielder Ian Desmond, all of whom could become free agents after next season.
It’s unlikely that the Nationals would be able to extend all four of those players, but Washington should make it a priority to lock up Fister and Zimmermann this offseason. If the Nationals fail to do so, however, either pitcher would pose as a very valuable bargaining chip that could be used in landing an infielder.
There’s also an interesting situation in Washington regarding star Bryce Harper and a dispute between he and the Nationals about his eligibility for arbitration that bears some attention this winter. A grievance hearing could come very soon if both sides can’t reach a settlement, a situation that could create tension between the Nationals and arguably the team’s biggest name.
The good news for fans of the Nationals and Orioles is that there is still a few month’s worth of offseason left for both sides to make some meaningful moves, and I’m sure those moves will come. But it’s not hard to understand the frustrations felt by those fanbases after both teams appear to be behind the pack after a crazy few days at the winter meetings.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org