The Orioles have made a one-year $13 million dollar offer to free agent pitcher Ervin Santana. The Birds have turned into that thrifty shopper hitting the malls on December 24th finding every last good deal on the shelf. I have little doubt that Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz will make an impact for this team. Ervin Santana could have an impact. He could. But if he agrees to terms here, the Orioles will have spent over $70 million this off-season and added over $33 million to the 2014 payroll. That’s great. They are going all in during this two-year window they have with Chris Davis and Matt Wieters before they hit free agency. That’s a good thing. But one thing everyone seems to have forgotten about is that during the previous two years, one of the biggest pieces of their winning puzzle is gone. And he has not been replaced. Jim Johnson and his 101 saves are in Oakland – given away for basically nothing. To save $10 million. The Orioles didn’t think he was worth it.
I’m shocked because I don’t see how he isn’t. Especially when compared to the $13 million the are about to pay Ervin Santana. I’m not debating the cost. I know what the market is for baseball players – ridiculous as it may be – it’s there. And this isn’t so much about value either. Because value and cost are two different things. This is about as Dan Duquette said “resource allocation.” To me, the resources of $10-13 million are better spent on a top-end, reliable closer than a middle-of-the-road starter, especially when you already have three other “middle-of-the-road” starters. It’s not an upgrade. So why do it? There isn’t a need. So why do it?
People say closers are overrated and over-valued. I disagree. I think they are rated very aptly. High. Important. Necessary. You need a legitimate consistent closer in baseball. The Detroit Tigers have missed multiple opportunities to win the World Series because of a shaky back end of the bullpen. The Red Sox won it all last year with Koji Uehara as their closer. Yeah … that guy. He’s not proven. He’s not as good as Jim Johnson. Those things are true, but look at the Red Sox as a team last year once the closer role got solidified. That’s when they poured it on and ran away with everything. Closers not only save games, they change the way it’s managed. Every manager wants to cut the game down to 24 outs. Or 21 outs if you have a solid 8th inning guy – like the Orioles did in Tommy Hunter. It’s a lot easier to manage a seven inning game than nine. There are considerable less chances for a mistake.
The Orioles are going to miss Jim Johnson. He will perform well in Oakland – as well as he did in Baltimore. And how the Orioles do without him, well, that remains to be seen.
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