A look at decisions made by executive vice president Mike Flanagan and vice president Jim Duquette since they were put in charge of the Orioles' front office after the 2005 season.
Signing free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez (Dec. 13, 2005). Hernandez, 31, has had a disappointing year, offensively and defensively, and his hustle and conditioning have been questioned by his manager. But he was possibly the team's Most Valuable Player in 2006, and when he's right, he's one of the best two-way catchers in the game.
Acquiring Corey Patterson from the Chicago Cubs for infielder Nate Spears and pitcher Carlos Perez (Jan. 9, 2006). Patterson, who fell out of favor in Chicago to the point where the Orioles got him for next to nothing, was sometimes hampered by inconsistency, but he also turned in two pretty productive years for the Orioles and could be re-signed as a free agent. He showed good defense in center field and a mixture of power and speed.
Sticking with rookie outfielder Nick Markakis (April-May 2006). Hitting coach Terry Crowley and former manager Sam Perlozzo were instrumental in the emergence of Markakis, who hit .182 in his first month in the big leagues. But it was Flanagan and Duquette who made the suggestion to play the outfielder every day for the final two weeks before last year's All-Star break and then decide whether he needed to be sent to the minors. They got their answer.
Claiming pitcher Jeremy Guthrie off waivers from the Cleveland Indians (Jan. 29, 2007). Guthrie essentially fell into their laps, but credit the Orioles for not making the same mistake as the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who had the first shots at Guthrie but didn't claim him. The Orioles did, based on aggressive recommendations from current manager Dave Trembley and scout Dave Hollins. For $20,000, they believe they acquired a rotation fixture.
Signing free agent Steve Trachsel and then trading him to the Cubs for infielder Scott Moore and reliever Rocky Cherry (Feb. 14, 2007; Aug. 31, 2007). When the Orioles learned just days before the start of spring training that Kris Benson likely would need season-ending shoulder surgery, they turned to Trachsel, who became a solid anchor for a young staff. He went 6-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 starts and pitched well enough for the Orioles to land two potential contributors in a trade engineered by Andy MacPhail.
Not trading disgruntled shortstop Miguel Tejada when his value was at its highest (December 2005-July 2006). In fairness, the top Orioles executives went to owner Peter Angelos with the idea of trading Tejada to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Erick Aybar and pitcher Ervin Santana. Angelos wouldn't sign off on the deal. Tejada's value is now significantly lower because of concerns about his power and defense.
Trading reliever Jorge Julio and pitcher John Maine to the New York Mets for pitcher Kris Benson (Jan. 21, 2006). The deal made sense at the time. The Orioles needed a veteran starter and a team that would accept the enigmatic Julio. Along with several other organizations, they viewed Maine as a fifth starter or swing man who would struggle in the American League East. But he's 20-15 in parts of two seasons with the Mets. Benson was 11-12 last season for the Orioles and has missed 2007 after rotator cuff surgery.
Trading reliever Chris Britton to the New York Yankees for pitcher Jaret Wright and $4 million (Nov. 12, 2006). The Orioles counted on Wright to be a reliable starter, perhaps an unrealistic goal considering the well-documented condition of the veteran's shoulder. They also had to pay Wright $3 million, which amounted to $1 million per start. He went 0-3 and didn't make it past five innings in any start.
Making Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff their two biggest offseason offensive additions (Dec. 11, 2006, and Jan. 3, 2007). Knowing Alfonso Soriano exceeded their budget, the Orioles made an initial run at Carlos Lee but backed away because of his price, choosing instead to spread their free-agent money around to fill other holes. Through Friday, Huff and Payton had combined for 21 home runs and 129 RBIs, while Lee was hitting .304 with 32 home runs and 117 RBIs for the Houston Astros. The Orioles still have a gaping hole in the middle of their order.
Signing outfielder Jay Gibbons to a four-year, $21.1 million deal (Jan. 24, 2006). The contract didn't look good even before recent reports linked Gibbons to performance-enhancing drugs. Gibbons was limited to 90 games last year, hitting .277 with 13 home runs and 46 RBIs. He was hitting just .230 with six home runs and 28 RBIs this year when he had season-ending shoulder surgery. Now, it will be virtually impossible to trade Gibbons, who is owed $11.9 million and facing a possible suspension.