Baltimore Oriole fans looking to cleanse their palates of a bitter end to the team’s 101-win season will have to seek out a charcuterie board because the franchise’s big splash at the Winter Meetings is . . . Craig Kimbrel?
Last seen getting his teeth kicked in by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the former Phillies closer was met with boos when he returned to the mound at Citizens Bank Park, and that still wasn’t enough to stop Baltimore from this obvious misstep.
This will be the All-Star closer’s fifth team since turning 30 (he’s now 35), and honestly, I’m not even going to rip Kimbrel or his dangling arm delivery. The most casual of baseball fans have witnessed the tightrope that is a Kimbrel save opportunity, so this is really more about the Orioles.
There’s still a ton of talent available, so moves can be made, but the club feels like it’s treating 2024 as a gap year. Regular closer Felix Bautista is likely to miss the upcoming season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, which means Kimbrel’s one-year, $13 million deal is simply a get-me-over.
However, when you win 100 games for the first time since 1980, have a litany of yet-to-reach arbitration talent and a history of spending dick-all in free agency, fans understandably desire a lot more urgency.
Losing innings leader starting pitcher Kyle Gibson to the Cardinals on a one-year, $12 million deal is fine considering Gibby (?) led the majors in hits allowed. At the same time, he still needs to be replaced. Of the remaining targets on the market, who is going to take a value deal to pitch at Camden Yards?
Jordan Montgomery appears likely to re-sign with Texas, Blake Snell is coveted by multiple franchises with deeper pockets, ditto for Marcus Stroman, and Eduardo Rodriguez just signed with the Diamondbacks. With the traditional frivolous spenders courting Japanese prospects Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shota Imanga, it’ll take an all-time sales pitch, or a hefty offer, to get in those bidding wars.
Maybe now that the Angelos family infighting over control of the O’s is over, John Angelos will feel confident enough to extend a few of the team’s budding stars. Adley Rustchman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and other exciting players showed they also can put a winning product on the field.
While an Orioles dynasty is a pipe dream — because who are we kidding, the Angeloses are never going to spend the kind of cash it takes to do that — a small-market organization capitalized on its title window less than a decade ago. It is possible as the Kansas City Royals did it.
Sure, they reverted to irrelevancy pretty soon after 2015, yet they saw their chance and went for it. Please don’t preach patience to Baltimore fans because it’s win now or forever hold a grudge. The Kimbrel signing is whatever from a baseball standpoint. Bullpens conjure closers from spare parts all the time.
It’s the principle of the matter, a bad omen, or both. Signing the face of multiple playoff meltdowns can’t be the Orioles’ crown jewel of the hot stove. There’s talent still on the market and plenty of time to make an actual splash or two, so figure it out, Baltimore.