Two months ago the Baltimore Orioles were playing in the post season for a trip to the World Series.
Now it looks like Baltimore will be fighting for third place in the American League East Division next season.
The O’s were defying odds, to a certain extent, last year down the stretch playing without All-Star third baseman Manny Machado and All-Star catcher Matt Wieters due to injuries, and without their big-hitting first baseman Chris Davis due to suspension.
Baltimore fans, even after being swept by the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS, were feeling positive about the franchise for the first time in a while. Three straight winning seasons, including two playoff appearances with this year’s post season run without three of the team’s best players.
Never do teams stay exactly the same year-to-year, but with the success, O’s fans were hopeful that the front office would be able to keep key players around, and maybe add one or two big-named players during the offseason to get the team over the hump.
So far, neither has happened.
Nick Markakis, who had played the entirety of his nine-year career with the Birds, was a free agent. As were Nelson Cruz, who hit 40 home runs for Baltimore after signing a one-year contract before the season, and relief pitcher Andrew Miller, who was traded to the O’s during the regular season from Boston and was pivotal down the stretch.
None of those three players will be with the team for the 2015 season.
Markakis signed a four-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. Cruz signed a four-year deal with the Seattle Mariners, a team that amongst other moves that have been made this offseason, may win the AL West next year. Miller stayed inside the division, inking a four-year deal with the New York Yankees.
For many O’s fans, losing Markakis hurt the most. Even though the power numbers never came into play for the 31 year-old right fielder, his defensive play and his consistency, average-wise, at the plate were things you love to see.
But optimism will tell you that Dan Duquette, Orioles general manager, made the decision to let Cruz, Markakis and Miller slip away because he was eyeing one or two, maybe even three, big-named free agents to sign to replace them.
None have joined the team.
Kemp signed with the San Diego Padres and Cabrera signed with the Chicago White Sox. Howard and Byrd both have time left on their deals with the Philadelphia Phillies, but talks with the Orioles seem to have stalled out.
And if that isn’t bad enough, Baltimore may not be losing just players this offseason.
Duquette has been rumored as possibly leaving the club to take a position with the Toronto Blue Jays as CEO. This would be a big blow to the O’s considering Duquette has done a good job of bringing in players that fit the style of play that manager Buck Showalter likes to play.
These changes, along with all the moves that the teams in the division, Boston especially, have made, it looks as if Baltimore will have a tough time repeating as AL East Champs next season.