Angelos' 'meddling' is good for O's
This week in Orioles' baseball began with the revelation that owner Peter Angelos has become personally involved in the club's attempt to sign free-agent slugger Chris Davis to a rich, long-term contract.
The fact that Angelos has, according to an industry source, met face-to-face with agent Scott Boras is not exactly counterintuitive. He has always taken a keen interest in the team's financial transactions — large and small — and this one would undoubtedly be the biggest free-agent deal in Orioles history.
Davis figures to command upward of $20 million per year for at least five years. There isn't an owner in professional sports who would not be involved in negotiations of that magnitude. It's just that Angelos long ago got a reputation for being a meddler in lesser situations, so his involvement is generally met with a measure of cynicism from the club's fans.
In this case, it can only be a good thing.
The Orioles aren't likely to win the bidding war that is sure to develop for Davis, and the only hope of them doing so is if Boras can convince Angelos that Davis is so valuable to the team that the Orioles can't afford not to sign him to a contract far outside the normal economic parameters that govern the team's payroll.
Boras is pretty good at that. He once got then-Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks to pay a young Alex Rodriguez $25 million per year for 10 years when no one else in baseball had even imagined a quarter-billion-dollar contract.
The most recent example is right next door. When the Washington Nationals signed superstar pitcher Max Scherzer to a $210 million contract, it was widely reported that the key to the deal was the relationship between Boras and principal owner Ted Lerner.
Obviously, Boras goes to ownership for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: because that's where the money is.
When it's about a contract that totals more than the entire single-year payroll of the team, it would be inconceivable for the owner or managing partner of a club to leave the negotiations entirely up to the general manager.
The Orioles also hope to re-sign some of their other free agents, but Angelos' involvement is another indication that baseball operations chief Dan Duquette wasn't blowing smoke when he said that retaining Davis was the team's top offseason priority.
Of course, the fans don't want Angelos picking the roster, but they should want him to care about who is on the team. His desire to keep Davis might create the only real opportunity for the club to maintain its standing among the top power-hitting teams in baseball and still be able to sign some players who can fill big voids elsewhere on the team.
In a perfect world, Angelos also would be taking a personal interest in signing a No. 1 starter, but let's not get carried away. The chances of the Orioles opening the 2016 season with one $20 million player still appear slim, so fans should limit their free-agent fantasizing to Davis and maybe a decent starting pitcher and a productive corner outfielder.
Even that scenario might require Angelos to treat Davis as a special case and sign him over and above their usual payroll structure, leaving Duquette to keep the rest of the roster right around last year's payroll, ideally after adding a couple of $12 million players.
That is a highly unlikely prospect, but it's only possible with Angelos in the middle of things and Boras working the magic that has made him the most successful agent in baseball history.
The Orioles need to recognize that they are at a crossroads that could take the franchise backward in a hurry if Angelos doesn't seriously consider a much greater financial commitment to the 2016 season.
Bringing back Davis would be a big step in the right direction — especially with Matt Wieters back in the fold — but the team would still need one more quality starting pitcher to offset the likely departure of Wei-Yin Chen, and that would only get the Orioles back to the talent level that just produced a .500 season.
Duquette has been known to pull a decent low-cost player or two out of his hat late in the offseason, but it's going to take more than a few bargain-basement hopefuls to get the Orioles back into contention.
It's going to take a commitment that only Angelos can make, so it would be wise for fans to welcome him back to the party.