We've heard about Andy MacPhail's plan to turn the struggling Orioles into a contender again. We've even seen it pay off in terms of personnel acquisitions at the major and (more prominently thus far) minor league levels.
But aside from phrases like "grow the arms and buy the bats" - which, by the way, I very much like - what does the road map to contention look like?
Sports Illustrated's Ben Reiter offers his version of a compass in the (recommended) article "Orioles five-step plan should start to bear fruit in 2010."
Reiter states that the Colorado Rockies and, to some degree, Tampa Bay Rays have provided a model for the Birds to follow. His five-step plan includes the following:
1. Trade mature assets at their peak value.
2. Draft well.
3. Sign selected young players to long-term deals.
4. Be active, but not too active, in free agency.
5. When you do reach contention, use the dollars you've saved for a major piece that might put you over the top.
The Orioles have followed each of these steps to varying degrees with the notable exception of No. 5. That's more of a project for 2011, the year that the seeds MacPhail has planted are projected to bloom.
It's also a primary reason that Ken Rosenthal "likes" the O's off-season, but "doesn't love" the O's off-season.
Says Rosenthal: "They still have not made that dramatic move that will dramatically improve their team and energize their fan base and get them into the discussion again. In their defense, maybe they feel it is not time."
Make no mistake that 2010 matters. Attracting quality free agents is about more than money. The Birds must demonstrate that they can realistically contend before a name guy is going to commit to the Orange and Black instead of just flirting to make other suitors jealous.
Unlike the Rays, the Orioles can't lose 96 games the season before they win 97; rather, 2010 needs to serve as a sneak preview of the good things to come for Baltimore in 2011.
Hopefully, Reiter is right, and Andy's plan will soon bear fruit.