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The first week of the 33rd annual MLB Free Agent signing period is in the books. What we have learned, or perhaps been reminded of, is that this process is not a sprint but a marathon. There will be weeks of posturing, negotiating, haggling and gamesmanship. And they suddenly, there will be a signing. Either anguish or exultation will follow. Or, the Baltimore Orioles will sign someone like Cesar Izturis and there will not be much of a reaction at all.

On that note, let’s start our first week recap with Mr. Izturis.

As most Orioles fans know, or should know, Mark Belanger held down the shortstop job for 13 years playing excellent defense although he was not much of hitter. Then some kid called Ripken came along and took over for 15 years. He gave way for the sure handed Mike Bordick who played for the Orioles for six years. The point here is that the Orioles had three very good shortstops for 34 years. Guys that could be counted on every day.

Enter Miguel Tejada. He does fine, extending the tradition to 38 years. Exit Miguel Tejada. Insert four guys:

Juan Castro .205/.256/.285 151 AB
Alex Cintron .286/.321/.361 133 AB
Freddie Bynum .179/.220/.223 112 AB
Brandon Fahey .226/.252/.349 106 AB

Cintron managed to hit for average but failed to draw walks or hit for power. He glove was suspect, too. None of these guys are still on the 40-man roster. Bringing us to Izturis. He started in LA winning a Gold Glove in 2004 and making the All-Star team in 2005. The problem is, he is a worse hitter than Bordick. Only once has he batted over .263, only once has he OBPed over .319 (.330 in 2004) and he has never slugged over .400 only breaking .380 twice. Those numbers are really abysmal; what ever he offers defensively will be greatly countered by the offense losses the team takes.

That was “new” news, here’s the old stuff:

  • Former Orioles great Mike Mussina retired. That has not been touched on here, but it will be in the coming days and I will make a strong and compelling case for his Hall of Fame enshrinement.
  • The teams interested in signing Mark Teixeira appear to be the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angles, New York Yankees (maybe) and the Washington Nationals. Is it not great how alphabetical order puts the Os first and the Nationals last ?
  • The Orioles added five players to their 40-man roster. You can read the story here.

“We have had discussions with [Mark Teixeira’s] representative,” Baltimore Orioles President Andy MacPhail told the Baltimore Sun. This news must be a great relief for fans who have salivated over the slugger for months, even if it remains to be seen how serious the Orioles are and how serious Scott Boras and Teixeira are.

The consensus is that it will take over 100 million, spread out at least over five seasons, to land the first baseman. There are questions too, as to if he is really worth it. His homerun production has topped out at 33 each of the past three seasons. Nice production, but its uniqueness takes a hit when it comes from first base. He does walk a lot, which robs him of some homeruns, but in my mind he is not the player you stake the franchise on.

Still, these are desperate times for the Orioles. Through 100 games, the team was 49-51 last season. That is pretty good for a rebuilding team. But the rest of the way, the club was a dreadful 19-47. Yes, the bullpen was imploded and there were injuries and other unfortunate things. But what separates good teams from bad teams is a good team’s ability to overcome adversity.

Back to my point, the Orioles are desperate. At this point they should probably sign anyone that will take their money. Not anyone: that strategy has been tried in the past. But if they can get someone like Teixeira they have to do it. Even if it means overpaying.

“Yes,” the New York Post reports Hank Steinbrenner said when asked if an offer was made to CC Sabathia. “And we’re prepared to make offers to (A.J.) Burnett and (Derek) Lowe.”

No word on how long or how much the deal is for, but the comment is still noteworthy. Particularly, because it indicates that Mike Mussina, who is a free agent and may retire, and long time New York Yankee Andy Pettitte, who is also a free agent, but says he wants to return to the Yankees, could not be in the Yankees’ plans.

This could be a big to do about nothing. Perhaps the Yankees, after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1993, are not taking any prisoners and only to intend to actually sign one or two pitchers and not all three.

If true, that is troubling news for Orioles fans. It could mean that OriolesPride’s earlier report was incorrect and that the acquisition of Nick Swisher does not mean the Yankees are out of the Mark Teixeira race. A Teixeira signing by the Yankees looks most likely if Sabathia signs elsewhere and the team has leftover cash.

Also worthy of note, although not necessarily troubling, The Washington Post is reporting that the Washington Nationals have an interest in Teixeira. Their tale is not unlike that of the Baltimore Orioles. Both teams have been challenged in the “W” department and both will take a local angle when selling Teixeira on their respective clubs.

The early returns are in, courtesy of ESPN’s Buster Olney, and as expected the New York Yankees have offered C.C. Sabathia the most money ever offered to a pitcher. It would be ironic if the Yankees signed Sabathia, because last offseason they signed Alex Rodriguez to the richest contract of any player ever (10 years, 275 million).

Anyways, the offer is not specified in exact dollar terms in that link at press time. But it is said to be worth six years and other reports place the total value at 140 million, just over the 137.5 million Johan Santana signed for last spring.

Sabathia is not as good as Santana.

Santana has posted an ERA under 3.07 six times. Sabathia has done the same just once – this past season. Five of Santana’s six seasons under 3.07 came in the American League. But Sabathia’s one season under 3.07 very much needed the help of 130 National League innings.

Sabathia has a reputation of an innings eater. And to his credit, he is pitched a lot of innings the past two seasons (244 innings, including the playoffs, and 251) but outside of that he has topped 200 innings just once in his career. Santana has topped 219 innings in each of the last five seasons or in every season since he was moved into the rotation.

Sabathia is a top notch pitcher, but he is not in Santana’s class.

The other reports from Olney are that the Yankees are also interested in A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe. The report indicates that Burnett has a four-year 54 million dollar offer on the table from the Toronto Blue Jays while Lowe is seeking a five-year deal.

At 35, if Lowe does indeed want five years, the Baltimore Orioles and any rational team can cross him off their list. Burnett is another matter.

The pitcher still represents in an enormous risk having topped 29 starts just three times in his 10 big league seasons. But when healthy he is pretty good at run prevention and he strikes a lot of people out which is always a positive indicator.

If the Orioles could sign him for 54 million over four years, they should do it. But that is about as high as they should go.

It is now November 14th and the 33rd annual MLB Free Agent signing party is upon us! And there’s good news for Baltimore Orioles fans: It appears very unlikely that prized free agent Mark Teixeira will be going to the Yankees.

The Yankees traded for Nick Swisher, formerly of the Chicago White Sox, and he is expected to play first base. The Yankees could, of course, trade, bench or move Swisher to the OF to make room for Teixeira but logic stands to reason that they will be pointing their considerable resources elsewhere. Most likely, towards lefty C.C. Sabathia.

This is good for the Orioles for many reasons. It takes one of the most motivated and capable suitors out of the running. And while the Boston Red Sox could still sign Teixeira, it reduces the chances that he would wind up on an opposing team in the division by 50%.

But the Orioles have other matters to address. To compliment a Teixeira signing, or as a substitute for, could they add a veteran pitcher or two? A.J. Burnett has been the subject of many rumors but might Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe be just as good an option? Lowe has talent and impressive durability, something the Orioles could really use in their starting rotation, while Sheets just has talent. Granted, Lowe lacks youth.

Whatever happens, the Orioles have the opportunity to improve their team. That is if they can convince players to take their money, if they are willing to spend that money and if the price is right. But the options are there. That was not the case last year when Carlos Silva was the best pitcher available and, outside of Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, Tori Hunter was the best hitter. Despite this, players still got paid which is a little scary to think about what this offseason could hold.

Additions are only one matter that the Orioles must worry about. There is also the question of if they need to make any subtractions. Aubrey Huff*, who was honored on Thursday with the American League Sliver Slugger at DH, and star 2B Brian Roberts are in the last year of their contracts. The players, who were noticeably absent from the unveiling of the team’s new uniforms on Wednesday, could each command over 10 million dollars a year.

* Trivia question: Name the last Oriole, and the year he won, to win a Sliver Slugger. I will acknowledge the correct answer when someone gets it.