« Atkins designated for assignment; Uehara activated | Main | Gonzo starting in Aberdeen »

June 27, 2010

MacPhail talks about Atkins decision

It was president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail who decided this offseason to give Garrett Atkins a $4 million, one-year deal (with a guaranteed $500,000 buyout on a second year).

So it’s MacPhail who has to stand up and take the heat as the Orioles designated Atkins for assignment on Sunday to make room for Koji Uehara to be activated from the disabled list.

Needing right-handed power at the corner infield positions, and hoping that Atkins could rekindle his 2006-2008 years in Colorado, where he had at least 21 homers and 99 RBIs each season, the Orioles signed Atkins, who had been non-tendered by the Rockies after hitting just .226 with nine homers in 2009.

“I think we used the term that we had to take some chances and sometimes you have to swing for the fences,” MacPhail said. “We knew, obviously, that (Atkins’) 2009 performance was not nearly what it had been in 08 and 07. We were gambling we could measure up to that, which we couldn’t do. We gambled and we lost.”

Atkins, 30, batted .214 (30 for 140) with one homer and nine RBIs. He lost his starting first baseman’s spot to Ty Wigginton, who moved over from second base, and had just 14 at-bats in June.

With the addition of infielders Jake Fox and Scott Moore to the roster, Atkins wasn’t even being used off the bench much.

“The opportunity for him was going to start to dwindle because we have Jake Fox, we have Scott Moore, and neither one of them started the year on our 25-man roster,” MacPhail said. “They make more sense for us as extra guys because they have more flexibility. Jake can catch and play left and first and third and Scott can play second and third and first. So when he didn’t produce offensively, he wasn’t as valuable to us as the other guys and it was time to admit that it didn’t work and move on.”

Assuming the Orioles cannot trade Atkins in the next 10 days, they will be forced to release him or put him on waivers. If he is not claimed, the Orioles would have to eat the remainder of his 2010 salary – which, with the buyout – is about $2.5 million.

MacPhail said the club is willing to live with that reality.

“Economically, in our game, it was not a huge gamble,” MacPhail said. “I have a saying, there’s no such thing as a bad one year deal because then you are out of it. So we had to take a chance. “

Posted by Dan Connolly at 1:59 PM | | Comments (23)


I agreed with the reasonable risk I thought they took with Atkins. My biggest disappointment was waiting too long to acknowledge it and not doing a deal to get a real 1b power prospect backed up in some other system. I would like to see the orioles try berken and johnson as starters next spring to see if learning in the BP can be like hughes in NY.. Lastly I was looking at the stats on AA bowie, opponents must wonder if they are facing baseball or football players the top four rhp relievers are Hoey 6-6, Egan 6-8, Cooney 6-6, and Beato 6-6.. If we trade some players in july I would rather see a big 1B prospect to try the rest of this year or LHP..

One down - a few more to go. The best thing about watching games on my DVR is that when Scott comes up in a clutch situation I can just fast forward so I don't have to watch him pop out, ground into a DP or take a called3rd strike and coomplain to umpire. How long can we watch the guy with the BA with RISP in the league, batting 4th and 5th?

I would not trade tejada unless offered a mighty good deal, Bell is not dominating at AAA and would repeat there next year if neccessary.. I would even resign Tejada for one more year his defense looks much better as he nears the 100 game mark as CAL predicted.. Miguel doesn't hit the HR he used to but looks very good hitting #2 close to 300 with lots of doubles and a clutch hitter when needed..If Bell tears up AAA next year for a couple months you bring him up and trade tejada then.. I thought that was part of the plan to make these guys put up the numbers and domininate at AAA... What do you and some others think??

Just a shmae that he didn't gamble on Troy Glaus' health instead of Atkins. No way to know how much of a difference in the standings it would have made, but we wouldn't be 0 HRs for 1st either

I have a saying, it's called "don't believe an effing word out of Andy MacPhail's mouth..."

Remember when we were going to "open the pocketbook"? We're spending less than ever on payroll. Remember when we were going to "buy the bats"? I guess that didn't include the hitters to go with the bats, since Atkins and the other position acquisitions haven't added up to squat. Remember when 2010 was supposed to be a year to be judged by wins and losses? Presumably there would be consequences when judging is involved (or at least reasonable changes to strategy), but do you hear anything other than "stay the course"?

I am one of the fans who bought MacPhail's "plan" hook, line, and sinker, and defended him on this very blog through the 2009 season when others started to turn on him. Only this year have I realized that there was never any plan, but only a blueprint for continuing to bilk Orioles fans with an awful product, masked in high-flown language. I hope the owners are watching how their "commissioner-in-waiting" is driving this franchise even further into the ground (which you would have thought impossible)- if they put him in charge of the league with this management style, major league baseball would fold within five years (all the while with MacPhail continuing to insist on the correctness of his "plan").

in other words, "NEXT"

So, if he is not claimed (which one would have to assume he won't be) and he remains with the team, do the Orioles have the option to send him to the minors or do they just pay him the money?

MacPhail went to the thrift well, one time too many. Trying to get by on the cheap, the Orioles squandered $4.5 million on Atkins. Calling it "not a huge gamble" ignores the opportunity cost of this sorry-a&* move along with others. The Orioles have blown $10.5 million on Atkins and Gonzales this year.

Usually, you get what you pay for--price signals quality. You can't get a franchise closer for a mere $6 million a year and you sure as heck can't get a clean-up batter for a measly $4million. These guys came cheap because they are scrubs.

On balance, the Orioles brain trust is both cheap and stupid!

What a bunch of cranky SOB's! You simultaneously complain about Atkins $4.5 million and Angelos's cheapness. Can't have it both ways, sour-grapers. I love the O's, I like winning baseball. Soon, Lord willing, we can combine the two.

"there's no such thing as a bad one year deal because then you are out of it".

WRONG! It's a waste of roster space, salary money, and an excuse not to pursue other more valuable (read - expensive) players.

Plus when he fails he becomes an albatross that the team is reluctant to cut because he has few other options.

Somehow I doubt Andy MacPhail shops at Goodwill stores for his suits in the off-hand chance that there will be a gem among the many cast-offs.


You said "you sure as heck can't get a clean-up batter for a measly $4million."

Well, Glaus cost $1.75M for 1 year. While no Teixeira, he's outhitting him,and was much cheaper than Atkins. Not so much the money AM spent as the selection of the talent.

14 hr 55rbi .271 avg. .376OBP

Pat Gillick, Davey Johnson, Frank Wren. Good names for the O's Hall of Fame wall. Or Ring of Fire.

The real problem with these one year "flier" contracts is that they are simply no win situations. They cannot help for the future no matter what.

1) If the player does not do well, they are a waste of money and roster space to find out who can actually help for next year.

2) If the player does well, they will go on the free-agent market and, since they are decent, will not come back to the O's or the O's can't afford them Again, no help for the next year.

This is what you get when you try to go one year cheap without an long-term solution waiting.

Remember that Atkins was signed as a third baseman. Signing Tejeda created his move to first.base. Would Atkins improve his hitting if he could focus on playing thirdbase?

Let's see - one-year, $4.5 million - and the result is 1 HR and 9RBI's. And Atkins still collects his money. Another fine acquisition for MacFail.

Will A..... If he isn't traded(he won't be) and no team claims him in 10 days(no team will because then they would be on the hook for 2.5 million) he will have a choice to accept his minor league assignment(he won't because he gets his 2.5 mill either way)...he would then be released and become a free agent. And thats exactly what will happen. This happens to numerous teams per year, sometimes multiple times. It's just magnified when your team is this bad. It isn't a big deal. A minor gamble that didn't work out. Move on....

Tony and Bill you are the only two that sound like intelligent true fans. mostly the rest are dumb cry babies who don't deserve a decent team.. They should go buy nationals or yankees hats which they may already..

To Andrew and the rest of the 'McFail' bashers...

What do you want?! McPhail has been here all of three years, I believe. A success every where he's been- building the Minnesota franchise and that club's enduring system of winning on the cheap; turning the Cubs into a playoff team- he could have gone anywhere but chose to take over a Baltimore organization in absolute shambles. Have all of his moves paid off? Of course not- this is baseball; no one bats 1.000! Nevertheless, his overarching plan was- IS- very sound and grousing about the team's record is extremely short-sighted.

Like many of you, I wasn't a fan of the Atkins signing: he looked finished and while his contract wasn't especially taxing on the budget (by baseball standards, that is), it looked all along like...well...what it's become: a waste of money, playing time, and a roster spot. OK. It's over. The plug's been mercifully pulled and Atkins looks destined for some indy league and a quick nosedive toward anonymity. Could we have signed Troy Glaus? Sure, but anyone who says they saw his performance coming, prior to the season, is a liar. You probably could have gotten 100-1 odds in Vegas if you were to have bet on the likelihood of Glaus even staying HEALTHY this far into the season! Hindsight's 20/20 and it's easy to judge from your computer (I'm as guilty as any of you).

Some have said that McPhail should have spent the Atkins/Gonzalez money on a big free agent... Um...WHO?!!!! Any REAL baseball fan should know how pathetic last year's FA crop was. On who, exactly, should we have spent all of this hypothetical money? I'm all for accountability, but this is just bitching. Beside which, McPhail is acknowledging that he made a mistake with Atkins. Perhaps we can get a mea culpa for Gonzalez as well but...does it really matter? They were patches; not a part of the 'plan.'

McPhail's only 'lie' was a mere miscalculation- an assumption that he could rebuild a completely diseased franchise in just a couple of years. If you really need to lay blame, look no further than Andy's predecessors, who managed to ravage our once proud organization from the top down. It's no small task to absolutely destroy... not only a big league club, but ALSO the entire minor league system (Markakis notwithstanding). It's even harder to bring a team back from the brink- and it's clearly a thankless job!

While the O's weren't exactly a cellar-dweller prior to McPhail's tenure- that title was still held by Tampa Bay- our current position was a foregone conclusion: while we were blowing drafts, blowing off the international market, and generally just...fu-er-screwing up, Tampa was...well...they were executing pretty much the 'McFail' plan. I don't know about you guys, but I think it's worked pretty darned well for them! Take a look at the Rays' roster- almost the entire team (and nearly EVERY crucial piece) is either homegrown or was traded for in their prospect/very early big league career, days. Indeed, Tampa is the perfect model for how to build a ballclub (the Yanks don't count- they're in a league of their own, fiscally)...and McPhail seems to be working from their playbook.

It's not a perfect facsimile, obviously, and mistakes have been made on McPhail's part...just not the ones you all are whining about. As much as I love Machado (and believe he's going to be a star), I have serious reservations about our rather uninspiring scouting and player development departments- the backbone of any TRUE rebuilding plan. It's been reported that the O's have the smallest scouting department in the AL East and there are...signs, that we're doing a less-than-stellar job of developing our existing talent base. One draft after another, we seemingly give up after the first three rounds. This year's draft was perhaps the most egregious example of...well...either A) Jordan and Co.'s complete incompetence OR B) Angelos' frugality. Either way it sucks. With the exception of Machado and fifth-round pick Connor Narron, this year's draft was bereft of high-upside talent; all the more disconcerting considering the lack of a second round pick. Trent Mummey?! Dixon Anderson?! We're the worst team in our division (and- by the record- in baseball), yet we're drafting like a club that's just looking to fill out our many (too many?) minor league rosters. Boston, Tampa, and Toronto ALL had better drafts, in my opinion. At least we grabbed Michael Ohlman and Cameron Coffey with late picks last year...though we went cheap on Hobgood. Still...Tyler Townsend led a litany of org. types taken over top talents. It's an annual frustration. Where are the projectable HS arms? The skillful, but raw bats. How many Kyle Hudsons or Rick Zagones do we need?! And those are the actual prospects (albeit, weak ones)! How 'bout Nick Haughian? How 'bout...well...look at just about EVERY 5-10th round pick (aside from Arrieta) taken by Jordan since his initial draft ('05)! Additionally, Andy's team has been disappointingly inert on the international front; having not signed a single significant foreign player during his tenure with the team. THESE are the issues that demand attention and concern. Signing expensive free agents isn't the answer. Heck, it's part of what got us into this mess (see Albert Bell, Javy Lopez, Rafael Palmeiro- the second time- et. al. Look at what Mike Gonzalez- a fairly prominent (Type A) free agent- has gotten us (and Andy- in fact ALL GMs- should know by now, NOT to invest in FA relievers; there's NO consistency from one year to the next and you're better off looking internally)! We need to execute the 'plan'. We need to execute it better, but the 'plan' itself is absolutely the right way to go. Even with mediocre drafting (see above- oh, and any Jordan apologists: don't tell me about Wieters or Matusz. While I believe both will eventually develop into stars, they've both struggled this year- hello player development!- and...c' don't need to be a genius to find a stud when you're drafting in the top 5 every year. Look at what he's done when he HASN'T drafted top 5: Brandon Snyder- eh- and Bill Rowell- do I even have to say anything. I say we fire Jordan AND the Stockstills, but that's just me), we have a nice core of young talent- Markakis, Jones, Wieters, Matusz, Tillman, Arrieta, Berken, Hernandez, Pie, Reimold (I think), Bell and Britton- and it should only grow now that we have Machado and look like a lock for the first overall pick in next year's draft (and lemme tell ya: Anthony Rendon is gonna be a star!). As difficult as it is to remain patient- and as a fan I DO know how hard it is- the alternative is to blow this thing up once again and totally screw the team (again) by focusing on pricey veterans who are past their respective primes. Fans scream for a quality product, but alternately, aren't willing to wait for it. You can't have it both ways! If we try to simply BUY a decent ballclub, we'll suck less, but we'll also be mired in mediocrity, our farm system once again in ruins, saddled with a BUNCH of Atkins-esque contracts. THERE IS NO QUICK ANSWER! I'm not saying we shouldn't sign ANY free agents, but they need to be the RIGHT guys at the RIGHT time. Otherwise it's just a waste.

At least...that's how I see it (sorry for the long post).

I had a feeling that Atkins wasn't going to adust to a new league. The odd thing about him was he seemed to get good wood on the ball and it was a mid outfield fly ball. Almost like his bat is hollow.

Agree with Jeff re Scott. However, why not make lemonade from a lemon? With no RISP, Luke is a pretty good hitter, with power and speed. So,
let's bat him leadoff!

Lefty Fields- something struck me as wrong with that quote and you hit the nail right on the head.

No such thing as a bad one-year deal? Let's say there's a 50% chance of the player doing well (I'd say it was much lower with Atkins given his recent history)- in that case you've paid $4m for the honor of testing out whether he's any good or not so he can sign with another team. Cowherd- let's see how excited he would be playing here in that situation. Additionally, then the fans would be disappointed with whichever young player we put into the spot that didn't measure up the following year.

And let's say there's a 50% chance the player is a bust (which I would argue was much higher with Atkins). In that case you've wasted $4m that could have been used on a quality player (heck, even putting that $4m toward free hot dogs for fans would have been more valuable than what we got out of Atkins). You've also wasted a roster spot and ended up with a half-season of awful performance from the 1B position before you were ready to call it quits on this experiment. I'm not saying we would be chasing a pennant with a quality 1B, but I don't think it's a reach to say our record wouldn't be historically bad with a true power threat for the middle of the lineup, instead of no HRs from the 1B position all year.

So if MacPhail wants to call wasting $4m and a half a season of lost production from the 1B slot (a strong contributor to the Orioles Crapitude this year) "not a bad deal", that's his right. Me, I would say the FAILURE to get a big bat- AS WAS PROMISED BY MACPHAIL- is one of the biggest reasons this team is .300 right now instead of .500, which I think is kind of a big deal.

Andy: If it's no big deal to screw up a 1 year deal...then sign me for 2.5 mill. I promise I'll be as good as Albers & after 1 year (or less) I'll shake your hand & leave.

Dan - I never understood this signing from Day One. Atkins had been struggling for the past three seasons with the Rockies, even to the point of losing his starting job at third.

Given this, how could the Orioles seriously expect him to bounce back, epecially as he was switching leagues--meaning he be facing many pitchers for the first time--and worse, going to the AL East, where he'd be seeing not just many new pitchers, but several that are ace or near ace quality.

In other words, he had very, very little chance to succeed. Why, then, sign an almost certain failure when there were better options out there?

Not one of Andy's better choices, to put it mildly; let's hope he doesn't drag his feet signing Showalter and allow some other team to snatch him up.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):


About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

Baltimore Sun coverage
Most Recent Comments
Photo galleries

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Search our new database for every home run hit hit by the O's and the opposition — home and away — since 1992.

Minor league resources
Web links to official sites, stats, schedules and more for O's affiliates and other area teams

International League (AAA)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics

Eastern League (AA)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics

Carolina League (A)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics

South Atlantic League (A)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics

New York-Penn League (A)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics

Appalachian League (R)
News | Scoreboard | Standings | Statistics
Sign up for FREE Orioles alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Orioles text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Blog updates
Recent updates to sports blogs  Subscribe to this feed
Stay connected