Hope for Orioles Fans; The Top Five Baseball Rebuilds of the Last 20 Years
The Baltimore Orioles are facing a massive overhaul in the coming years after finishing 2018 with an abysmal 47-115 record. With a new General Manager and a new Manager, fans are hoping for an Astros-like turnaround int he coming year. Luckily, for fans, recent history is full of teams that have pulled off successful rebuilds.
Honorable Mention: 2015 – 2018 Oakland A’s. In 2015, the A’s found themselves at 68-94, twenty games out of first place. They followed this with two straight last place finishes, finishing each year 26 games behind the division leader. The 2015 off-season saw them trade their best player, Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays in a move that showed everyone that they were entering rebuilding mode. The A’s used their three cellar-dwelling seasons to be sellers at the deadline, helping to create the team that won 97 games in 2018. During those three years they acquired Jed Lowrie, Kris Davis, Sean Manea, Frankie Mantas and Blake Treinen. The A’s are still improving and their rebuild is not quite complete.
Honorable Mention: 2009 – 2012 Orioles. By the time Buck Showalter joined the Orioles in 2010, the Orioles had finished under .500 every year since 1998. They had also won 70 or fewer games in four straight seasons and would continue that trend for another two. By 2012, only Matt Weiters, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones remained in their regular lineups. The pitching staff and the bullpen had been completely made over. This would begin a span of 5 years that would see the Orioles have the best record in that time in the American League and challenge for the playoffs each year.
5) 2006 – 2009 Tampa Bay Devil Rays. By 2006 the then Devil Rays had hit rock bottom having never gotten their footing after their founding in 1998. That year they won 61 games and finished 36 games out of first place. By 2007, they had the youngest starting line-up in baseball since 1983. In 2008, they changed their uniforms and their name dropping the Devils to become the Tampa Bay Rays. The team was patient with manager Joe Madden, who had joined the club in 2006. They had numerous spots in their everyday lineup filled with draft picks. During the 2008 season, the Rays had only nine players making over two million dollars with the highest being Carl Crawford’s six million. Compare this to the Yankees that year who had eleven players making more than eleven million dollars per year. The Rays went on to make the playoffs for four of the next six years before entering another rebuild that is still on the upswing.
4) 2003 – 2006 Detroit Tigers. The 2003 Detroit Tigers were one of the worst teams in baseball history winning 43 games (for less than our 2018 Orioles) and finishing a whopping 47 games out of first place. Three years later, in 2006, they were playing in the World Series. That 2003 team had only three players over 30 bat more than one-hundred times. None of their ten starting pitchers used in that year were older than 28. The Tigers’ farm system wasn’t in great shape so they opted to add veterans to their young core signing Pudge Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez. The only reason that Tigers do not rank higher on this list is because they lost in the World Series and their success has been inconsistent since then.
3) 2012 – 2016 Chicago Cubs. 2012 was Theo Epstein’s first season in charge of the Cubs. The man charged with rebuilding the club had his work cut out for him as the 2012 team won 61 games. He went to work acquiring Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russel and others via trade. He drafted Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. Finally he signed key free agents Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and John Lester. He added Joe Madden to make it all work and what you had was a World Series salad that ended baseball’s longest championship drought in 2016. In all, Epstein acquired 56 players that accounted for a WAR of over 130.
2) 1998 – 2003 Miami Marlins. The 1997 Marlins won the World Series and followed it in the off season by ridding themselves of every good player on the roster. The 1998 Marlins won 54 games. The Marlins spent the next several years developing players and shipping them out, gutting their roster for draft picks and prospects. By 2003, they would win the World Series again and continue their cycle of fire sales the following season.
1) 2013 – 2017 Houston Astros. This recent incarnation of the Houston Astros is the team that Oriole fans look to for comparison with the team’s current rebuild. This, of course, is for good reason as the Astros’ former Assistant General Manager is the current Orioles General Manager. In 2013, the Astros won 51 games finishing 45 games out of first place. From 2010-2013 anyone of value was dealt for prospects (sound familiar?) Between 2009-2014 the team lost almost 600 games, amassing draft picks along the way. From 2013-2015, the Astros’s farm system was consistently ranked among the leagues’ best. Of course, the rest is history as they took home the championship in 2017 and look to be set up for contention for years to come.
For the Orioles, the blueprint is there. Whichever they choose, rebuilds need not take decades and fans are expecting a contender sooner rather than later.