5 Areas the Baltimore Orioles Need to Address This Offseason
Baltimore Orioles 5 Biggest Needs This Offseason
The Baltimore Orioles shocked the baseball world this season by winning 93 games and making their first playoff appearance in 15 seasons. Most experts thought they would win just 60 or 70 games. Obviously, they played well above expectations.
The reason for their play this season was the development of their young players and some great pick-ups by general manager Dan Duquette. It’s amazing to see how the Orioles went from a team considered years away from contending to a team with very few holes.
Obviously all it takes is an injury or two along with a couple bad seasons and the Orioles could find themselves back where they were in 2011. However, going into the 2012-2013 offseason the Orioles really don’t have many holes to fill.
The Orioles cornerstone players are all locked up for at least the next couple seasons. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, and Manny Machado are all under team control for at least the next couple seasons. Duquette will have to decide if he wants to pick up Luis Ayala’s option (he should pick it up), but besides that the main pieces of the bullpen are set to return next season.
The starting rotation, outside of mid-season pick-up Joe Saunders, is in place for next season. The only question is if Duquette and Showalter want a true ace atop their rotation. However, the Orioles have a number of pitchers including their top prospect Dylan Bundy waiting for next spring training to compete for a spot in the rotation.
This offseason will be similar to past off seasons where the Orioles aren’t expected to pursue any big name free agents (nor should they).The reason the Orioles succeeded this season is because they stuck with their current players and had faith in their development.
The Orioles have some money to spend, but they aren’t the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers where they can spend whatever they like. The Orioles should continue to make smart signings, while using their money to lock up their own stars. The only reason this never worked in the past is because none of their own players turned into stars. This season that changed.
Long Term Solution at First Base
In a division like the AL East where power is key, the Orioles need to find a long term solution at first base. When was the last time the Orioles had a first baseman they could count on for 30 home runs and 100 RBI’s?
Since moving over from third base, Mark Reynolds has done a great job at first base. Reynolds also has 30 home run power and 100 RBI potential. He is also an intriguing option when you consider that he went from being a horrific defensive third baseman to a great defensive first baseman. It often gets overlooked, but Reynolds also walks a lot. On-base-percentage is highly valued by Duquette so there is a chance Reynolds could be back with the Orioles next season.
Reynolds has an $11million club option for next year, which may be a bit steep for the Orioles. There is a chance the Orioles could try to negotiate a longer extension with Reynolds who is probably the Orioles best option through free agency.
There is always the chance a better first base option may present itself through a trade, but unless that option becomes available, the Orioles should look to bring back Reynolds for one or two more years.
Every Day Left Fielder
Nate McLouth has done a tremendous job as the Orioles left fielder since being called up from the minors. McLouth is a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner who gives the Orioles great defense out in left field.
The question becomes, is he the answer for next season? McLouth is a free agent this offseason and he certainly caught the baseball world’s attention with his play in Baltimore. McLouth gives the Orioles great defense, speed on the base paths, and some pop in his bat. What else could you ask for? The only problem is, you don’t know if McLouth’s performance was a one-season resurgence or if he will duplicate it again next season.
The Orioles also have other in-house options. Nolan Reimold will be returning next season and could be a viable option if he ever remains healthy. The Orioles also have speedster Xavier Avery and prospect L.J. Hoes, who have both shown flashes of potential.
There is no reason for Duquette to go out and spends hundreds of millions of dollars for a Josh Hamilton. The Orioles have in house options that will save the Orioles money while still giving them production. The question is, do the Orioles resign McLouth or go with one of the other guys?
Top of the Rotation Starter
The Orioles starters are all under contract for next season, except for veteran Joe Saunders. You can pencil in Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen immediately. You also have to assume Miguel Gonzalez and Chris Tillman have impressed enough to have a great shot at being in the rotation. That would leave one rotation spot for the following pitchers: Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Tsuyoshi Wada, Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta, and Steve Johnson. That is six starters for one spot and that isn’t including Bundy. So do the Orioles need another starter?
You can never have enough pitching and Duquette knows that. This is why, despite the surplus of pitching, the Orioles should still target another starter. Duquette doesn’t want to give out a deal longer than three years to a free agent and I don’t blame him. However, this leaves out a lot of the better pitchers available through free agency.
Two pitchers who come to mind are Jake Peavy and Shaun Marcum. They are proven top of the rotation pitchers, but they have had injury problems throughout their careers. This may make them available for three or less years. Otherwise, the Orioles can get a middle of the rotation starter and continue with their formula of having a number of quality starters instead of one or two aces. The Orioles have proven this year you don’t need a proven ace to win; you just need quality starting pitching from a number of guys.
One of the first things Duquette said he wanted to do was increase the Orioles international scouting efforts. The Orioles have already seen the benefit in looking overseas for talent with the signing of Chen. They also have seen opposite side of that with Wada. Two different pitchers signed from Japan and two very different results.
Duquette made a number of different international signings last offseason and hopefully this is just the beginning. Some of the best players come through international signings and the Orioles would be wise to continue their push for more international talent. In order to continue to build their farm system, Duquette and the Orioles need to stay committed to international scouting.