Breaking down the Baltimore Orioles offseason

Wei-Yin, Chen, Orioles

(Photo Credit: Patrick Semansky/ Associated Press)

The Baltimore Orioles regressed a bit in 2013 after a solid season in 2012 that was mostly due to a strong offense and solid team defense. In 2013, the defense was again one of the best in the American League, leading to three Gold Glove winners: shortstop J.J. Hardy, third baseman Manny Machado and center fielder Adam Jones. In order for the O’s to compete in the American League East this year, which is usually one of baseball’s toughest divisions, they will need to add a few more pieces to their young, talented roster before opening day.

Starting Pitching

The Orioles must use some of their remainingCincinnati Reds offseason budget to upgrade the starting rotation. They should attempt to acquire a starter that can pitch at the top of the rotation, which currently includes 16-game winner Chris Tillman, Wei-Yen Chen, Bud Norris (acquired from the Astros last season), and Miguel Gonzalez.

If they choose not to make an addition, prospects Zach Britton and Kevin Gausman will be two primary candidates for the 5th spot. The starter they add must be able to take the ball in game one of a postseason series. Pitchers that could fit this role for the Orioles have been scarce this offseason, but a few potential targets include Tampa’s David Price, veteran free agent A.J. Burnett, the Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija.

The front office might even consider the aging but durable free agent Bronson Arroyo. Burnett and Arroyo are veterans that could help the young Oriole arms develop and mature. Price or Samardzija are two power arms that could play a significant role in a five game series come October.

Bullpen

The bullpen is by far the area with the most glaring needs on the Orioles’ roster as we near Spring Training. Since Baltimore traded star closer Jim Johnson to Oakland, they really need to find someone who can take the ball in a pressure spot in the ninth inning. The primary target for this role was Grant Balfour, but a deal with the right-hander fell through after a problem with his physical.

Former Rays closer Fernando Rodney could be an excellent fit as Johnson’s replacement. Just one year removed from a 0.60 ERA, Rodney would bring experience and a devastating change-up to the back end of the bullpen. Also, beyond set-up men Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter, the Orioles lack a solid middle relief core. However, pitchers like Gausman, Brian Matusz, or T.J. McFarland who are currently hoping to break the rotation, could end up as part of the ‘pen come April.

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Second Base/Bench Depth

As the depth chart stands now, the Orioles seem content with starting Ryan Flaherty at 2B after the loss of injury prone Brian Roberts to the NY Yankees. A career .221 hitter, Flaherty has yet to prove that he can offer much at the plate at the Major League level, so the Orioles should have a veteran middle infielder ready to step in should he not perform to the team’s standards.

A player like Placido Polanco or Brandon Inge could serve very well as both a veteran presence in the clubhouse and a spot starter at second or third. In the outfield, the O’s responded to the loss of Nate McLouth with a trade involving the Royals for David Lough, who can play all three positions in the outfield with a solid glove and a contact bat. One final need for the club could be a power bat off of the bench, who could also spend some time in the DH role. Kendrys Morales or Carlos Pena would fit the position perfectly, as they both hit for excellent power and, with both possessing solid defensive skills at first base, could even spell Chris Davis every so often.

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