Unlike the Seattle Mariners that had a good pitching staff, but a horrible offense, the Orioles had a middling offense and a horrible pitching staff. They were ranked dead last in many statistical pitching categories in 2011, some by a wide margin. Though they are in a rebuilding mode, the Orioles will need to take a deep look into available pitching to at least look respectable in 2012.
Offensively, the Orioles could use some improvements in certain spots as well. Although there’s some uncertainty at second base, if Brian Roberts is not able to play, the team does have decent backup options of Robert Andino or free swinging prospect Ryan Adams. The infield corners are intriguing. The team plucked Mark Reynolds in a trade with the Diamondbacks a year ago to play third base, but he is now rumored to be on the move across the diamond to play first base. The current situation has a platoon of Chris Davis and former first rounder Matt Antonelli playing a platoon at the hot corner with Ryan Adams the current backup. The Orioles are also hopeful that Josh Bell can bounce back from a down season on the farm to emerge as a candidate at the hot corner. But his plate discipline problems may preclude that thought from becoming reality. A value-signing or trade at either corner could still shake things up.
Left field is questionable as well. Luke Scott‘s shoulder injury puts things in doubt. The team could decide not to offer him arbitration, but sign him for a lesser amount to see how he recovers. However, that would open up other teams to bidding on his services as well. Even if the team is able to work something out, it looks as though Scott may be regulated to the DH role for a decent part of the season as the surgery completed was on his throwing shoulder. The team’s main secondary option at this point is Nolan Reimold, a former upper-level prospect that hasn’t fared well in the majors. He did have a very nice September (.281/.395/.578 with 5 HR), but that’s a small sample size and September figures can be misleading due to the presence of September call-ups. Once again, a value signing or a trade could help left field, but it is doubtful as the team’s main focus will be pitching.
As mentioned earlier, pitching, especially starting pitching, will be the main focus this winter. Jeremy Gutherie will likely be gone before 2013, whether by trade or by free agency after the 2012 season. As it is unlikely that they will get much out of him if he leaves after the season, especially with the new draft pick compensation system, Baltimore should try to trade him soon. Pitching, pitching, and more pitching should be the goal of any trade involving him.
They have started some value shopping this season. In November they claimed Darren O’Day off waivers from the Texas Rangers where he was lights-out for a couple seasons before arm issues. They’ve also recently completed a trade for Dana Eveland with the Dodgers. Eveland enjoyed some of his best pitching in the Dodgers organization and the Orioles think he can build off that success. I doubt he can stick in the rotation as Baltimore hopes, Camden Yards is far from the pitchers’ playground in Chavez Ravine. But he could be a good lefty option out of the pen if he doesn’t stick.
Look for new GM Dan Duquette to do some more value shopping like he did with O’Day and Eveland to allow the team to go into spring training with plenty to look at when filling out the roster. A few won’t stick, but some have enough upside that a rebuilding team like the Orioles can gamble on for future deadline trade chips or roster stability.
It’s an uphill battle for the Orioles, more of a fight for the birds than the Mariners. But the team has proven in the past that they can sustain high payrolls, they just need to build enough of a supporting cast before going out to acquire the high-priced players that could put them over the top.