Offseason Preview

2009 record: 64-98, 5th in AL East

Free Agents: 3B Melvin Mora, RHP Danys Baez, LHP Mark Hendrickson

Hendrickson will most likely be brought back on another one year contract. He pitched effectively out of the bullpen after starting the year in the rotation. As long as he doesn’t demand much of a bump in money or a two year deal, and he accepts a role in the bullpen I see him being one of the first signings for 2010.

We hold a team option for 2010 on Mora, but there is almost no chance we exercise it. Mora dropped off significantly at the plate, hitting for almost no power and not much average. Hes decent in the field, but not good enough to offset the well below league average hitting for a third baseman. We have Ty Wiggington fairly cheap for one more year and a great prospect at the position in Josh Bell. I could see Wiggington or free agent on a one year deal filling in until Bell is ready. We’ve been linked to the Florida Marlins Dan Uggla, who could man third base until Bell is ready and then slide over to first base or DH. He would fit the right handed power hitter, but I could only see us trading for him if he doesn’t demand much in terms of prospects.

I don’t see us bringing Baez back. He pitched decently and much better than expected coming back from surgery, but he wasn’t able to pitch in back to back games and was up and down most of the year. We can get similar or better production for much cheaper. We do need to improve our bullpen, but I think it will get better without adding anyone from outside the organization. Jim Johnson struggled after moving into the closers role, but he should bounce back some. Kam Mickolio showed some great potential before being shut down with shoulder fatigue. Koji Uehara should be fully recovered and he should be more effective switching to the bullpen where he only needs to pitch an inning or two at a time. Mark Hendrickson just needs to mirror what he did in 2009. Jason Berken should be moved to the bullpen where he can concentrate more on each pitch and hopefully break out like Jim Johnson did in 2008. The same can be said of David Hernandez if he doesn’t make the starting rotation. Matt Albers and Chris Ray could each see improvement going into their second year removed from major injuries. Cla Meredith returns as well. The big name out there is Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. Word is they’re looking to move him and could even non-tender him if not enough interest is shown. He could be a great target if we can get him cheap enough. Jonathon Papelbon is also rumored to be on the block, but I wouldn’t be interested if I was the Orioles. Hes already been declining, hes going to get very expensive to keep soon, and he would cost a ton in a trade to get.

The starting pitching should be much improved as long as the young guys keep improving. Brad Bergesen was the break out before he got hit with the line drive that put him out for the year. He should be fully recovered and ready to go in spring training. Hes a hard worker and a smart kid that knows how to pitch. I would expect Jeremy Guthrie to be better than 2009, but maybe not as good as 2007-2008. We could definitely look to trade him if the right offer comes along. Brian Matusz looked like an ace over his last few starts before being shut down. I think he’ll establish himself as our ace next year. Chris Tillman has all the tools to be a top of the rotation pitcher, its just a matter of how fast he develops. He should be the 4th or 5th starter going into the year. I do think the Orioles will sign for a free agent pitcher, but don’t expect it to be John Lackey. It isn’t in Andy MacPhail’s philosophy to spend big money over four or more years for pitchers. I could see us signing one of Rich Harden, Carl Pavano, or someone of that ilk that will sign for a one or two year deal for relatively cheap. David Hernandez, Jason Berken, and Jake Arrieta will also compete for the last spot in the rotation.

On the offensive side the Orioles need power at the corner infield positions. I already went over third base, and its a similar situation at first base. We have a good prospect in Brandon Snyder who should be ready by 2011, although hes not as highly touted as Josh Bell. We also have Rhyne Hughes and Michael Aubrey who will compete for the first base job. Unless MacPhail decides to go for a long term option like Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder which would cost us alot in prospects, I think he’ll go the stop gap route. He could trade for a veteran at the end of his contract, like Paul Konerko, which wouldn’t cost much or sign a power hitting veteran on a one or two year deal. Carlos Delgado and Russell Branyan as examples. Acquiring those kinds of players at first and third would give us an offensive boost without blocking our top prospects. I see Luke Scott being traded for prospects over the offseason unless we decide to put him at first base, which would be similar to signing a Delgado type. We should also look for a long term solution at shortstop. As much of an upgrade as Cesar Izturis has been defensively, hes not the answer. JJ Hardy and Yunel Escobar could be trade targets for MacPhail.

I’ll give a hypothetical roster of what I think our team might look like at the start of next season.

Starting rotation

Brad Bergesen
Brian Matusz
Jeremy Guthrie
Chris Tillman
Rich Harden/Carl Pavano/Jake Arrieta/David Hernandez

Bullpen

Bobby Jenks
Jim Johnson
Koji Uehara
Kam Mickolio
Mark Hendrickson
Cla Meredith
Jason Berken/Chris Ray/Matt Albers/Dennis Sarfate/Alberto Castillo

Starting Lineup

Brian Roberts – 2B
Nick Markakis – RF
Matt Wieters – C
Dan Uggla – 3B
Adam Jones – CF
Carlos Delgado/Russell Branyan/Paul Konerko/Luke Scott – 1B
Nolan Reimold – DH
Felix Pie – LF
Cesar Izturis – SS

Bench

Ty Wiggington – 1B/3B/2B
Robert Andino – SS
Jeff Fiorentino – OF
Chad Moeller – C

What do you think? Do you think we could compete with a team like that? Am I way off base? Will MacPhail go in a different direction? Let me know in the comments.

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