The Orioles lineup is a lot like the inside of Ron Paul’s head; there is just something missing. The Orioles have done a fine job of making themselves strong up the middle of the field with the likes of catcher Matt Wieters, shortstop J.J. Hardy, and centerfielder Adam Jones. The Orioles are also set in right field as Nick Markakis is baseball’s best kept secret. But we already know all of this, so we must take a gander at the rest of the lineup that has more holes than the polish army, right Gordon Gee?
Generally at this point of the offseason, the Orioles have missed out on all of the premier free agent hitters, and the front office turns into the writing staff from How I Met Your Mother, and they start grasping for ideas. This year’s offseason is surprisingly different as Prince Fielder is still on the market, as well as Cuban centerfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Orioles are not actively pursuing Prince Fielder, but they are rumored to be major players for Cespedes.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Yoenis Cespedes, here is the skinny. He is a centerfielder from Cuba who defected from there in order to pursue his dream of playing major league baseball. Cespedes is known for his speed and arm strength in the outfield, and most teams are projecting him as a premium centerfielder. Well, just like a sleazy motel near a truck stop, centerfield at Camden Yards has no vacancy. If Cespedes were to sign with the Orioles I would assume they would ask him to play left field, or attempt to trade Jones for a package of major league ready pitchers (See Braves: Jair Jurrjens and Brandon Beachy). Cespedes must have watched the Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine commercial when he was growing up because dude has a ton of power. He projects as a 30/30 guy (30 homeruns and 30 stolen bases) but he is still a bit raw and has struggled in the Dominican Winter League so far. He may take some seasoning in the minor leagues, and should be viewed as a prospect at first.
I do not expect the Orioles to sign him because the Miami Marlins are expected to go after him very aggressively as are the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins offer him a close to home feel in Miami, and the Cubs are in desperate need of someone they can get the Wrigley Faithful behind. Signing Cespedes would be great for the Orioles, but I just don’t see it happening (I would love to look back on this post in a couple of weeks, and be wrong!)
The corner positions (where you have to be solid) for the Orioles have more question marks than Matthew Lesko’s suit. Manager Buck Showalter recently announced that Mark Reynolds would enter the season as the everyday third basemen. I would have rather kept Reynolds at first base because he made more errors at third base than Joe Biden in front of a microphone. For those of us who watched the Birds in September realized that he really is not that bad of a defensive first basemen, but Chris Davis will probably open the season as the Orioles first basemen. Davis, who they acquired from the Texas Rangers last year in the Koji Uehara, has a great deal of potential and he routinely shows that in AAA, but has trouble translating that over to the big leagues. Due to his seemingly unlimited power, I refuse to give up on Davis as a hitter, but having him and Mark Reynolds in the same lineup is setting ourselves up for 500 strikeouts. Davis has never made a name for himself on defense, and he is pretty stiff at 1st base so in my humble opinion, Davis should be penciled as the Designated Hitter, and Reynolds should be asked to stay at 1st base and the Duke should look for a 3rd basemen known for his defense. A young pitching staff NEEDS a strong infield, especially the left side of the infield. This was the blueprint for the Tampa Bay Rays and that has worked out well for them. Unfortunately the market for a 3rd basemen is dryer than a puddle in Africa so the Orioles may have to look at an aging middle infielder who can make the transition to 3rd a la Michael Young and the GREAT Cal Ripken Jr. Ryan Theriot, Orlando Cabrera, and Edgar Renteria are free agents who come to mind, but they are as intriguing as a documentary about sand paper. Perhaps The Duke will bounce some offers off the Padres in attempt to ac quire Chase Headley. Or maybe the incomparable Josh Bell will put it all together and anoint himself the 3rd basemen of the future. Then again Bell’s defense at 3rd was even worse than Reynolds, so Bell could also be a candidate at 1st base.
Another player to keep an eye on for the infield mix is 1st basemen Casey Kotchman. Kotchman does not hit for power, but hits .300 in his sleep and is a very smooth and effective defensive first basemen. But that makes way too much sense; therefore the Orioles front office will not even give Kotchman an offer.
Instead, the Orioles have decided that Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds will man the corners, and therefore they have set their sights on acquiring a veteran designated hitter via trade or free agency. Here are a few players the Orioles have been linked to, Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, and Manny Ramirez. Hurts doesn’t it? If we acquire any of these players it will make last year’s signing of Vlad Guerrero look like Hank Aaron. For the record I was on board with the Vladi signing, and it was a joy to watch him hobble around in the Orange and Black and hit balls at his eyeballs and off his shoe tops.
Manny Ramirez will begin the season (if he is signed) serving a 50 game suspension for testing positive for steroids last year. The Duke was the man who signed Manny to the 8-year $150 million dollar deal for the Red Sox and therefore has a soft spot in his heart for the Dreadlocked Dominican. If The Duke really wants to dig up old Red Sox, why not make a play for Johnny Damon to be our DH? He is still a reliable hitter, and is a great veteran leader for young ball players. Everywhere he has gone he has had the reputation of being a strong clubhouse guy and keeps the locker room loose. When the season is dragging along, and losses are piling up like Samuel L. Jackson’s royalty checks, the Orioles will need a veteran who can keep everyone loose. What team doesn’t need a guy who will knock out pull-ups while in the nude?
Second Base is as disheartening as any position on the roster. Fan favorite and all around good guy, Brian Roberts appears to have gone down Troy Aikman Boulevard. B-Rob’s concussions are alarming and a reminder that sports are violent and dangerous. It looks likely that B-Rob won’t be ready for this season, and it could be the end of his career. This leaves Robert Andino as the everyday second basemen. When given an extended look, Robert Andino was a very productive player for the Orioles, just ask the 2011 Boston Red Sox. I don’t care if that was the Orioles 69th win of the year, it still gives me goosebumps and makes me believe in Orioles Magic.
Seriously though, as a baseball fan that was such an epic night! Give this clip a look to relive it at Red Sox Nation’s expense. (Whether they were members before 2004 or after)
Oh I almost forgot, the Orioles signed Endy Chavez to be the 4th outfielder and push Nolan Reimold in left field. Control your excitement…
They also signed former first round pick Matt Antonelli to be the utility guy. Hold on I got one more for you…
The Orioles traded for Taylor Teagarden to be Matt Wieters’s backup.
Honestly, I like the move for Teagarden. He was a stud for the Texas Longhorns and was serviceable for the Rangers. He will play on Sundays and any other day that “Matty Backstop” needs a breather.
So to recap: The Orioles offensive additions include Endy Chavez, Matt Antonelli, and Taylor Teagarden, and they are rumored to be interested in Alfonso Soriano, Bobby Abreu, and Manny Ramirez. The Orioles’ ability to upgrade their lineup this offseason is almost as bad as Chris Berman’s ability to lip-sync.
Stay strong Birdland.