It's been more than a brutal decade for Oriole fans and players as the team hasn't managed a finish anywhere above third place since 1997. The team seemed lost and directionless with no coherent plan for ever becoming competitive again. However the 2010 off-season was a good one for this team and seems to be a step in the right direction. The addition of a frontline starter, a legitimate closer and two infielders with at least decent bats might be enough to get this team out of the cellar and closer to being competitive.
2009 Regular Season Record: 64-98
Rank: Last in the AL East, last in the AL - 39.0 Games Back
Home Park: Orioles Park at Camden Yards
C - Michael Hernandez* (Free Agent from Rays)
Miguel Tejada returns to the Orioles as a third baseman.
C - Craig Tatum (Waiver claim from Reds)
1B/3B - Garrett Atkins (Free Agent from Rockies)
3B - Miguel Tejada (Free Agent from Astros)
LHP - Mike Gonzalez (Free Agent from Braves)
RHP - Armando Gabino (Waiver claim from Twins)
RHP - Kevin Millwood (Trade with Rangers)
3B - Melvin Mora (Free Agent signed with Rockies)
OF - Jeff Fiorntino (Free Agent - unsigned)
LHP - Sean Henn (Waiver claim by Blue Jays)
LHP - Radhames Liz (Waiver claim by Padres)
RHP - Danys Baez (Free Agent signed with Phillies)
RHP - Chris Ray (Traded to Rangers)
RHP - Brian Bass* (Free Agent signed with Pirates)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths: Offense, young talented up and comers to compliment Markakis
The Orioles should be able to score some runs, at least more than they did in 2009 with their new additions. The lineup however may be in flux for a bit of the season as manager Dave Trembley tries to figure out the best way to use Atkins and Tejada. Neither really is a cleanup hitter, nor is anyone else the O's currently can put into the lineup (although Luke Scott is probably the best suited for it). Atkins, who had an unexpectedly bad season last year hitting over 60 points below his career average and who finished with just nine home runs after three seasons of 21 or more in a row, might offer some nice upside and be a bounce back candidate even if Camden Yards is not as hitter friendly as Coors Field.
In any case, the young hitters the team has in the lineup -- Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold -- have a chance to step forward to compliment core player Nick Markakis. If the step forward is even a moderate one the O's should be looking at a much better offense then they had last year. That will translate to some needed wins.
Even though the Orioles went out and added a front line starter in Kevin Millwood and a solid closer in Mike Gonzalez, this pitching staff is going to struggle. But Millwood was brought in, not just to be the ace of the staff, but to be a team leader and mentor for the younger pitches on this staff.
Millwood is coming off one of the best seasons in the American League and did it while playing half his games in one of the AL's best hitter's parks. He might find pitching in the AL East quite a bit tougher, though, as the only real offensive juggernaut Millwood played against regularly was the LA Angels. This year having to start with roughly half his starts against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays it's likely that his numbers won't be quite as good. Still if he manages 13 or more wins this looks like a really smart deal for the O's.
Following Millwood will be veteran Jeremy Guthrie who had his worst season in an Orioles uniform last year in 2009. Up until now he's been the ace of the staff and if last year wasn't a foreshadowing of things to come he could bounce back to where he was in 2007-2008 (sub 3.70 ERA both years). On most teams he'd be a No. 3 starter, and having Millwood ahead of him in the rotation will take a lot of pressure off.
The tail end of the rotation is the inexperienced trio of Brain Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman, all of whom do have upside, but who've been rushed a bit to the Majors to help this pitching starved franchise. They'll struggle at times and show flashes of brilliance at others, but it's a growing up they'll have to do.
The bullpen doesn't look to be too bad, but it won't be one of the best in the league either. After Gonzalez, Jim Johnson and Cla Meredith, the situation looks a little confused as a who's who of lesser known pitchers will compete for jobs in the pen.
2B - Brian Roberts
CF - Adam Jones
RF - Nick Markakis
DH - Luke Scott
3B - Miguel Tejada
1B - Garrett Atkins
LF - Nolan Reimold
C - Matt Wieters
SS - Cesar Izturis
One question that need answering:
Can the O's play well enough to make a run at .500? If they do the season will be a humongous success.
The Orioles aren't going anywhere fast, but they've made enough improvements that a last-place finish, either in the AL or the East is not assured. They'll battle with the Blue Jays for fourth in the East -- the highest they can realistically hope for in a division where the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are playing. Either way, look for an increase in wins with this team making a run, but likely falling just a little short of .500. That may not sound great, but it's a building block.