Baltimore Orioles: Grading the Offseason Additions
Dan Duquette has made a lot of changes to the Orioles in his first offseason as the Executive VP of Baseball Operations. Since signing with the team, he has added 12 players to the 40-man roster, not to mention his minor league signings.
The Orioles will be a very different team because of all of the changes. The starting rotation and bullpen were the worst in the majors in 2011 and will likely see a lot of fresh faces in 2012. The team will rely on a combination of the Orioles' developing pitchers and veterans from other teams and other countries.
Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott, Vladimir Guerrero, Cesar Izturis and others are gone and a new group is coming. We'll have to see if these changes result in more wins.
Here are grades for all of the major offseason additions.
Darren O'Day: A-
O'Day isn't actually a Duquette pickup because he was acquired in the time when Andy MacPhail was gone and the Orioles were still searching for a GM.
Darren O'Day was claimed off waivers from the Rangers after a disappointing season in 2011. He struggled with injuries and only pitched in 16 games. In the previous two years, O'Day flew under the radar as a top reliever, with 140 games and a 1.94 ERA for 2009 and 2010.
Bullpen spots will be hard to come by for the Orioles in 2012 because there are so many pitchers vying for a job, but O'Day could quietly sneak in to one.
Matt Antonelli: C+
Matt Antonelli's inclusion on the 40-man roster comes as a surprise to me because he hasn't played in the majors since 2008 with the Padres. His only major league experience came as a September call-up, but spending the next three seasons in the minors due to injuries and inconsistency is concerning.
Antonelli has a chance to be a sleeper on this year's roster. Even when he is struggling to keep his average up, he maintains a good eye at the plate and draws a lot of walks, which is something that most of the current Orioles don't do. Antonelli had a monster year in Triple-A Syracuse in 2011, with an .853 OPS and an impressive .393 OBP.
If there is one consolation to Antonelli, its that the Orioles could finally get some return from the first round of the 2006 draft. Billy Rowell has turned out to be a bust and the Orioles lost Pedro Beato to the Mets, so if Antonelli makes the team, he would be the first Oriole from the first round in 2006.
Taylor Teagarden: B-
The Orioles needed a new backup to Matt Wieters after losing Craig Tatum on waivers and Teagarden is an adequate if unexciting upgrade.
Tatum was a miserable hitter, which made it very difficult to take Wieters out of the lineup. Wieters ended up playing a lot more games than the average catcher, which is a very difficult task. The Orioles need a backup that is solid defensively, but can also hit well enough to not drag down the offense.
Teagarden isn't a superb hitter, but he can get the job done. He lit up the Pacific Coast League in limited appearances in 2011, but has never fully blossomed in the majors. Teagarden will join Darren O'Day, Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter and Pedro Strop as former Rangers looking to be Orioles in 2012.
Dana Eveland: C
I have nothing against Dana Eveland because he is a serviceable pitcher, but I don't have any idea how the Orioles plan to use him in 2012.
Eveland was acquired at the winter meetings for pitcher Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson. It seemed he would join the struggling rotation to help stabilize it in 2012, but Dan Duquette has piled on pitchers since then and there doesn't seem to be room for Eveland now.
I'm sure Eveland will get a shot in March, but he'll be up against a lot. The Orioles have added five more pitchers with more talent to the 40-man roster since Eveland, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.
Ryan Flaherty: A-
The only negative in picking up Flaherty was he must take up a spot on the 40-man roster, but he is low risk because he was a Rule 5 pick.
The Orioles paid the Cubs $50,000 for Flaherty and must keep him on the active roster all season to keep him, but he skyrocketed into the top 10 Orioles prospects when he was acquired.
I doubt Flaherty will stick with the club, but he is an intriguing pickup and could make an impact if kept. The cost is so low that I can't give lower than an A-.
Tsuyoshi Wada: B-
I really like Tsuyoshi Wada and think he can be an impact pitcher on the team, but his role, like Eveland's, is undefined.
Wada has been compared to Jamie Moyer in that he is a light-throwing, control lefty that can finesse his way into outs. He doesn't walk that many people and had a spectacular resume in Japan. The one issue could be the transition to America.
The last Japanese player for the Orioles was Koji Uehara and the heat and stress forced him to miss a lot of time and then move to the bullpen. Wada will likely end up there, but the stress may get to him.
Endy Chavez: B
Endy Chavez has been around for a while, making an impact on a lot of different teams. After missing all of 2010, Chavez contributed off the bench for the American League champion Texas Rangers.
Chavez is a great defender in left and has great speed. When he gets on base, he has the ability to steal a base at any time, but he has only stolen 10 or more in four of his 10 seasons.
Chavez is good insurance for Brian Roberts in case the Orioles need a leadoff hitter. He won't play every day and shouldn't hold the spot, but he could fill in if and when the Orioles need him.
Jai Miller: B-
The Orioles took a chance on Jai Miller and the cost really isn't that high. They acquired him for cash from the Oakland A's, so they really only had to make room on the 40-man in acquiring him.
Miller has a lot of power and if that finally translates at the major league level, the Orioles could have a steal in the making on their roster. Miller won't likely make the team because there's a lot of competition in the outfield, but he has a distinct shot at making it if the team chooses to carry a fifth outfielder.
Wei-Yin Chen: A
The Orioles sunk a lot of guaranteed years into Wei-Yin Chen, but he is relatively cheap and could vastly outplay his contract.
Chen is a young left-handed pitcher from Taiwan that has been playing in Japan. He was dominant in 2011 for the Chunichi Dragons and is projected to do very well in the move to America.
The biggest gain for the Orioles with Chen is dipping their toe into the Taiwanese market. The Orioles are upping their presence in Asia and this could be the first step into creating name recognition for Baltimore in Taiwan.
Armando Galarraga: A+
I can't see anything wrong with this deal. It brings virtually no risk and incredibly high potential reward. Galarraga's deal is only a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, which means that if he makes the team, the Orioles pay the minimum for his service time.
Galarraga went from feel good story in 2010 to hit around and wild in 2011. He continues to struggle with his consistency, which has held him back from becoming a consistent major league player. If he fixes his issues, he could make the rotation. If he fails, the Orioles could use him in Norfolk as depth or let him go for little cost.
Wilson Betemit: C+
People are really critical of the fact that the Orioles gave Wilson Betemit a two year deal with a vesting option because they felt that it was way too long for a mediocre player. I'm not saying that Betemit is great, but it's not like the deal is worth a ton of money.
Betemit's deal is worth as much as the deals for Greg Dobbs and Nick Punto, which are actually pretty good comparisons. Betemit has the worst defense of the three, but best bat. Former Oriole DH Luke Scott got twice as much guaranteed over half the time.
I like the signing because Betemit gets on base pretty well. He has the chance to get a lot of at bats for the team as a DH, but could also provide depth in the field when needed. He's not perfect, but at least he's pretty cheap.
Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom: C-
You can look at my other article about this trade for more detail, but I'm not entirely a fan.
The bullpen will be greatly improved, which is what kept this deal from dropping to the D range, but I don't think Jason Hammel will be a great pickup. The Orioles managed to lose their best starter and to add insult to injury, Guthrie signed a deal with the Rockies that makes him cheaper than Lindstrom and Hammel.
I hope Lindstrom steps up in any role in 2012 because he could be the saving grace in this deal. Hammel would also have to do pretty well to offset the loss of Guthrie.
Nick Johnson: A
Nick Johnson is injured so often that I couldn't give him a plus. Like Galarraga, Johnson is just on a minor league deal, so the risk is really low.
Johnson hasn't played in the majors since a short stint with the Yankees in 2010. He played just 24 games and had a terrible average at .167. The crazy thing is that he still managed a .388 OBP in that stretch.
The Orioles lack discipline at the plate and Johnson could both mentor young players and try to make an impact on his own. I think that Vlad Guerrero was a bad influence on Adam Jones because he swings a lot and doesn't draw walks. Johnson is the exact opposite and if he can impart that knowledge on Jones, he could aid in the development of an elite player.
Luis Ayala: A-
Luis Ayala is a potential steal for the Orioles, after he signed a $925,000 deal with Baltimore last week.
Ayala struggled with injuries for years before signing a low-key deal with the Yankees and dominating in 2011. He had a terrific 2.09 ERA in 52 games for the Yankees, finding the success that made him a force in Washington/Montreal in the first three years of his career.
As I said about Lindstrom, Ayala could be a huge upgrade for the bullpen, which was horrible in 2011. With a better bullpen and rotation, the Orioles could make a huge leap in 2012.