The Orioles have suffered losing seasons in each of the last 10 years.
Locking up Nick Markakis for the next six years was a step in the right direction.
Here are the top 10 questions facing the Baltimore Orioles in 2009.
1. What to do with Brian Roberts?
Do you sign him to an extension, trade him, or risk losing him via free agency?
It seems that he wants a four-year contract to stay. If you trade him midseason, then you could get a few prospects. If you lose him via free agency, then you get two draft picks for him.
2. Who fills out the rotation behind Jeremy Guthrie?
The O’s broke into the Asian market with the signing of Koji Uehara. He is likely the No. 2 starter.
Behind him there are a lot of question marks. They just recently traded for Chicago Cub Rich Hill. He won 11 games in 2007.
They signed Mark Hendrickson. He would ideally be in a swingman/longman role.
After that you have a list that consists of Matt Albers, Danys Baez, Brian Bass, David Hennessey, Radhames Liz, Troy Patton, Hayden Penn, David Pauley, Alfredo Simon, and Chris Waters?
3. If they're out of playoff contention early, who is going to be traded?
Brian Roberts, Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Luke Scott, George Sherrill, and Jamie Walker.
4. Can Luke Scott handle a full-time DH role?
After each at bat, Scott writes the details in his journal. He spends endless time in the video room. Can that much idle time between at bats make him go crazy?
5. Who is Felix Pie?
Felix Pie and Rich Hill are two of the players that the Orioles wanted in the Brian Roberts trade last offseason. Now they have both for Garrett Olson, Henry Williamson (minor leaguer), and PTBNL.
Pie was the Chicago Cubs' organizational player of the year in 2006 and 2007. He has not been able to translate that success to the big league level.
6. How does the bullpen shape up?
George Sherrill provided a steady presence at the back end of games last year. He did show some fatigue down the stretch.
With a healthy Chris Ray coming back from Tommy John surgery, he can provide a spell for Sherrill in the ninth.
Jim Johnson comes back as the primary setup guy.
Jamie Walker looks to rebound after an off year in 2008. He will provide the team as a left-handed specialist.
Another potential lock is Dennis Sarfate. He came over in the Miguel Tejada deal last offseason. He just needs to cut down his walks but provides the Orioles with a power arm in the bullpen.
Other candidates for the pen are those previously mentioned competing for a rotation spot.
7. Are there reinforcements coming?
The Orioles are very deep in pitching prospects. Some that might get a look this summer include Chris Tillman (acquired in the Erik Bedard trade), Brian Matusz (2008 first rounder), Jake Arieta (US Olympics), Bradley Bergensen, and David Hernandez.
8. When will Matt Wieters make his debut?
He is the 2008 Minor League player of the year. If he has an impressive spring, look for him to make the big league club.
If not, Gregg Zaun keeps it warm until he is ready.
9. Can they compete in the AL East?
In all likelihood the Orioles will be in the bottom of the division once again.
Andy MacPhail’s plan is to be able to compete in 2010 or 2011. Patience is a virtue.
10. How good can this defense be?
The outfield of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Felix Jones provides the O’s with one of the best in baseball. All of them have plus arms too.
Up the middle you have Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis.
Cesar shores up the rotating door at short last year.
Aubrey Huff moves from the DH to first base, and Melvin Mora stays at third.
Gregg Zaun is a defensive upgrade over Ramon Hernandez.
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