Baltimore Orioles Roundtable: Offseason Review

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Baltimore Orioles Roundtable:  Offseason Review

Is anyone else pumped up about the upcoming 2009 season? Or is it just me?

So much has gone on this offseason for the Baltimore Orioles; it's difficult taking it all in. We've seen trades, extensions, free-agent signings, International exploration, etc. Let's just say it's been a fun few months.

I myself, though, cannot fully describe the feelings that many O's fanatics are currently experiencing. This is why I am bringing in four other writers to join me. Giving their thoughts here today are L.J. Burgess (I know most of you know who he is.), Isaac Barrow (Baltimore Orioles' Community Leader and #5 baseball writer on B/R), Orioles' writer Sean Lavery, and MASNsports.com's very own Jeff Wolfson. A solid lineup, to say the least.

I had them answer six questions regarding the 2009 offseason and projections for this year's campaign.

Let's see what they had to say:

1) How would you grade the 2009 offseason and why?

Lawrence Barreca: From a fans' standpoint, I give it an A-. The additions of Uehara, Wiggington, and Zaun were solid, plus a trade sending Ramon Hernandez out of Baltimore was priceless. Also, how could we forget extending Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts to multi-year deals. All I have to say is: "It's about time!"

Isaac Barrow: I am happy with what the O's were able to accomplish this offseason. They got some young talent, like Rich Hill, Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis and were able to retain Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts. MacPhail proved he is dedicated to rebuilding and that the O's will be competitive soon—seriously.

On a grading scale, I would give it an A-. Not an A+, not a F-. The O's showed they are serious and it's good enough for me if Peter Angelos isn't making the moves around Baltimore. The Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts moves proved that.  

L.J. Burgess: A+...Andy has set a more focused direction and the team and front office are actually in lockstep for once. Five years ago most Baseball people predicted the Rays would be this good, I think while Andy was in Chicago he was watching TB's progress and knew it was the future as far as setting organizational parameters for 21st century Baseball.

Sean Lavery: Andy MacPhail and O's had a good offseason, but not perfect. I'd give them a B. They filled many holes and added to the team without hurting the future of the club, but there are still a number of questions remaining (especially the infield past next season).

Jeff Wolfson: The Orioles offseason has been a busy at the very least. Andy MacPhail cleared the way for baseball’s top prospect, Matt Wieters, by trading Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for three players.

In addition, MacPhail has provided Baltimore with enough pitching depth to keep the kids in the minor leagues for more seasoning. Overall, I would give the Orioles a solid B for all of their moves.

2) How long it will take before we see Matt Wieters in an Oriole uniform?

Lawrence Barreca: My guess is sometime in late-April. I think they will carry through with this in order to gain that extra year of team control. This way, he gets a little extra seasoning while also benefiting the team for the long-term.

Isaac Barrow: Well, being that the O's have no need to rush considering the fact that they aren't attempting a 95-win campaign this year, there is no point in starting Wieters Opening Day. With that said, I think Wieters SHOULD start Opening Day. He has no holes in his game.

His hitting speaks for itself (27 HR's, .355 last year), he's a quiet leader and his defense is solid. Oh by the way, he posted an OPS over 1.000 and walked more times than he struck out. While I, like all O's fans, want Wieters on the big club Opening Day catching Jeremy Guthrie, I don't expect him until May the 15th.

L.J. Burgess: We'll see Wieters as soon as the O's find a balance between saving a few bucks in arbitration down the road and having a 100+ RBI switch hitter on the 25.

If it were me in Andy's shoes, I would skip the AAA catcher's camp and put Wieters on the 25 as a DH and let Zaun, what's his name and the pitching coaches teach him that inside game in the BIGS.

Sean Lavery: I think Wieters will be called up sometime in the first two weeks of June. They want to keep him around until 2015 (like the Rays and Longoria), so he won't start the season on the big league roster.

Jeff Wolfson: This is a question that many of the Orioles faithful have been wondering since Wieters was drafted. I think the Orioles will send Wieters to Triple-A for all of April and possibly half of May to delay his arbitration clock. Fans should see Wieters no later than June, but no early than May 15.

3) Project the O's starting rotation.

Lawrence Barreca:  This one is difficult.  With all the current injuries, it's hard to tell who will be there and who won't.  If I had to guess, I would go with:  Guthrie, Uehara, Hill, Eaton, Penn.

Isaac Barrow: 
1) Guthrie
2) Uehara
3) Hill
4) Pauley
5) Penn

L.J. Burgess:  Guthrie RH, Koji-san RH, Rich Hill LH, two to three more John Doe's and I want to see Tillman a.s.a.p. Beyond that I'm clueless.

Sean Lavery:  Currently I'm going to say, Guthrie, Uehara, Hill, Hendrickson, Penn. The back-end of the rotation is still up for grabs, and Hill's "soreness" is not a good sign.

Jeff Wolfson:  The rotation is a very confusing situation right now. Obviously Jeremy Guthrie and newcomer Koji Uehara are the top two pitchers. So who are the other three?

I think the Orioles really want Rich Hill as the No. 3 starter. Hill must stay healthy and prove that he can find the strike zone to even be considered for a rotation slot. If he can’t, I envision Hill as the left-handed version of Matt Albers out of the bullpen.

Hayden Penn, in my mind, gets the fourth slot. Penn is out of options and has looked alright thus far in Spring Training. Also, if Penn makes the club, he will be the first of many homegrown pitchers the Orioles have developed or are developing.

The fifth spot is really the one that is up for grabs. The battle is between Mark Hendrickson, David Pauley, Bradley Bergesen and Chris Waters. Of the four, Hendrickson is the most experienced. Hendrickson has proven that he can pitch out of the bullpen so I think that’s where he ends up.

Pauley, acquired by trade from Boston, is a hard thrower that has gotten progressively better. I don’t see a role for Pauley on this team, but somebody will get a dynamite pitcher if the Orioles waive him.

Everybody remembers Chris Waters’ debut last season. It seemed to all go downhill from there. I like Waters because he is left-handed and can field his position very well. I consider him the favorite to win the slot in the rotation, but not a lock. Bergesen is an interesting case.

The Orioles want to keep their young pitchers and players in the minor leagues for more seasoning, but Bergesen has done nothing but throw strikes to major league hitters. I believe Bergesen will start the season at Triple-A Norfolk, but won’t finish there.4) What was your favorite offseason move (includes trades, signings, etc.) and why?

Lawrence Barreca:  There sure are plenty to choose from, including trading for Hill and Pie, signing Wiggington, Zaun, and Uehara, and dealing Ramon Hernandez to the Reds.  However, my favorite offseason is the Nick Markakis extension. 

This kid is going to be a superstar for years to come, and I'm glad to see that we have him locked up for another six seasons.  Now that he's got his mind off the money, I think he will be able to buckle down and change the tide of Baltimore baseball.

Isaac Barrow:  My favorite offseason move was by far signing Nick Markakis to a six-year extension. He's the future of the O's and a true five tool player. He hit .306 last year and led the AL in outfield assists and him signed until 31 is huge.

By the way, Markakis was a pitcher in college, so he isn't fully developed as a hitter. Yet, he's one of the best. Soon, O's fans can expect a 30-35 HR season from Markakis. Write that down.

L.J. Burgess:  The old school uniforms with "Baltimore" on the greys...finally. Signing Nick and Brian and picking up Freel and Wiggington.

Sean Lavery:  By far it was the Markakis extension. He's a huge part of the present and the future of the club, and he needs to be around for when the O's make a run.

Jeff Wolfson:  There was a lot to like about the Orioles offseason. My favorite move, though, was the trade of Ramon Hernandez to Cincinnati. Hernandez struggled behind the plate last season, didn’t swing the bat all that well and appeared lazy at times.

The trade also paved the way for top prospect Matt Wieters, while reducing the Orioles payroll. I think this was addition by subtraction.

5) Besides Wieters, what other prospects do you see making the pros before the end of '09?

Lawrence Barreca:  The way some of these kids are playing this spring, I believe many of them will get a shot at the pros.  Just throwing some names out there, I think starters Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, outfielder Nolan Reimold, and infielders Scott Moore and Justin Turner will get their shots at the bigs.

Isaac Barrow:  Well, there are a lot. Brad Bergesen, David Hernandez, Chris Tillman, Nolan Reimold, Troy Patton to name a few. All of these prospects have impressed the O's coaches during Spring Training, Bergesen the most so.

Hernandez has been solid, Tillman is one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, Reimold has been impressive and Patton has done a very good job coming back from an injury.

I expect all of these to make an impact on the O's and because the O's don't have depth in the back end of the rotation and Rich Hill's health is a question mark, they could all see the majors - and early.

L.J. Burgess:  Reimold, Montanez, and 27 pitchers...

Sean Lavery:  I think Chris Tillman will see some time towards the end of the season. Reimold and Montanez will also probably be invited up if any of the outfielders suffer injuries.

Jeff Wolfson:  Baltimore has a lot of prospects that are pushing their way through the minor league system. The first in line to see a promotion should be Nolan Reimold. Outfielders are known to get banged up at the major league level and Reimold is a solid corner outfielder with a deadly bat.

Another prospect that may be seen this season is the aforementioned Bradley Bergesen. In the past, the Orioles starters have gotten injured and there has been absolutely no depth to the organization. Well this season is different. I think there will be depth, but Bergesen will be called upon before the calendar flips to September.

6) Project the O's record.

Lawrence Barreca:  This one is intriguing.  I'm going to say that the O's finish in fourth place with a 75-87 record.  Sorry Jays' fans, you guys are in the cellar this season.

Isaac Barrow:  77-85.

L.J. Burgess:  86-76.

Sean Lavery:  Right now I'm going to say 75-87, barely behind Toronto for another 5th place finish.

Jeff Wolfson:  I think the Orioles will wind up in last place for a second consecutive year. Although it won’t show in the standings, the O’s will improve. Prediction: 73-89.

Thanks again to our four writers who joined me in this Roundtable discussion, and I, along with many others, are looking forward to a fantastic season in 2009!

(article image courtesy of theorioles.com)

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