The Baltimore Orioles were a few pieces away from having a World Series-caliber club last season, and, with a few big offseason moves, they can make another run in 2013.
Buck Showalter did the most with the least in 2012 and exceeded most of Baltimore fans expectations. Now, the outlook for next season is high and they’re going to need to make some critical moves to stay competitive.
They’re going to need to counter the inevitable New York and Boston offseason spending by handing out some cash of their own.
Executive vice-president of baseball operations for the Orioles Dan Duquette, will be combating the doubters once again as he looks to prove that last season was not a fluke.
Here are five areas the Orioles need to address to continue their success in 2013.
Andino during Game 2 of the ALDS.
It’s time for Baltimore to move on from the Brian Roberts experiment and address their lack of production at second base.
Robert Andino, Ryan Flaherty, Omar Quintanilla and Brian Roberts have provided the Birds with a microscopic .213 average and 57 RBI at second base. Those numbers are not only the lowest among the Orioles’ positions, but some of the lowest from any position in baseball.
While the Orioles have a great bottom-up organizational approach, they’re going to need to address their needs at second base by playing the free-agent market.
This year’s market is chock-full of stable, consistent and injury-free second basemen that would fit nicely into the Orioles’ philosophy.
Two names that stand out are Jeff Keppinger and Kelly Johnson.
The Orioles had the sixth most strikeouts in baseball at 1,315. Keppinger, who batted .325 last season, has one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball.
Baltimore has also committed 19 errors at second base. By adding Keppinger, who has just 14 errors at second base in his career, stability will return to the position.
The Orioles should also look into 30-year-old Kelly Johnson, who could provide the Birds with some power from a position that gave them just 14 home runs last season.
If Baltimore can’t get anything done in free agency this season, they can always look to second base prospect Jonathan Schoop. Schoop has another one or two years until he’s MLB ready, but he may be worth a midseason call-up depending on his minor league production.
Reynolds during Game 5 of the ALDS.
Baltimore had Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds rotating at first base this season.
After a late season injury to Markakis, Chris Davis filled in nicely defensively and became the everyday right fielder.
With Markakis returning next season and Reynolds likely to take over as the regular first basemen, they have the opportunity to go out and acquire another bat.
LaRoche is one of the most valuable free-agent assets in this year’s market. The 32-year-old won the NL Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 2012.
If the Orioles decide to fix their second base problem internally and the Nationals can’t figure out a deal, LaRoche is worth signing to a long-term and would give the Orioles exactly what they need defensively and offensively.
If LaRoche were to come in, Reynolds would take over as the regular designated hitter.
Other big bats in this free agent market the Orioles may want to look into include Lance Berkman, ex-Oriole and valuable utility player Ty Wigginton and Mike Napoli.
Hammel on the mound during Game 5 of the ALDS.
No need is more immediate than finding a starting pitcher to lead this young Baltimore pitching staff.
Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez have cemented their spots in next year’s rotation after great performances in 2012.
Hammel at 30-years-old is the veteran of the staff, and he would have compiled better numbers if not for a midseason injury.
To supplement the veteran, the Orioles need a true ace.
This year’s market has three or four guys capable of filling that role.
Anibal Sanchez is young, consistent and a hot commodity in this year’s free agency. The 28-year-old has recorded ERAs under four in all of his last four seasons. He’s also averaging over six innings a start and would provide Baltimore’s bullpen, who threw 545 innings in 2012, a much needed rest every five or six days.
Sanchez is perusing a contract somewhere in the six-year, $90 million range, according to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports.
If the Orioles do nothing but acquire Sanchez, this offseason would be considered a success.