Complete 2013-14 Baltimore O'S Offseason Preview and Predictions
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Remaining in contention all season, the team began to fall out of contention late in the year, with a four-game sweep in Tampa Bay over the second-to-last weekend of the season, providing the final nail in the coffin.
Still, though, Orioles fans would have signed up for a season like this in blood were they asked two or more years ago. For the second straight year, th O's were a competitive team over .500 making a run at the playoffs. The team has finished above .500 for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1996-97.
Of course, finishing above .500 isn't the goal anymore. While fans are happy to simply have winning baseball back in Birdland, they want playoff baseball in Baltimore, so they can get Camden Yards rocking.
The 2013 season showed the faults of the Orioles very glaringly, and while GM Dan Duquette didn't do a whole lot to alter and add to the team last offseason, O's fans hope that he makes a splash, or at the least a few sound moves, to build the team back up and return to the postseason.
While the team has a lot of great pieces to succeed, such as center fielder Adam Jones, first baseman Chris Davis and starter Chris Tillman, the lack of team OBP and bad luck in the bullpen destroyed the O's ability to remain competitive through September.
While the bullpen had an historically good season in 2012, the luck balanced out in 2013, making the ride a bit more rough sometimes.
The O's have already stated that they plan on tendering a contract to Jim Johnson for 2014, according to a report by Steve Melewski of MASN Sports, despite a performance that included nine blown saves (50-for-59).
The right-hander really had only two or three rough patches during the season, and he did display the dominance he exhibited during 2012, when he went 51-for-54 in save opportunities. While Johnson can be of some blame for the O's failure to reach the postseason for the second consecutive season, he's part of the solution going forward.
As stated before, the biggest fault the O's lineup had was OBP, ranking 19th in MLB with a .313 clip. The team led baseball in homers, hitting 212, a number way ahead of the 188 homers the Seattle Mariners hit which was good for second in the majors.
Imagine how many more runs would have been scored for the Birds, and games won, had they had more guys on base for the dingers. It could be just me, but it seems like almost every homer the team hit this season was a solo or two-run shot.
The O's will need to fill holes at second base, left field and DH this offseason, so it would be wise of Duquette to focus on OBP while trying to check off those needs.
If the O's can get a couple more players who can get on base at a high clip and can hit at the top or in the middle of the lineup, it will do wonders for the team's scoring ability and also help the RBI numbers of guys like Jones and Davis, although those two still managed a high total even with the O's lack of quality ability to get on base.
Another big reason for the September decline is the fact that the O's were just tired.
The O's were the only team in the bigs to have five players play 150 games or more, and that could be due to manager Buck Showalter not being entirely comfortable sitting his regulars because the replacements on the bench weren't good enough. Duquette would be smart to pick up at least one more bench guy and make sure that player is of quality.
As per usual, the O's will also need starting pitching and bullpen help. The team does want to attempt to retain starter Scott Feldman, according to a report by Roch Kubatko, whom they acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the middle of the season to help bolster the rotation.
Feldman pitched well in his time in Baltimore, going 5-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 15 starts covering 90.2 innings. He did pitch the O's only complete game of the season, that game being a shutout. Feldman is a perfect pitcher for the O's to use as a fourth or fifth starter in a deep rotation.
While a frontline starter would be nice, I don't see the O's making a push for acquiring one.
They'll likely try to add rotation depth with Feldman and maybe one or two other back-end types. I can see the team adding a few bullpen arms to the spring-training competition mix, one of which will be of quality to help guys like Johnson, Darren O'Day and Brian Matusz close out games.
On the position player front, the O's would like to see longtime Orioles veteran Brian Roberts return, but only at the right price, as the second baseman has been injured for most of the four-year deal he's coming off.
Despite those injuries, Roberts proved to still be a productive player during the second half of the season. If he's asking for too much money, the O's won't hesitate to let him go elsewhere.
Left fielder Nate McLouth is in the same boat as Roberts. McLouth is an asset to the team, but he seems to be a better option for a platoon role.
Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors projects that McLouth will receive a two-year, $10 million deal, and if he's right, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports believes McLouth won't be returning to Baltimore, as the O's won't be willing to pay him that much.
As far as the DH hole is concerned, the O's will likely avoid acquiring someone to be the full-time DH.
Showalter likes to use the DH spot as a revolving door to rest players once in a while as well as fit other players into the lineup who, otherwise, might not have a spot on the field on that given day. Don't expect to see a huge splash there, like the Vladimir Guerrero signing prior to the 2011 season.
The O's have a lot of work to do this offseason. The 2013 season proved to the front office that it can't rely solely on luck and Orioles Magic to power the team to the playoffs. While the team is in a good spot with a lot of the players it has, there are some changes and additions that need to be made.
I fully believe that the front office has recognized that and will do what it takes this offseason to add what the team needs.
Here's to hoping Duquette doesn't have a quiet offseason like he did last year.
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