Despite finishing with an 85-77 record, it's safe to say that the Baltimore Orioles have some weaknesses that they could address in the upcoming free-agency period.
Which weaknesses are the most prevalent, however, is something that could be debated.
While most fans would agree that pitching, namely the starting rotation, is probably the Orioles' biggest problem area, it was arguably their offense that kept them from another playoff berth as they struggled mightily in the second half of the season.
Now with that in mind, let's go over the three biggest needs for the Orioles as they prepare for the free-agency period.
1. Starting Pitching
According to Earl Weaver's managerial philosophy, pitching, defense and the three-run home run is how you win ball games.
While the bullpen, especially closer Jim Johnson, struggled at times, starting pitching seems to be a bigger need for the Orioles this offseason.
The O's do have a solid core in Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen, and they do have young arms with plenty of potential in Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy, but they do not have the depth and consistency of a team who can routinely make the playoffs.
The Orioles ranked 12th in the AL in starting pitching with a 4.57 ERA, which, quite honestly, just isn't good enough. All of the teams who represented the AL in the playoffs this year rank in the top four of that category, except Cleveland, who still ranks a respectable sixth.
While the free agency market isn't necessarily saturated with strong starting pitching, the Orioles could still make a splash going after someone like Ervin Santana. Whether or not they do is up to the Orioles' Executive VP of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette.
2. A Right-Handed DH/Power Hitter
The Orioles tried to address this need when they acquired Michael Morse via trade in August.
That did not work.
Luckily for the O's, Danny Valencia stepped up his game and preformed well in the DH role late in the season.
Still, Valencia isn't really seen as a long term option, as consistency has plagued him throughout his career.
While it's likely not in the same category of importance as acquiring a starting pitcher, acquiring a powerful righty who can be used in the DH role is something that the Orioles will look into this offseason, as the DH position was easily their biggest weakness early in the 2013 season.
3. A Corner Outfielder and/or Lead-off Hitter
This need depends on whether the O's choose to re-sign outfielder Nate McLouth and second baseman Brian Roberts.
If they choose to re-sign both, the problem is basically solved.
However, issues arise if either one or both don't return.
Jonathan Schoop and Ryan Flaherty are waiting in the wings if Roberts doesn't return, so acquiring a second baseman isn't really a priority.
It's a different story if McLouth is lost to free agency. Cuban prospect Henry Urrutia destroyed minor-league pitching last season and would likely get the nod if McLouth fails to return, but he is unproven.
Either way, the Orioles' production from their corner outfielders was disappointing last year, as McLouth struggled after a fast start and Nick Markakis had his worst season as a major leaguer. It wouldn't be surprising if Dan Duquette decided to try and acquire a corner outfielder during the free-agency period.
And if neither McLouth or Roberts return, it's a mystery who would bat lead-off for the Birds, as not one of the three in Schoop, Flaherty or Urrutia fits the bill of a lead-off man.
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