The Baltimore Orioles have had a roller coaster of a season. They started off with the intent to break the single-season loss record by a club, but now have fought back under new manager Buck Showalter to avoid the 100 loss mark. Though they have played superb baseball under Showalter, there are still glaring needs that need to be addressed this offseason, whether it be fixing the holes, or making it known that management would rather wait until next year's free agent crop. If these needs aren't addressed, you can count on another sub-.500 season from this franchise.
The most obvious is the need for a big bat in the middle of the lineup. The Orioles will have holes at first base and shortstop headed into this offseason. I'm well aware of Brandon Snyder as an internal option at first base, and that the O's have high expectations for him, but the fact of the matter is that the team needs a big bat now. If they want to make a push for having a record better than .500 next season, and even an AL Wild Card push, they need that big bat in the lineup, something which I'm sure almost everyone sees Snyder not able to fill next year.
In that case, the Orioles will need to look toward the free agent market or trading away some of their prospects for a big name, like Adrian Gonzalez. The free agent market is somewhat thin this year, and the biggest names and best options out there for the Orioles are the likes of Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Adam Dunn, and Paul Konerko
Personally, I wouldn't go near Carlos Pena. Don't get me wrong, he's a great guy, he'd be a great addition to the clubhouse and he's got a good glove over at first base, but his low batting average and inability to hit left-handed pitching consistently is not worth it. Since his career year back in 2007 with the then Devil Rays, his batting average has dropped significantly every year, as have his walks from 2007-2009. He's still got good pop in his bat and the ability to drive in runs, but is it worth a .200 batting average? I think not.
As for the other three options, Derrek Lee has had a down year and is starting to get up there in terms of his age. He could have a bounce back year next season, and I'd be surprised if he didn't, but I think the two best options in the free agent market for the Orioles are Konerko and Dunn, with Konerko having the edge. Dunn is an all right fielder at the first base position, and is one heck of a home run hitter, and I'd only expect his home run numbers to rise if he were to play half of his games next season in Camden Yards, but he's a left handed bat, and the O's already have enough of those in Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, and Felix Pie. They need a big right handed bat to slot into the number four position, and Konerko would best serve that need of the four mentioned above.
There may be better options out there in terms of trades for a big right handed bat to play a good first base for the Orioles, but that would depend on another club's willingness to deal said player. Another option is to work with Scott or Nolan Reimold at first during the offseason and spring training and have them play the position next year so they can go after another big hitter to DH, though that may be more work than it's worth, especially with Reimold's questionable production next year as he's had such a down year this year (albeit, due to an injury at the end of last season).
As for shortstops, the fix there, at least until Manny Machado is ready to prove himself in the bigs, is simple. Sign Alex Gonzalez. He's always been a great defensive shortstop his whole career, which is what the position is all about, and he's having a great year with the bat. He'd be a very good upgrade offensively over current shortstop Cesar Izturis, even if he were to have a bad year for him with the bat, and he's had plenty of postseason experience. He would slot nicely into any one of the 6-9 positions in the batting order, or could even bat second in instances where Showalter would want to bat Markakis third. The guy just makes the most sense for the Orioles to sign to fill in at shortstop until Machada is ready to be brought up to the game. Give Gonzalez a two-year deal.
Hopefully, the Orioles can make a big splash this offseason with getting the big bat they need, upgrading at the shortstop position, and fixing their bullpen, though, the latter is a discussion for another post.
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