Speed Kills...or at Least the Orioles Hope So

Drew BonifantAnalyst IIDecember 10, 2008

The Yankees? Go ahead, take your high-priced arms!

The Red Sox? Have all the heavy hitters you want!

Because as far as the Baltimore Orioles are concerned, burning up the basepaths is the real name of the game.

At least, that's what the 2008 offseason is telling us. The O's have made two headline-grabbing deals so far, acquiring utility outfielder Ryan Freel from Cincinnati for Ramon Hernandez and signing defense-first shortstop Cesar Izturis to a two-year deal.

There are many reasons to make those deals.

For one, getting rid of Hernandez sheds salary while making way for first-round draft pick and ultra-talented Matt Wieters at catcher. Signing Izturis provides consistent (if unspectacular) offense and sparkling defense at the extremely volatile shortstop position.

Both deals are relatively inexpensive with no risk of jeopardizing any free agency push the O's wish to make.

But a look at what the players will bring, assuming Brian Roberts sticks around, presents an interesting lineup for Baltimore in 2009.

Roberts has 90 steals in two seasons, and led the league in 2007. Freel has never had more than 505 at bats in a season, yet has three seasons with over 35 stolen bases. Izturis has two 20-steal seasons, including one last year. Adam Jones and Nick Markakis bring good speed to the bases. Even Melvin Mora, at 87 years of age, can run.

The offseason seems to be telling us that Andy MacPhail is content building his offense and defense around speed. Of course, players have to get on base in order to run. That wasn't the problem last year.

Being second-to-last in the American League in pitching may be a sign that you're a few arms short of contention.

MacPhail appears determined to fix that problem, and signs show he could make a run at Jon Garland and A.J. Burnett, possibly even Ben Sheets. It's no surprise. After all, the Orioles appear to be ready to do a lot of running anyway.