State Of The Birds: Offseason Outlook
Hey Orioles fans. The 2011 baseball season came to a close with the O’s finishing with 69 wins and 93 loses. No one win bigger than when we pulled it out against the Red Sox on the last game of the season, bouncing them from the playoffs. Our win, coupled with the Rays magical victory late against the Yankees amounted to one of the best nights in MLB history on the last night of regular season play. That game was the Orioles World Series and was a great way to end things and finish the year.
Heading into 2012, there are some big question marks for the Orioles moving forward. The first one is who will be our new General Manager? As expected, Andy MacPhail stepped down, citing family reasons. There have been multiple names floated around, but no sexy picks here. I can tell you two things for sure. Number one being, Buck Showalter will be staying in the dugout to manage the club next year. The other certainty is that the Orioles will not be landing a big money GM, such as Theo Esptein. Names floated around have been Gerry Hunsicker (current Senior VP of baseball operations in Tampa), J.P. Ricciardi (assistant to GM of the Mets), Tony LaCava (assistant GM in Toronto), Dan Jennings (assistant GM of the Marlins), Jerry DiPoto (of the Diamondbacks front office), Al Avila (assistant GM of the Tigers), and Tony Reagins (former GM of the LA Angels of Anaheim). Out of those candidates, the Orioles would have to get special permission to interview Avila and Jennings since they are still under contract with their teams. That list has three candidates that have previous GM experience. Due to the nature of the process, it is hard for me to even imagine any frontrunners at this point.
After the General Manager/front office situation is taken care of, the Orioles also have roster needs. It is unknown whether Brian Roberts will be his old self when the season begins; and while Robert Andino filled in more then adequately, second base is a position of concern for me. As far as the rest of the infield is concerned, the shortstop position is the only one set in stone for me. Mark Reynolds has potential to play either first or third base. A decision needs to be made quickly so the Orioles can decide what to pursue via free agency or a trade. I have no doubt that the Orioles will at the least look into Prince Fielder, but ultimately, I think that would be a mistake if we signed him. There is also still a bit of debate about whether Josh Bell, acquired in the George Sherrill trade, can be a productive major leaguer. I am also fairly certain that Luke Scott’s days in Orioles orange and black are finished….finally! Moving on to the outfield, left field is the only unsettled position. No one really stepped up and grabbed the job this past season. The Orioles could look to platoon again like in previous years (look no further than Pie/Reimold of 2011) or to try and get a full-time starter for the position who is not a complete defensive liability.
There is one area above all others the Orioles need to improve…..PITCHING! It would be nice to say our starters “underperformed” last year. Our rotation was a mess, from Matusz and Arrieta hurt, to Tillman’s ineffectiveness, plus Britton’s inconsistency. Guthrie was the innings eater, but his record showed you need to do more than that to win games. Surely, blame can be put on little to no run support, but something needs to change. I also think the Orioles brass needs to decide where Jim Johnson fits into their plans. Will he be the closer, a set-up guy, a starter? Johnson had a good year last year, being the setup man and part-time closer. I don’t know if that success would continue for him as a starter however.
Whoever this new GM that comes in will be, he needs to make an impact. If you ask me, Kevin Gregg needs to be shipped out, Luke Scott non-tendered, Vlad Guerrero not resigned, and acquire a good veteran pitcher to put alongside Guthrie.
The Orioles DO have some pieces in place like Wieters, Jones, Markakis, and Hardy, but we need players around them who play the game the right way (or the Oriole Way). The first step to that is getting the right GM to plant those seeds and allow us to gain some talented players. Another tidbit for you all, our director of scouting, Joe Jordan decided to take a job with the Phillies. Our minor league system, drafting, and international scouting (which definitely needs work) will now be overseen by someone new, which could prove to be beneficial in the coming years. As for right now, once the GM is named, we can start the search for the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. Until then, just be patient and hope that we find the right fit in our search for the General Manager. Updates will be coming in as the search narrows and interviews are made so stay tuned!