How bout dem O’s, hon?
It’s a phrase that, up until recently, had all but disappeared from Baltimore’s vocabulary. Speak it now and a conversation begins filled with future possibilities.
The winter meetings are over, and Orioles fans are still coming down from the high of a long-awaited postseason appearance. Some fans are understandably disappointed at the lack of movement by the O’s at the meetings. GM Dan Duquette will likely continue to make small, calculated moves much like last year, focused on building a team for the future.
Fans clamoring for the likes of Adam Laroche should keep in mind we already have him; his name is Chris Davis. If you check their stats, you’ll see they were very close in most categories last season. With the loss of Mark Reynolds (not sure if that’s really a loss), Davis will fill the first base role and hopefully, since he’s only 26, put up Laroche-type numbers for years to come.
I’m not necessarily excited about the lack of action Duquette has showed so far this offseason, but at the same time, I feel he will never leave this team short. What I mean is, there will always be a serviceable position player ready to step in where needed. This philosophy doesn’t look flashy or deliver instant gratification, but it gives the opportunity for a team to compete.
Re-signing Nate McLouth is a perfect example of setting a team up for success. McLouth was an integral part of the O’s late-season success. The best Oriole bat in the playoffs was brought in to play left field when Nolan Reimold’s season ended with a bulging disc in his neck. Reimold is expected to be ready for spring training. He will likely platoon with McLouth in left field and could share DH duties as well. McLouth is capable of playing all three outfield positions, which could prove useful in a 162-game season. Reimold probably isn’t the five-tool guy once touted, but he could be a 20/20 guy capable of leading off if needed.
My biggest concern is second base. Brian Roberts is far from a sure-thing to come back next season. Duquette signed Alexi Casilla, but I don’t really see him as more than a back up. With all the talk of signing another bat, a player like Kelly Johnson seems like a better fit. He’s hit over 20 home runs twice and is still a free agent. Last season was a down year for Johnson, but maybe the change of scenery could bring back past success. Maybe Johnson could join Reimold as another possible 20/20 guy. I know that sounds overly optimistic, but no more optimistic than thinking Roberts is ready to play. Even if Roberts can play, who thinks he’s really going to be full time? Certainly not me. He could be great coming of the bench, filling in at DH and backing up some one like Johnson. That’s if Roberts can play at all — and that’s a big if for this organization, and not one to be taken lightly.
Hopefully, fans will be overly optimistic for next season. With a young pitching staff in place (only one starter over 30) and a core group of players for fans to cheer, maybe Duquette could make one or two more calculated moves to push us to the postseason again.