What do the Orioles need? I’ll give you a hint — several hints, in fact.
1. Baltimore was last in the AL in FIP in 2009.
2. The O’s gave up more home runs per nine innings than any other AL team.
3. They struck out the fewest number of hitters per nine innings of any AL team.
4. They had the highest opponents’ batting average in the AL.
If you guessed the Orioles need better pitching, then you win the prize. Good pitchers are hard to find. But the O’s won’t have to look far.
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was the veteran in the Baltimore rotation, before the O’s traded for Kevin Millwood. Now they have two veteran pitchers! The other spots will be filled by three guys from the group of left-hander Brian Matusz and right-handers Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and Jason Berken. Righty Brad Bergesen, in the ’09 rotation until a July line drive ended his season with a deep shin bruise, will also get consideration. Add promising prospects in righty Jake Arrieta and lefty Zach Britton, and the spring competition will be fierce, forcing somebody back to the minors or to the major league bullpen.
Simply put, Baltimore has a buttload of good, young pitching.
What else does Baltimore need? A third baseman, but one of those is on the way, too, in the person of prospect Josh Bell. And the Orioles need bullpen help, and a new first baseman. But bullpen arms and first basemen are the easiest players to find. So Baltimore shouldn’t lose its head bidding on Mike Gonzalez or Carlos Delgado. And there’s no need to trade all that young pitching for Adrian Gonzalez, like Baltimore Sun columnist Kevin Cowherd thinks they should do. The O’s would be better off waiting until next offseason, when Carlos Pena and maybe Lance Berkman will be free agents.
The Orioles aren’t going to win the AL East this season, and they’re not going to win the wild card. There’s just too big a gap between them and the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays. But the O’s have enough young talent that they could make a legit run in 2011. In the meantime, let’s see what these kids can do.