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Baltimore Orioles Week in Review – The Pennant Race

September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

What a great week this has been.  And shockingly it’s not because the NFL is back tonight and Robert Griffin III leads the Redskins versus the Saints in just a few days.  It’s because it is September and the Orioles find themselves in a first place tie with the New York Yankees.

The O's have something to be excited about heading into stretch run.

As bad as the Yankees have struggled, the Orioles have been rolling including winning 2 of 3 in Yankee Stadium last weekend. So just as the Ravens and Redskins begin their seasons, not only are the Orioles, but also the Nationals are playing very meaningful games.  Something this area hasn’t seen since Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were like 4 years old.

Am I still surprised by the Orioles?  A little, but as I said in May and June, there is something about Buck Showalter and winning.  Buck takes teams and puts them in playoff contention quickly.  Once again, Thank You Bobby V for turning the O’s down.

It also helps when players step up in new spots.  Nick Markakis have thrived since being moved to the leadoff spot.  Most including myself thought it would be a short term situation, but it has worked, and worked well.  And for team which has made the right moves all season, the call-up of Manny Machado has changed the team’s worst problem, its defense.  That change also has woken up the Sheriff who has been on a power burst recently.  Mark Reynolds also has helped improved the team defense playing first instead of third.

It hasn’t hurt that both Miguel Gonzalez and Zach Britton have been lights out for the past month.  Britton looked to be heading down the troubled past roads of promising O’s pitching prospects, but quickly turned it around.  And the Gonzalez find should make Dan Duquette a solid contender for Executive of the Year.

Duquette and Andy MacPhail are deserving of a lot of credit for this roster.  From the late season trades in 2011 by MacPhail to the recent acquisition of Joe Saunders it seems like everyone has filled a role in turning this team around.

As for the finish versus the Yankees and the Rays, it is going to be a battle.  Even with the Yankees struggles, they are talented enough to battle to the end.  And with Evan Longoria back with Tampa it is going to be an exciting month.  Even though Buck says otherwise, could we still also see Dylan Bundy this month mowing down Arod and Texiera?  I wouldn’t count it out.

 

Manny Machado: Will He Live Up to the Hype?

August 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

The unexpected season of the Orioles has continued with the somewhat unexpected call-up of Manny Machado last week.  Every Orioles fan knew who Machado was before last Thursday's debut, but now his week-long accomplishments have made him already a Camden hero.  In a season that has seen both Mike Trout and Bryce Harper flourish as rookies, Machado was next in line to debut in the majors.

Is Manny the real deal?

Many expected it to be next spring but the Orioles brass made it happen now.  And so far it’s paid off as co-player of the week in the AL, and the Orioles have stayed in the front of the wild card race for another week.  In a season that has seen below average to poor play at third base, the newly 20 year-old Machado is just what Baltimore needed for the stretch drive.

The first question that has to be asked is was it too soon?  I think the Orioles revolving third baseman in 2012 led by Wilson Betemit help answer that question.  Although Betemit has had some big hits this season, inconsistency at the plate and mainly in the field made the Machado call up possible.  Once the O's couldn't add a veteran third baseman who could help before the trade deadline Duquette and Showalter had to see Machado as an option.  Now Manny is here and most likely for good.  And at only 20 the O's have plenty of time to figure out if third or shortstop is his long term position at the major league level.

And I think an accomplished manager like Buck Showalter has reached out to Cal Ripken to work with Machado now that he is in Baltimore.  And with Ripken and Machado's histories with Alex Rodriguez, I would expect Cal to be open to it.

We have seen in the past multiple potential phenoms debut in Baltimore.  Jeffrey Hammonds, Ben Macdonald, Manny Alexander and Juan Bell come to mind.  Well, maybe not the last two.  Hammonds and Macdonald produced short term but eventually never lived up to the hype that was there at their debuts.

Machado's physical ability looks to be in the Trout/Harper mold, from what he have seen with an opposite field homer and running the bases.   What happens from here hopefully doesn't go in line with some of the recent past top prospect pitchers like Adam Loewen, Hayden Penn and suddenly now Brian Matusz, and hopefully not Jake Arrieta.

Let's hope their failures in development were results of the last regime and now that we have had professionals running the organization, Machado and future prospects will begin to flourish at Camden Yards.

 

State of the O's at the 2/3 Mark

August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

When are the Orioles going to collapse and fall out of both the American League East and Wild card races?  It doesn't look to be soon after they won their third straight game on Monday versus Seattle at Camden Yards.  The O's gained one game on the Yankees after their loss to Justin Verlander and the Tigers and now are only 5 and a half games behind New York.  Unfortunately the win for Detroit kept them a half-game ahead of Baltimore in the wild card standings.  The wild card is bunched up for two spots between the LA Angels, Oakland, Detroit, Baltimore and Tampa.  So do we settle for the wild card race or can the Orioles make a run at the Yankees?

With this series versus Seattle and Kansas City next, hopefully the Orioles can gain a couple more games as the Yankees have to finish up in Detroit, head to Toronto and then have Texas.

Last month it looked like disaster was coming when Jason Hammel went down with an injury and Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta were summoned to Norfolk.  But Chris Tillman has stepped up and to a lesser extent so has Miguel Gonzalez and "Big Game" Tommy Hunter.  Tillman pitched strong again on Monday and now is 5-1 after a crazy game last week in New York when he got battered in the first inning and stayed strong to allow his team to come back.  Another big turning point in what has been a surprise, yet solid 2012 season.

With Hammel not expected back until September, Tillman will need to continue to be the #2 behind Wei-Yin Chen.  We always hear that Zach Britton has the makeup to be a star but it’s not showing since his call.  The Orioles coaching staff and pitching guru Rick Petersen will quickly need to figure out Britton's issues or he could be back with Arrieta and Matusz in AAA.

The most consistent part of the Orioles team continues to be the back end of the bullpen.  Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day continue to shut down opponents once they are given the lead.  And keep tie games tied as we have seen with the O's 11 straight extra inning wins.  As long as these guys are not worn out by seasons end, Buck has to feel confident in a playoff series with these three guys.

I still think Dan Duquette will make a move to add to this team as September 1 draws closer.  Question is who will be able to get through waivers and the Orioles can't control that.  And now with Jim Thome out awhile and the uncertainty of Jason Hammel, it would be smart to be active and claim anyone who can help.

Now at 109 games played I have the feeling this team is in it till the end.  At 50 I questioned the start, at 75 still wasn't sure but now were 2/3 the way and they continue to stay within a couple games of the wild card.

Could two of the other teams in contention go off and the Orioles get left behind?  Possible, but I can only see the Angels doing that with their additions.  The Tigers could, but then the White Sox should fall back to the pack.  Let's hope the O's put some pressure on the Yankees though!

Reaction to the Trade Deadline for the Orioles

August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

The Baltimore Orioles 40 man roster on August 1st will look the same as it did on July 31st.  The Orioles passed on making any trades before the end of the trade deadline yesterday.  The good news is the celebrated their non-moves by beating the Yankees again in New York.  Dan Duquette said during the Orioles broadcast that they were close to acquiring a starting pitcher and an infielder yesterday but the first trade fell through causing both to fall through.

Did the O's do the right thing?  It’s hard to tell without knowing who was involved after hearing only really the name Joe Blanton the past few days.

Being that it is now August 1st and the Orioles are still in the wild card is still a major shock to many fans.  Even when the team drops three in a row and looks to be fading back, they go on a run and get right back in the thick of things.  They continue to fool us on a weekly basis as they continue to contend in a tough American League.

So why didn't they make a move?  All we hear from Duquette is that they are in it to win this season.  And Buck Showalter is not a manager in training, he is used to winning and after last season you know he wants to be in a playoff race come September.  Are the Orioles just saying they want to win to fool us again, but when the opportunity comes to add they won't take on more salary?

I think that is the debate here.  Is it a case of the team's only tradable assets to get a major upgrade are just not available?  I agree that Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado should not be moved unless they got a younger perennial all-star in return who will be here for a while.  But then again, every time Duquette tries to make a move every GM in baseball must ask for them.  Problem is there seems to be a big drop off in prospects after Bundy and Machado.  And when you have that, you’re in a situation where you go from talking Ryan Dempster to talking Joe Blanton.

And I didn't want Blanton as an upgrade over what the Orioles have currently.  Tommy Hunter is better to me.  Fanspeak.com favorite Chase Headley would have been costly as well.  Would have been a great fit, but having him under control for 2 years caused the Padres to ask for more than what a rental would cost.

Fans have to be satisfied with the bat of Wilson Betemit, but the glove is less to be desired for sure.  A solid third baseman would do wonders down the stretch, but there didn't seem to be a lot out there yesterday.

I do wish the Orioles were able to upgrade their roster by yesterday, but I am also fine with the fact they didn't jump on a bad deal Syd Thrift style.  We still have till September 1st to acquire players which pass through waivers and I know Dan Duquette will be active on the phones.

I think the fan base though is still nervous that the organization still is not committed to winning at the top.  It may have to wait until December but a big player acquisition will go a long way to show them they want to be the Orioles of the past…the way past.

 

Huge Week for the Orioles

July 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

By John Manuel:

At this point in the major league baseball season fans in Baltimore have already switched their focus to Ravens training camp in the past few years, but not this time around.  The Orioles find themselves still very alive in the wild card race after a huge five game win streak.  Now the Orioles face the most important week in probably the past fifteen years.  Series against Tampa, Oakland and the New York Yankees and the upcoming trade deadline should show if the Orioles are contenders or pretenders.

Will the O's have more to celebrate after this week?

Tampa is struggling but the O's will have to face David Price unfortunately.  On the other hand, the A's are rolling after sweeping the Yankees.  As for the Yankees, going to New York at the deadline will be tough because by then the Yanks could have added a top starter to their rotation.

Just over a week ago it looked like the Orioles could have been done, especially with the Red Sox surging. But how it’s changed in a week.  A couple of huge wins in Minnesota and three in a row in Cleveland.  Strong starting pitching returned for the O's from newly call ups Chris Tillman and Zach Britton.  Problem is with the O's young starters we have seen this inconsistency before from guys like Matusz and Arrieta.

The team also got a huge lift from Ryan Flaherty this week.  With Brian Roberts and Robert Andino out, Flaherty has been the best option at second for the time being.  The O's biggest worries though have to be with their defense which has been an issue all season.  Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit are way below average fielders who have cost the team games especially recently.

It was also good to see Jim Thome hit a couple of bombs.  Just having the threat of a power hitter in the middle will be huge down the stretch especially with Matt Wieters still not taking his offensive game to the next level like many are waiting for.

As for the trade deadline, I have wavered the past few weeks on whether the Orioles will make a move and if they should make a move.   Dan Duquette continues to say that they are in this to battle for the playoffs.  Do I believe him?  Actually I do.  The O's have been looking to improve this team.  I would love to see them upgrade the pitching staff but the guys to target will be costly.

I would rather see them do something at third base.  Steve Shoup's favorite Chase Headley would be an upgrade over Betemit or Reynolds.  It just seems like pitchers are more available right now than position players.  The Yankees getting Ichiro doesn't scare me.  The Tigers trade with the Marlins does scare me, as everyone expects them to out duel the White Sox now, leaving Chicago in the crowded second wild card race.

Orioles fans hold on for the next seven days as we see where this organization stands.  It has been good run so far that everyone in Bmore should be happy with.  It’s crazy for me to think the last time I can remember the O's being potential buyers at this point they grabbed Bobby Bonilla for Alex Achoa and Damon Buford.  I was still in college living in Ocean City.  That was a long time ago.

 

Time for the Orioles to do a little selling:

July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

For much of the season it looked like the Orioles would be buyers, and while they are still in the race, their chances are fading fast and they need to be realistic about their future. The Orioles should look to trade from their strong bullpen in an effort to add pieces for the future, even if it costs them a little bit this season. It is a pretty weak bullpen market right now, despite the fact that a number of contending teams could use some help. The Orioles should look to take advantage of this seller's market and put some of their arms up for grabs.Relief pitching is always at a premium at the trade deadline and the Orioles could expect to nab a couple decent prospects/young players. Last year they traded Koji Uehara and netted Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter.

Now impending free agent Kevin Gregg is firmly on the market, but he's not going to net much of a prospect return. Instead I'd put two of the following pitchers on the market: Jim Johnson, Darren O'Day, and Matt Lindstrom. All three players are under team control thru 2013, giving them further added value in the trade market that is primarily filled with rental players.  While it seems steep to trade two of them, the bullpen would still be comprised of the remaining arm, plus Pedro Strop, Troy Patton, Luis Ayala. Not to mention guys like Jake Arrieta may be better off as relievers. Here's how the Orioles three pitchers stack-up:

Jim Johnson- Johnson has been an effective reliever now for a couple of years. He's the Orioles closer, and while he doesn't have the typical power arm for a closer, he should still be fairly attractive to teams looking for back of the bullpen help. He will be in his final year of arbitration next season and should expect a payment around $6 million next year. There appear to be few closers on the market, giving the Orioles an advantage. They should expect a pretty quality return and net 2-3 legitimate assets.

Matt Lindstrom- Lindstrom came over in the Jeremy Guthrie deal, and has a $4 million option for next season. Lindstrom has had a quality year for the Orioles despite missing some time earlier in the season. Lindstrom has been asked to close in the past, but he's better suited as a 7th or 8th inning guy. He should net a quality asset or two.

Darren O'Day- O'Day has rebuilt his career this year with the Orioles after a disastrous season last year in Texas. When he's on O'Day can be unhittable and has flashed that in the past as well. He's got the best strikeout to walk ratio on the team and could help any number of contenders. He has a poor GB rate, meaning he fits best in bigger ball parks. Like Johnson he's under arbitration control through next season, though his price should be under $3 million. O'Day doesn't have some of the closer potential as Johnson or Lindstrom, but he also will come cheaper financially. I would guess he brings back a similar return to Lindstrom on the market.

Now it is hard to say what the Orioles would go for in these trades, as they could target more MLB ready prospects, but lack an overall ceiling. Or they could take higer upside prospects that could help them more into the future. Given their current place in the standings, I'm guessing they choose the former path. It especially makes sense since it's a strategy that the Orioles used with the Uehara and Guthrie trades, that netted them Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Jason Hammel, and Lindstrom. While it is a risk to weaken the bullpen, the Orioles should be able to net a couple everyday guys or guys for the rotation for these pitchers.

What do you think: Will the Orioles attempt a bold move like trading their bullpen depth?

Point – Counterpoint: O's 2nd Half of Season

July 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

By John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

JOHN – POINT:

The Baltimore Orioles have been a major surprise this season.  Will they be able to stay in the playoff race during the second half of the season?  Chasing down the Yankees could be a long shot, but contending with the Rays, Sox, Tigers, Indians and others for the 2nd wild card isn't out of the question.  I feel the Rangers or Angels are a lock for one of them.

Do you feel this current Orioles roster can stay in it or is it time to be buyers during a season for the first time in years?  I am not sure the buying option is the way to go right now.

Do the Orioles have anything to be excited about the 2nd half of the season?

STEVE – COUNTERPOINT:

I hate to say it, but I feel the Orioles chances of remaining in the hunt are fading fast. But that doesn't mean they just give up. I think the Orioles need to get very creative when approaching the trade deadline and focus on players that fit two criteria.

One any deal can't significantly hurt the Orioles weakened farm system, and two any deal should impact the Orioles beyond this season. That way even if the Orioles don't make it they can reap some of the benefits down the road. Now it's going to be tough for the Orioles to make those kinds of deals and they might not get them fully over the hump, but it could be worth it if for no other reason than to bring people back to the Yard.

JOHN:

I completely agree and they should keep Bundy, Machado and even Schoop out of any trade talks.  Let's just see the next few weeks what happens with the return of Markakis and most likely Britton.  Tillman already gave them a great start while Matusz and Arrieta went to complete sh#t.  Plus, the Tigers I feel are the only team other than the Angels that can run away with the 2nd wildcard spot.

It would be nice to get a David Wright, Zach Greinke or Ryan Dempster but those guys aren't going for Matusz's, Arrieta's or Joe Mahoney's unlike some Baltimore radio show callers would hope.  It was going so good a month ago and 5 games over .500 O's fans should be thrilled. But we all should hold back from wishing for a devastating trade for a 2 month rental.

STEVE:

I agree about hanging on to Bundy and Machado at all costs, but I would move Schoop if it was for a guy who would be around longer than year. Another thing the Orioles might want to consider is perhaps trading from their strength (the bullpen) to help land an everyday bat or a starter.

Now this could either be a part of a three-way trade, or even straight up with another contender that has some depth. Making a deal with the Cardinals sending them a reliever and getting back a bat like Matt Carpenter could make a lot of sense. I think a better question is what is the bigger need area for the Orioles a position player or starting pitching?

JOHN:

The Nationals are showing you can never have enough solid starters but I still think the O's need a big time corner infielder first and foremost.  I think you can count on Chen and Hamill more than any two starters they had have at one time in the past few years.  And Britton and Bundy hopefully will be joining them.  Then you only need to hit on one of the Tillman, Arrieta or Matusz threesome.  But unless Machado is ready to contribute quickly, I don't see any options at 3rd or 1st now that Davis looks to be done at 1st.  Betemit, Reynolds, Tolleson or Flaherty are not long term answers.  Prince Fielder would have been nice.

It will interesting to see what happens with David Wright but the Mets solid run will probably keep him there for at least through 2013.  I know I am shooting way high here, but who are other guys who can help before July 31?

STEVE:

I tend to agree that offense is a bigger need for the Orioles. I know their starters have struggled outside of Chen and Hammel, but who knows maybe Tillman's figured it out, or Zach Britton could give them a boost in mid-August. The line-up though probably can't really hope for much, as even Markakis, who is back from injury, will likely struggle to produce power numbers.

The other issue about looking at position players vs. starting pitchers, is next year there seems to be a stronger starting pitching market in free agency than position players, and many of the top position players are center fielders meaning they won't fit here. If I'm the Orioles I'm looking for one or two position players who could boost the line-up at 3B, 1B (if Davis is a DH), or LF.

JOHN:

When you have blown for 15 years, what’s another few months?  Actually a second half monster fade will cripple the hope the O's fans got in the first half.  Luckily I don't see a 20-55 type finish and better attendance will allow Duquette and Showalter to be players in December.  It would be pretty cool to have some meaningful series with the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox down the stretch.

STEVE:

Yeah the Orioles can't afford a major collapse, but if this team finishes above .500 they should consider it about on par with a Wild Card berth. Hopefully they can get creative and find ways to benefit the team this year without risking too much of their future potential, as it would be amazing to still have the games in late September matter in the playoff race (and not just playing spoiler like last year).

 

 

 

The Orioles Could Look To a Familiar Face To Fix Their Pitching Woes:

June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Orioles remain well in contention for either the AL East division title or one of the two Wild Card spots, and need to seriously consider themselves buyers during this trading period. The problem remains of course that they can't afford to make a big splash in terms of the number/quality of prospects they trade away. This means Baltimore needs to remain creative in their pursuit of players. While adding a DH or 3B bat remains a priority for the Orioles, the struggles by their rotation (or at least 3/5's of it) these past few weeks has made starting pitching a priority. Unfortunately trying to acquire a guy like Matt Garza or Brandon McCarthy will likely cost the Orioles too much in prospects for it to make sense. This leaves guys like Ryan Dempster, Wandy Rodriguez, and Joe Saunders as some of the top targets. While those wouldn't be bad options, I think the Orioles could look to a former Oriole, Erik Bedard to provide them with a boost.

Now the initial reaction (outside of humor of bringing Bedard back, after trading him away led to the Orioles star Adam Jones) would probably question the likelihood of it happening, considering the Pirates are competing for their own playoff spot. . While it is true that the Pirates are competing and contending teams don't usually trade away one of their starting pitchers, but this could be an exception. Pittsburgh could very well contend for a playoff spot in the weakened NL Central, but their eye has to very much be on the future. They have a number of major league ready arms in the upper minors, not to mention a couple uber-prospects who could be ready within the next year. So not only is Erik Bedard, not likely in their longterm plans, but they should be more than capable of replacing him this year. The Pirates have the pitching to go to the playoffs with or without Bedard, but they simply don't have the hitting. For Pittsburgh they could look at Bedard as a moderate trade chip, and focus on getting a return of someone who can help offensively this year, while adding a decent prospect or two.

Who to offer:

1B/3B Mark Reynolds- Reynolds bad has starting coming alive these last few weeks, but the Orioles should be willing to part with him if he can help them land a starting pitcher. With the return of Brian Roberts and the hopeful returns of Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold some time next month, the Orioles offense can handle the loss of Reynolds' production. Reynolds can take over 1B duties most days for the Pirates, and either he or Casey McGhee (who will play some first as well) can play 3B, when the Pirates want to sit Pedro Alvarez against tough lefties. Baltimore can also throw in his 500K buyout for next season, making it less of a financial burden. And if money is a sticking point they could offer to split the difference in remaining contracts with Pittsburgh.

Ryan Berry RP (High-A)- Berry isn't a spectacular pitching prospect, but he's a solid middle relief/late inning guy. He gives Pittsburgh some potential future value for Bedard after Reynolds leaves.

Ronnie Welty OF (Double-A)- Welty isn't considered a major prospect, but he's got a chance to be a cheap bench bat in a year or two. He's more or less a throw in here.

Is it enough?:

Well the Pirates would get a high risk/high reward bat for basically free the rest of the season for free, even if Reynolds doesn't see a major jump in his numbers, his bat will be an upgrade for Pittsburgh. In addition, they get a decent bullpen prospect, who could be in the mix for them in a year, and a throw-in young OF. It's not a lot, but it is better than nothing, which is the return they'd get if they don't move him.

For the Orioles it is a creative way to acquire a starting pitcher that doesn't either cost the team major prospects or a major financial commitment. While Reynolds bad will be missed some, adding a new starter takes precedence. Reynolds was gone after this year anyways, so its not as if it's a major loss. And just like for the Pirates, how they need to improve their offense to contend deep into the season, the  Orioles need to improve their rotation.

Bigger Return: Brian Roberts or Michael Morse?

June 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

By John Manuel:

Both local teams in the past two weeks received major additions back to their lineups. Baltimore saw the return of second baseman Brian Roberts after missing over a full season with concussion issues. While the Nationals finally got their best hitter in 2011 back in Michael Morse. Both teams have to be thrilled to add these guys back into the everyday mix. While everyone knew Morse would play in 2012 at some point, Roberts was a huge mystery since he barely participated in spring training. But now both are back in full time roles and can only help battle for division leads. Who will be more valuable to their team? We can only debate and see how things play out.

First you have Brian Roberts. A mainstay of the Baltimore Orioles organization for over 10 years. Roberts popularity through the years has grown as much losing seasons have. And to be inactive for the Orioles best run of his career had to be killing him. Although I doubt motivating Roberts is an issue, he has to be more focused than ever to help the Orioles challenge for a playoff spot. Since Nolan Reimold went to the DL the Orioles leadoff spot has been near the bottom of the league. I am a fan of Robert Andino but more as a fill in/utility guy than as a leadoff everyday second baseman. Roberts changes the whole top of the lineup adding a consistent ability to get on base, steal, and his history of hitting doubles. If the Orioles can stay in the race it will need to improve its starting pitching. Problem is the only foreseeable addition out there is Zach Britton unless a major trade is made which seems unlikely. Jaime Moyer may come up at some point as a fill in but no one expects him to carry this staff at 49. So with a strong bullpen already the O's know they will need to score runs and play better defensively. Both of these Roberts will add and hopefully keep the Orioles hanging in there with the Yankees.

And now for Michael Morse. Before the season I felt Morse was in pretty good shape to be an all-star and an outside MVP candidate. But then he got hurt and a few weeks on the DL turned into a couple months. But now he is back and even though he has been quiet in his first 40+ at bats I expect him to soon heat up. It would be nice for him to put a hurting on the Yankees this weekend depending on if Davey Johnson chooses to get Morse onto the field. With the Nats current ridiculous starting staff and strong bullpen Morse can ease into the lineup as the team expects to stay in contention for awhile. But as August and September come the Nationals lineup should be a force with Morse, Harper and Werth in the outfield. Maybe the defense suffers some but the lineup will become more even with the pitching staff depending on what the final verdict is on the Strasburg shut down.

So which player is the bigger return? I think it depends on what your expectations of each team is. Brian Roberts addition I believe helps keep the Orioles at least in the division and wild card race for the summer. His play on the field is an upgrade and his desire to finally be on a winning team has to work well with his teammates. Plus, I know a top notch manager like Buck Showalter will know the best ways to get Roberts back to his 2010 and before form. As for Morse, I think most National fans have seen enough this season to be believers that they are legit contenders. A deep staff, solid bullpen that can improve, and a much improving lineup should have fans thinking playoffs at the least. The addition of Morse I believe makes them world series contenders if they keep Strasburg pitching. If they don't, well…that will be worth another blog down the road.

3 Guys The Orioles Need To Extend: (Non-Matt Wieters category)

June 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Check Out Fanspeak’s Orioles Blog For Additional Coverage

As the Orioles get deeper into the season, the Orioles need to start thinking longterm about the shape of their roster, and what players they might want to invest in. Now I wouldn't expect long term deals to get done with any of the following players during the season, but the Orioles could begin to lay the groundwork to lock-up these players once the season is over. Now Matt Wieters would be the obvious top choice and hopefully the team can and will get a deal done, the purpose of this is to look at some less obvious choices.

SP Jason Hammel: Contract Status: $4.75 million in 2012, Arbitration eligible (4th year) in 2013, FA 2014

-Jason Hammel has been arguably the Orioles best pitcher this year, and an absolute steal since coming over from Colorado in the Jeremy Guthrie trade. He's been roughed up a bit more over his last few starts, but he's still been effective and kept the Orioles in games. Through 12 starts he has a 3.22 ERA (3.57FIP), 1.27 WHIP, 8.55 k/9, 3.34 BB/9, and a 53.2% GB rate. While the walks are a little high, he's got a nice strikeout rate and ground ball percentage. He's also been really effective in 5 starts at home allowing just a .559 OPS (vs .756 on the road), which is very promising.

Hammel has one year left of team control, which could see his salary rise to about the $8 million range. Now the Orioles shouldn't delude themselves to believe that Hammel can be a top of rotation guy, but he could be a pretty solid number 4 pitcher going forward. With few advanced pitching prospects (beyond Dylan Bundy), the Orioles should look to see if they can buyout at least one of Hammel's free agent years. This will allow the team to contend without rushing their prospects or overpaying for pitching on the free agent market. I'd offer Hammel a 2 year $16 million deal, with an option for a third year (and a small buyout.

RP Jim Johnson: Contract status- $2.62 million in 2012, Arb. eligible (3rd year) 2013, FA in 2014

-Johnson is not your traditional closer as he's not really a power arm, who will overmatch hitters and rack up the K's. Nonetheless he's been highly effective at the back of the Orioles bullpen, and they can't afford to lose him even if he isn't closing games. Johnson currently has a 1.26 ERA (3.96FIP), 0.70 WHIP, .157 average against, and a 66.7% GB rate. While the FIP is a bit higher than you'd like (which is expected with a non-strikeout pitcher), his ground ball percentage is very impressive. He may not fit best as a closer, but he can be a devastating weapon in a bullpen.

Now the big issue with him is that saves are so overpriced both in arbitration and the open market. If he ends up saving around 40 games this year, its fair to assume his salary will double in his final arbitration year, and the free market the following year will raise it even higher. While it is obviously possible a team will overpay for him as a closer, the Orioles may be able to sell him that he'll be valued on the market as more of a top set-up guy. If that is the case they could keep his price relatively affordable. I'd try to lock him up for at least two free agent years with an option to pick up a third. I think something in the neighborhood of 3 years $16 million would work.

1B Chris Davis: Contract Status- $488K in 2012, Arb. eligible (1st time) 2013, FA 2016

-Now the Orioles aren't in any rush with this one, but locking up Davis is something they should consider. He's having a breakout year for the Orioles with a .308/.350/.542 line. He's essentially hitting righties and lefties even, and while Camden yards has boosted his power numbers he's still getting hits on the road. He doesn't project as a first or even second tier 1B (though he'd be a 2nd tier DH), but he could be the top of the 3rd tier. While that doesn't sound all that great, let's be honest all the top first basemen are already locked up. The Orioles only options are going to be fellow 3rd tier type of guys, who they'd have to pay far more for. Now Davis isn't without risk as he still has a walk rate under 5% and a BABIP of .366. On the positive side Davis has always had a fairly high BABIP, so that number shouldn't be as big of a concern as it would be for other guys.

Obviously with three years to free agency, Davis isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but the Orioles should try to lock him up for cost certainty and to hopefully buy out some free agent years at a reduced rate. Given the fact that Davis really only has one good year (and right now just 40% of a good year) to go on, both his Arb. numbers and any free agent years you buy will be reduced. Davis may relish the idea of having a guaranteed deal, and forgo the potential to earn more money through the arbitration process.

 

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