2009 Baltimore Orioles Season Outlook
The Baltimore Orioles are entering year 2 of the rebuilding plan under general manager Andy MacPhail, and things seem to be looking up in Charm City.
The team made a number of smaller trades and signings in the offseason, but the big news was the extension of two home-grown players.
The team gave star outfielder Nick Markakis a six-year contract extension and then signed second baseman Brian Roberts to a four-year extension just days into spring training. It certainly is a good sign that the team is locking up its top players before they hit the free agent market.
The Orioles also traded for a couple of former top prospects in the Chicago Cubs organization in pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Felix Pie. Hill could fill a spot in the starting rotation while Pie is expected to be the everyday left fielder.
To try and become more versatile, the team signed Ty Wigginton and traded for Ryan Freel. Both players are likely to see extensive time all over the diamond to give some of the regulars occasional rest.
The Baltimore offense should be one of the most explosive in baseball after putting up a surprising number of runs last season. It should get only better once top catching prospect Matt Wieters is called up to the big leagues.
The big question for the Orioles is their starting rotation, which leaves a lot to be desired. Jeremy Guthrie is the ace of the staff and would be a quality starter for any top team, but things drop off in a hurry.
Koji Uehara was signed by the Orioles as their first player ever from Japan. Most teams viewed him as a middle reliever, but the O's expect him to be their No. 2 starter. Talk about a tall order.
From there, things get muddled in a hurry. Hill is supposed to be the No. 3 starter, but he will have to prove he can throw strikes in spring training. The final two spots are really up for grabs between a bunch of veteran journeymen and some of the organization's top pitching prospects.
The bullpen should be solid if not a major strength, but the concern that it will get worn out and be ineffective because of a suspect starting rotation is very real.
It's hard to measure progress for a rebuilding team in such a competitive division, but topping last year's win total would be considered a major success considering the uncertainty with regard to the rotation.