Offseason In Review: Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles focused on adding depth to their pitching staff in their first offseason under Dan Duquette.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Yeizer Marrugo, Nick Johnson, Casey Fossum, Pat Neshek, Ronny Paulino, Oscar Villarreal, Armando Galarraga, Willie Eyre.

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

Stuck alongside three of the league’s dominant teams and another one on the rise, the Orioles sought new leadership this offseason when longtime executive Andy MacPhail stepped down. After an extensive and presumably frustrating GM search, the Orioles settled on a familiar name and hired Dan Duquette as executive VP of baseball operations. 

Though it had been a long while since Duquette worked in an MLB front office, the years he spent building the Expos and Red Sox appear to have intrigued owner Peter Angelos. The Orioles initially favored other candidates for the position, but ultimately hired Duquette, whose history of accumulating young talent no doubt appealed to ownership.

Duquette’s primary short-term goal appears to have been adding depth to the rotation, an area of serious concern for last year’s team. Baltimore finished last in MLB in rotation ERA (5.39), innings (881) and quality starts (60) last year so improving the starting corps was a must, even for a club not expected to contend.

The Orioles spent aggressively on the international market in an effort to revamp their pitching staff. Japanese left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada and Taiwanese left-hander Wei-Ying Chen join a new-look pitching staff that no longer features Jeremy Guthrie. Duquette sent the veteran right-hander to Colorado for reliever Matt Lindstrom and another rotation candidate, Jason Hammel. Lindstrom and Hammel offer long-term flexibility — both are under team control through 2013 — and will combine to earn roughly the same amount as Guthrie this year. The Orioles were not going to get an elite prospect for Guthrie, but the arms they obtained will prove useful and there's a chance Hammel will out-perform Guthrie this year.

Manager Buck Showalter faces lots of decisions this spring, as newcomers Wada, Chen, Hammel, Eveland and Galarraga compete alongside familiar faces such as Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Chris Tillman. At the very least, the Orioles will have options, a necessity for a club that has few pitchers with track records of health or success. Still, the group currently seems to consist of middle or back-of-the-rotation arms. Credit the Orioles for obtaining some much-needed depth, but some of their homegrown pitchers will have to develop for this team to take its next step toward contention.

The bullpen also struggled in 2011, though it’s hard to separate the group’s ugly stats from the fact that they pitched an MLB-leading 565 2/3 innings of relief in support of a weak rotation. Duquette also added a number of relievers in recent months, including Lindstrom, Darren O'Day, Luis Ayala, Pat Neshek and Armando Galarraga

The Orioles signed players from Japan, Taiwan and, in one potentially historic instance, New Zealand. But the club violated international etiquette by agreeing to terms with 17-year-old Korean Seong-Min Kim. MLB will void the deal, which created unnecessary tension between the Orioles, MLB, the Korea Baseball Organization and Korea Baseball Association. The Orioles apologized publicly after being banned from scouting KBO games.

The club non-tendered Luke Scott, an understandable move given his shoulder issues and the substantial contract he would have obtained via the arbitration process. The switch-hitting Wilson Betemit slots in as the club's new DH, where he'll provide some power for the next two seasons. I didn’t expect Betemit to obtain a two-year deal, but his $3.25MM guarantee was hardly excessive from the team's perspective.

Teams continued calling about Adam Jones, but Duquette’s asking price remained high and possible suitors such as the Braves and Nationals don’t appear to have come close to striking a deal. Jones, an extension candidate, is on track for free agency two seasons from now, so it’s time for the Orioles to determine whether he’s more valuable as a trade chip or a long-term fixture in center field. Matt Wieters isn’t yet eligible for arbitration, but it's worth exploring an extension with the Scott Boras client in case he’s open to a long-term deal.

Despite the additions to the pitching staff, the Orioles are likely headed for a 60-75 win season unless multiple young Major Leaguers make substantial strides. Elite prospects Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy will resume their progression through the minor leagues, and with continued development from Major Leaguers such as Wieters and Matusz more hope may exist in Baltimore a year from now. There's just not much to dream on yet.

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