Additions: Koji Uehara, Ty Wigginton, Rich Hill, Felix Pie, Cesar Izturis, Gregg Zaun, Ryan Freel, Adam Eaton, John Parrish, Mark Hendrickson, David Pauley, Brad Hennessey, Robby Hammock, Chad Moeller, Chris Gomez, Donnie Murphy, Jolbert Cabrera, Lou Palmisano
Subtractions: Kevin Millar, Ramon Hernandez, Daniel Cabrera, Adam Loewen, Jay Payton, Juan Castro, Alex Cintron, Freddie Bynum, Brandon Fahey, Garrett Olson, Brian Burres, Lance Cormier, Chad Bradford (midseason), Steve Trachsel (midseason), Randor Bierd
In September, I said that I didn’t see the need for the Orioles to throw away $5MM+ on a veteran innings eater despite their rotation uncertainty. They did just that on Uehara (assuming he can indeed eat innings). I don’t mind the signing though – the dollars weren’t huge and the team entered the Japanese market. And maybe there’s something to be said for adding a little stability behind Jeremy Guthrie.
The Orioles’ rotation, dead last in the AL in ERA last year, almost can’t help but be better after subtracting the 6.00+ ERAs of Burres, Olson, and others. What can we say about Uehara, Hill, Eaton, Hendrickson, Parrish, Pauley, and Hennessey? They’re different, at least, and aside from Uehara they cost next to nothing. Even if one works out it’s a win. In a perfect world the Orioles will have Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta in the 2010 rotation, so most of this winter’s imports are placeholders. Wigginton, Zaun, and Izturis also fit the placeholder mold; they weren’t terribly expensive.
Over $30MM will come off the books for the O’s after the ’09 season, so Andy MacPhail can make a surgical free agent strike if the team is ready to contend. Matt Wieters may be an offensive force in the bigs by then, and you have to love Baltimore’s outfield. MacPhail’s biggest needs will be the positions easiest to fill – the infield corners and the DH spot.
MacPhail’s Nick Markakis extension should be commended; such deals are usually favorable to the team. Aspects of the Brian Roberts extension can be questioned, but it’ll hardly cripple the team.
Bottom line: 2009 is a year of transition for the Orioles, a team that is getting younger, better, and cheaper. MacPhail’s offseason additions didn’t set the club back and a few could turn into long-term pieces.