If you asked me two weeks ago if Brian Roberts should be traded I would have said yes without hesitation. Now, I am not so sure. I can see why Andy MacPhail would do it and if he does I am sure the Orioles will get a group of quality players in return. However, Roberts would continue to be an important piece in the rebuilding phase if he hung around. Roberts is still one of the best leadoff hitters and a very good defensive player. The Orioles can probably find a good defensive second baseman without too much trouble, but I think people underestimate how important a good leadoff hitter is to a team. I think Roberts’ ability to work deep into the count and make pitchers work is his biggest asset. It takes pressure off the other hitters in the lineup and puts the pressure on the pitchers. The pitchers have to worry about Roberts stealing a base or making sure they don’t put another runner on base. The hitters now see better pitches because of this. I hope Roberts does want to stick around because for once, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The best part of Spring Training and the most fun is discussing the projected roster for the team. With pitchers and catchers reporting later this week, I have begun thinking what the lineup for the Orioles could be. The Orioles can make three trades tomorrow and screw everything up, but right now this is how I see the starting lineup being:
1. Brian Roberts-2B
2. Melvin Mora-3B
3. Nick Markakis-RF
4. Aubrey Huff/Kevin Millar-1B/DH
5. Aubrey Huff/Kevin Millar-1B/DH
6. Ramon Hernandez-C
7. Luke Scott-LF
8. Adam Jones-CF
9. Luis Hernandez-SS
Personally, I would get rid of Huff and eat his contract. He will probably put up better numbers than Millar, but since he is an idiot and it will be hard for anyone to root for him, it is best if he goes. If the Orioles do that it will open up the chance for Scott Moore to get more playing time. He is one of the players I am intrigued by and would like to see get as many at-bats as possible. It looks like Mora is going to be hanging around for the time being (which I do not agree with) so Moore won’t be getting playing time at third base. It makes sense to dump Huff, cut your losses and then move Millar to DH and have Moore play first base and see what he can do. He has proven in the minors he can hit 20+ homeruns and since the Orioles are “rebuilding” let him play. In a perfect world, next off-season the O’s speed the rebuilding process up by signing their first legitimate cleanup hitter in years and first baseman for years to come in the guy that plays for the Braves right now and spent his high school years playing for Mount Saint Joseph. I can dream, right? The O’s have young hitters right now in the minors which are encouraging signs, but the one glaring hole is at SS. They have no one who can be looked at as the guy of the future. Hernandez is fine for the time being, but he is not the long term solution and that will continue to be a problem for this team.
The pitching staff is way up in the air and that makes it hard to even project who is going to be on the team and in what role. There are 6 guarantees to make the team: Three starting pitchers (Guthrie, Loewen, Cabrera), and three relief pitchers (Walker, Bradford, and newly acquired George Sherrill). With Steve Trachsel signing a minor league deal yesterday; it would be hard not to envision him in the rotation. He will either be the third starter or the fourth. The fifth spot would be up for grabs in a competition most likely between Troy Patton, who was acquired in the Tejada trade, and the two homegrown talents in Garrett Olson and Hayden Penn. Even though Radhames Liz sniffed the big leagues last season, he is destined to start the year in AAA. The guys who do not earn that spot in the rotation will either be joining Liz in Norfolk or used as a relief pitcher.
Some of the other bullpen options include: Brian Burress (6-8, 5.95 ERA last season), and Matt Albers who was acquired in the Tejada trade. Albers is 25 years old and last year in 31 games he posted a 5.86 ERA and 4-11 record. The third pitcher in that Tejada deal, Dennis Sarfate, is out of options so he has to make the team or be put on waivers. The Orioles selected Randor Bierd in the Rule 5 Draft, which means he will have to stay on the team the whole season or be offered back to the Detroit Tigers, the team the Orioles drafted him from.
What are your thoughts? That is what makes this stuff fun. Who did I miss? What would you like to see done? I don’t like to make win-loss predictions because I am never right, but this team should be more fun to watch. They finally have direction and hopefully that gives us fans, hope. Who knows, maybe Huff trips and tears his ACL walking back to his hotel room after a night of drinking and is out for the season. I can dream, right?