It looks like this season is going to be more of the same for the Orioles with a potential 100 loss season on the horizon. Things have gotten better in terms of our farm system and the young players we have on the roster but BIG changes need to be made for this team to compete; and I believe with just five smart moves this team could play meaningful games in September for the first time in well over a decade.
First of all I will say that I would make Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Zach Britton, Nick Markakis, and Josh Bell “untouchable”. I think they are all going to be major contributors in the future and players that we can resign and build a winning ballclub around.
I also believe Andy McPhail has done a better job then any G.M. this team has had in a long time and I do not think firing him would be a wise move.
So here are my five things that could make the Orioles winners quickly:
1. Move Nick Markakis into the 2-spot in the lineup and Matt Wieters to the three-hole.
Nick Markakis is a prototypical #2 hitter; he has an OBP over well over .400 and he takes a ton of walks. What he doesn’t have is a ton of power or a “go for broke” RBI mentality which makes him all wrong for the 3-hole and a perfect fit in the 2 spot.
Behind him I would plop Matt Wieters into the 3-spot in the lineup and allow him to grow into a major contributor in this lineup. Wieters has everything you could want in a #3 hitter, the big time power, the high OBP, and a calm demeanor that could make him the second best offensive catcher in baseball sooner then later.
2. Put players into a particular spot in the lineup and KEEP THEM THERE!
Each spot in a major league lineup requires different skills and players need to learn these skills for an offense to really take off. Moving these young players around every night is not going to help them learn the ins and outs of their role in a lineup that they need to learn as they develop.
In a five game span Adam Jones hit 1st, 2nd, and 5th in the lineup; Wieters hit 4th, 5th, and 6th; and Reimold hit 5th and 6th and only started 2 games. This constant shuffling of the lineup is really going along way in stunting the growth of this team and holding them back from become a cohesive, consistent offensive ballclub.
3. Put together a package to get Prince Fielder from Milwaukee.
I would call up Brewers G.M. Doug Melvin and offer him a package of Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and Caleb Joseph for Prince Fielder and see what he has to say.
Prince Fielder turns 26 in May and is one of the few elite power hitters in baseball. He has averaged 43.3 home runs, 120.6 RBI, and .968 OPS over the past three seasons….all of these numbers would have lead the Orioles by a mile. Prince would give the Orioles their first 40 home run threat since Albert Belle and he would make every player in the lineup better.
Fielder is also far more durable than people realize, he has only missed 7 games over the past three seasons. Prince also plays with a passion that I haven’t seen from any Oriole on the current roster, I would go as far to say he plays with a pissed off attitude that is the direct opposite to the mentality of every player on this current roster.
I understand that fans would be angry at first because Adam Jones is a fan favorite and dealing him would be a tough sell but I honestly think he is a strong candidate to begin giving it 80% on a regular basis because the losing is wearing on him. Jones has seemed to regress a little bit and while he may be a potential 20 home run, 80 RBI guy he will never be the middle of the order masher that Prince Fielder would. I think Felix Pie could fill in just fine for Jones in centerfield and would be more than a competent replacement to the Orioles current centerfielder.
*Another option would be to sign Carl Crawford this offseason to fill the left field spot if the Orioles aren’t 100% solid on Nolan Reimold but I think we have enough depth to let Jones go for a legitimate masher.
Losing Tillman would be even tougher for me than Jones because I think he has the makeup of a top of the rotation starter but he would be the necessary piece to put this trade over the top and get the deal done. Tillman may become a star in Milwaukee but we would be getting a known commodity for a futures prospect.
4. Sign Brandon Webb and/or Cliff Lee next offseason.
Let me begin by saying that I know this flies in the face of McPhail’s “Grow the pitching, buy the bats” philosophy but I feel like you make whatever moves you need to make to win…even if that means going against your philosophy as long as it makes sense.
The loss of Chris Tillman out of the 2011 rotation would be very damaging but I would take a flyer on either Brandon Webb or Cliff Lee, both players are coming off injuries and we will be able to get them much cheaper than if this was 2009.
Brandon Webb was an absolutely dominant sinkerballer before injuring his shoulder just four innings into the 2009 season. I believe Webb would be a perfect fit for Camden Yards because when healthy he throws arguably the best sinker in baseball and has one of the highest ground ball ratios in the league, a must in a stadium like Camden Yards.
I understand there will be a lot of hesitation on giving Webb a big contract considering he is coming off a major injury to his throwing shoulder but it is the type of risk the Orioles are going to need to take to become legitimate contender in the American League. I think the Orioles would be looking at a 4 year-$48 million dollar deal but considering what he would have cost before his shoulder injury that could be a major bargain.
If we could combine signing Brandon Webb with Cliff Lee we really could become contenders sooner than anybody thinks.
Cliff Lee is a quality left hander that was sent to Seattle in the three-way trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. Lee has an abdominal strain at the moment and is on the DL so he would be another injury risk.
Lee will turn 33 next August but he is the type of pitcher that could pitch late into his thirties and he could REALLY teach Brian Matusz a lot because he is a very similar left handed pitcher.
I believe a rotation of Brandon Webb, Brian Matusz, Cliff Lee, Jake Arrieta, and Zach Britton/David Hernandez/Brad Bergesen could actually compete in the AL East.
5. Bring in Don Mattingly as the manager.
Yes, Don Mattingly is an all-time Yankees great, and yes he has never had any major league managerial experience but he WILL be a very good big league skipper at some point in the next few years.
One thing is for sure, with Donnie Baseball managing this team the days of on the field mistakes and players going rogue on the basepaths will become a thing of the past. Don Mattingly is a man that will immediately have the respect of every player in the clubhouse and the type of no nonsense leader this team needs.
Mattingly has been groomed by Joe Torre for the last seven season and I am more than confident that he has taken a lot of the qualities that have made Joe Torre a great manager and will incorporate them into his own managerial style.
So there you have it, 5 simple steps to making this team competitive in the very near future. I understand that these steps will force Andy McPhail out of his comfort zone and the team to bump up the payroll by about $40 million a year but it would be more than worth it.
With the stadium empty, the loss column filling up at a rapid pace, and the fan-base dwindling it is time to make some moves and go “all in”.