I figured with everyone harping on the same few topics after a tough Ravens loss I would change things up a bit and talk some hardball today. I have been analyzing what I think the O’s should do with the corner infield positions for about a week now and I figured out what I think is the teams best options for the present and the future.
1. Let Michael Aubrey play first base for a full season.
Aubrey will be 28 at the start of the 2010 season; an age that is still fairly young by baseball standards. If he pans out the Orioles could get 4-5 very solid years out of Aubrey rather than signing an over the hill veteran to come in and take over first base for a year or two.
Last season Aubrey was adequate at the plate with a .826 OPS that included 4 homers, 14 RBI, and a .500 slugging percentage in just 90 plate appearances. If you stretch that out over a full season with 500 at bats Aubrey would have a very respectable 22 home runs and 78 RBI. In all honesty Aubrey will never be Albert Pujols at the dish but I could see him being a productive seven or eight hitter in a decent lineup.
For Aubrey his real value comes from his work with the leather. He is an above average defensive first baseman with plus range and picking ability. An outstanding defensive first baseman can save a team between two to three extra base runners a game; something that could be very helpful when trying to combat the offenses in the AL East.
I’m not saying Aubrey is the guaranteed long term solution at first but with the other options being Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra, or Jason Giambi, why wouldn’t you give the kid a shot in 2010.
If the Orioles are inclined to sign a first baseman during the off-season I would push for Russell Branyan. I could also deal with Hank Blalock or Adam LaRoche but I say wait a year and see if there are better options with either Brandon Snyder or via free agency.
Speaking of Brandon Snyder if Aubrey can at least be sufficient at the plate you could bring up Snyder at any point this year to be the full time DH; filling two holes and vastly improving our defense going forward.
2. The Orioles SHOULD sign a third baseman.
By all reports Josh Bell projects as a big time power hitting corner infielder but these reports also show he is a year or two away from the big leagues.
With that said the Orioles are going to need to sign a veteran third baseman to fill the void at third until the twenty-two year old Bell is ready.
One option that intrigues me is Mark DeRosa; DeRosa will be 35 at the start of the 2010 season but he is coming off a highly productive season in St. Louis. In 139 games DeRosa had a .752 OPS with 23 jacks and 78 runs scored and driven in. Unfortunately it is being reported that at least twelve teams are vying for DeRosa which would make it hard for a 99 loss organization to make this deal. The other issue is that DeRosa may be looking for a three or four year deal which would be out of the question with Bell waiting in the wings.
If DeRosa is not in the equation I think Pedro Feliz would be the perfect player to bridge the gap until Bell is ready to rock. Feliz like DeRosa would be 35 at the start of next season; but unlike DeRosa teams aren’t knocking down Feliz’ door to sign him. In 158 games last year in Philadelphia, Feliz had a .694 OPS with 12 homers and 82 RBI for the NL Champions. In addition to his on the field production Feliz could bring a winning attitude to a team that sorely needs it. While the Orioles have been fighting to avoid losing 100 games, Feliz has been the starting third baseman on a team that has been in the World Series in consecutive years.
The third thing that makes Feliz such an enticing option for Baltimore is the fact that he would more than likely sign a one or two year deal in the range of $5 million a year…not only a manageable contract but one that could be seen as a major value.
I have heard people clamoring for Adrian Beltre or Troy Glaus but not only are the Orioles going to have to give both players fairly large multi-year deals but neither player has proven he can stay on the field for any consistent period of time.
As for signing Chone Figgins, Oriole fans need to get real there is absolutely no shot that Figgins would come to Baltimore no matter how much money the organization throws his way. Teams with a much better chance of winning in the present and deeper pockets will be making it rain all around Figgins.
I have said it for the better part of a year now and I am sticking to my guns no matter how much I get beat up…The Orioles need to stick the plan and make smart decisions with this team. Going out and over paying for players whose contracts will be an albatross around our necks in two years when we could be serious players in the free agent market is not the right way to attack this situation. To compete with teams that have twice as much revenue to spend and therefore a much higher margin for error when it comes to missing on free agents, the Orioles need to build from within and then strike in free agency when the time is right.