Executive vice president Dan Duquette, who wasn't officially hired until last Nov. 8, is not only in place as club's decision-maker, but he seems to be established as a man with a plan.
Instead of trying to fill holes after another disaster of a season, Duquette and company are charged this offseason with continuing the momentum from a surprising and inspiring 2012, in which the Orioles made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
"We have a lot more depth for our team now, but we have more work to do to accomplish our goals," Duquette said. "Every year is tough. Every year is a challenge."
And, for the first time in years, Baltimore looks to be an attractive destination for potential free agents: a playoff club with a young, talented nucleus, a seemingly re-energized fan base and a home park that remains one of baseball's best.
Yet, Duquette — and Andy MacPhail before him — got to this point by not buying big-time free agents, but instead through trades and sensible, under-the radar purchases as well as doling out contract extensions to their own keepers.
Duquette has gone on record as saying his plan to target undervalued assets and build through the farm system is not wavering, an indication that the Orioles' current holes on offense and the pitching staff will not be filled by available superstars such as
"We're going to continue to build our team; free agency is just one of the ways to do it," Duquette said. "We'll continue to look at all of the different markets and the different ways to add to our ballclub."
Duquette has shown in the past year, however, that he is not exactly predictable. He's also not one to share his blueprints with the media, so speculation will run rampant again this offseason and the Orioles likely won't make many — if any — acquisitions that will grab national headlines. But it's likely they'll be busy tweaking the 40-man roster, attempting to find the next
Here's a look at the Orioles' needs and how they could be filled in the following months.
The left side is set. Manny Machado will return as the incumbent at third base, despite his status as shortstop of the future.
Second base was the most obvious spot for an upgrade and, right now, it's also the most crowded position.
Brian Roberts hopes to return from hip surgery, but turned 35 in October and has played just 115 games in the past three years. He can't be counted on as a starter at this point. Given the muddled second base situation, the Orioles claimed 28-year-old infielder
Duquette said the speedy Casilla, who batted .241 with 21 steals in 22 attempts last season for the Twins, "should be able to be in that (second base) mix" in 2013. With the Casilla acquisition, Duquette said Friday he didn't expect to actively pursue a second baseman in free agency.
The free agent class at second base is exceptionally weak. The most intriguing player is 32-year-old
The Orioles' biggest infield dilemma is at first base, where
First base is also weak for free agents.
Other free agent first basemen include
Assuming right fielder
Nolan Reimold started the season there and excelled for a month until he was lost for the season with a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery. The club hopes to have him back by spring training.
McLouth ended the season in left and provided great defense and a steady presence atop the lineup. He's a free agent and, though the Orioles would like to re-sign him, he wants to play full-time and that opportunity may not be available if Reimold returns. So he could seek a less complicated route to playing time.
Outfield is the strongest position on the market, featuring such solid players as
Hamilton, a perennial MVP candidate, is also an unrestricted free agent, but his expected price tag, his checkered past and the fact the Orioles would lose a first-round pick if they signed him make Hamilton a pretty big risk — and therefore a huge long shot.
If the Orioles do make any splash offensively, it likely would be at left field. And, in that sense,
The Orioles are set at starting catcher with 26-year-old
The only way they upgrade at catcher on the major league market is if they could convince an established catcher to play first base, DH and spell Wieters on occasion behind the plate.
Mike Napoli and
Jim Thome was the club's primary designated hitter at the end of the season. The 42-year-old likely Hall of Famer was a great clubhouse presence, but the likelihood of him returning depends on whether he wants to play again and whether the Orioles want to clog the DH with one player — something manager
Numbers-wise, the Orioles are set here with plenty of rotation options, including
But both Duquette and Showalter subscribe to the theory that a team never has enough starting pitching. The club likely will kick tires on myriad starters — there's a fairly deep list that includes
But if the starting market is inflated as usual, the Orioles and Duquette — who don't like to offer contracts of more than three years to pitchers — may pass and look to secure below-the-radar starters on one-year deals.
There's only one ace available this offseason: Greinke, who won a
This was the Orioles' strength, and they will probably build on it with smaller acquisitions, with most probably coming on short or minor-league deals. Duquette believes in gathering depth, and there will be quality relievers — like