The Orioles are going to have a couple of interesting decisions to make going into the offseason. I’m not for a second proclaiming the Birds out of the running for a postseason berth, but whether there is October baseball in Baltimore or not, the offseason will come about. The lineup seems pretty set for this team going into 2014. Aside from finding an everyday designated hitter (if that’s something the team wants to do), only two positions are really up in the air - left field and second base.
I’m here to pontificate about the latter.
The biggest question mark in my eyes going into the offseason will be what the O’s decide to do with Brian Roberts. The 35-year-old will see a four-year, $40-million contract expire and become a free agent. He will also be 36 by the time opening day 2014 rolls around.
Everyone knows the biggest question mark with Roberts is his health. He’s played in just about a season’s worth of games over the four-year span of that contract. That’s essentially three years of games lost due to injury in that time. At his age, you can’t expect anything near 162 games out of him, but can you expect something? I lean toward yes.
There’s also the looming question about Jonathan Schoop, who the team likely expects to be the everyday second baseman coming out of spring training. Whether or not he is ready is a totally different question. I don’t think the O’s know what they have in Schoop. He’s a guy that could get a look over the last few weeks of this season as a September call-up, which may or may not reveal something. I don’t think anyone is expecting him to come up and make a Manny Machado-like impact. Schoop is ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the system according to MLB.com, but is the best position player. The Orioles farm system is widely considered to be top-heavy, but I don’t think that lends a lot of knowledge as to what they exactly have with Schoop now or in the future.
This brings us back to the question about Roberts. Will the Orioles even sniff at offering him a one-year contract? Will Roberts bend and give the O’s a discounted rate after spending most of the last few seasons in the training room? Is this something that is of any interest to either or both parties involved? Roberts could return in a backup role to Schoop, or even a platoon-type role with someone like Ryan Flaherty, and it’s something that should be explored, especially if he keeps playing like he has.
I reminisce often about what B-Rob once was. I still own the MVP Baseball video game for my Playstation 2, where Roberts is one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the game. It really takes you back. He was your prototypical leadoff hitter that posted a great on-base percentage and stole bases. His 56 doubles in 2009 still stands as the club’s record. He’s never been a superstar player by any stretch, but he’d always been a solid player that was also a fan favorite. Perhaps it’s Roberts’ involvement in the community or his lovable personality that gives me the nerve to imply that the organization should bring him back for another year. I don’t even know if Roberts has interest in playing another season. The Orioles could give him his first taste of postseason baseball this October and he could decide to hang it up.
Roberts has shown flashes of what he once was this season. He still has the ability to work a count and get on base. There has even been the occasional stolen base from those legs over the past few months. I don’t think there’s any doubt he can contribute something to the 2014 Orioles, but the question is at what cost? Perhaps the organization will move on from Roberts. Perhaps he will move on from the game. Personally, I think he could win a job in spring training, even if it’s just as a backup infielder.
The Orioles will obviously have a lot of questions with the pitching staff going into next season, but improving the offense and the bench will be important as well. The team needs players to fill the DH spot, play left field and provide stability at second base. Whether Roberts can fill a role on the 2014 squad remains to be seen, but it will definitely provide a storyline during the offseason.
Andrew Stetka blogs about the Orioles for Eutaw Street Report. His thoughts on the O’s appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s continuing commitment to welcome guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.