Policing the lineup

Happy New Year.

I'll try to type quietly this morning in case your head is pounding.

I'm perfectly fine, but it seems appropriate on this day to post a few hangover remedies, so feel free to share them with the rest of the class.

I know greasy McDonald's has been recommended in the past - as if there's any other kind of McDonald's. At least one person will suggest that you keep drinking, but I'm more inclined to suggest fast-food.

Like many of you - at least the conscious ones - I've been playing around with the 2011 lineup after yesterday's news that the Orioles reached agreement with first baseman Derrek Lee. I'm not taking into account whether the opposing pitcher is right-handed or a lefty.

My initial projection went like this:

2B Brian Roberts (S)
CF Adam Jones (R)
RF Nick Markakis (L)
3B Mark Reynolds (R)
DH Luke Scott (L)
1B Derrek Lee (R)
C Matt Wieters (S)
SS J.J. Hardy (R)
LF Felix Pie (L)

You could put Lee fourth and Reynolds sixth. You could put Nolan Reimold eighth when he starts and drop Hardy to ninth. I also agree that Jones strikes out a lot for a No. 2 hitter, and that Markakis might be better suited for the second slot. All valid points.

Lee is a lifetime .295 hitter when batting third, which he's done for most of his career. Interestingly, he's hit .279 when batting second, .279 when batting fourth, .276 when batting fifth and .278 when batting sixth. Pretty consistent.

Also, Lee has hit .367 in eight games as the designated hitter, with one double, eight RBIs and six walks.

Upon further review, I decided that the lineup should look something like this (again putting Reimold eighth and Hardy ninth vs. a lefty):

2B Brian Roberts (S)
RF Nick Markakis (L)
1B Derrek Lee (R)
3B Mark Reynolds (R)
DH Luke Scott (L)
CF Adam Jones (R)
C Matt Wieters (S)
SS J.J. Hardy (R)
LF Felix Pie (L)

You also could move Scott to fourth and Reynolds to fifth. And we'll keep our collective fingers crossed that Wieters busts out and forces manager Buck Showalter to elevate him closer to the middle of the lineup.

The Lee signing could seriously impact Jake Fox, who is fighting for a bench spot. I listed Scott as the first baseman, Reimold as the DH and Fox as a reserve when I submitted a mock 25-man roster to a national publication a few weeks ago, but I'm moving Reimold to the bench and Scott to DH after adding Lee. (Again, Pie goes to the bench when Reimold starts. I'm over-explaining it now. Sorry.)

Cesar Izturis will serve as an extra middle infielder, and Craig Tatum currently is the favorite to back up Wieters. That leaves one more spot, which could be filled by Brendan Harris or Robert Andino. Not much pop off that bench.

It's possible that Harris is sent down and Andino is outrighted, creating an opening that Fox or someone else could fill. Fox can play first and third, move to left field if needed and serve as a third catcher.

As for my feelings on signing Lee, I obviously would have preferred Victor Martinez, Adam Dunn or Paul Konerko. I had no problem giving Adam LaRoche two years. But it doesn't look like teams are lining up to give LaRoche three years and the money he's seeking. It's not like the Orioles are being stubborn on that front.

LaRoche will likely have to settle for a two-year deal, as I figured. And Baltimore wasn't exactly high on his list. Let him play somewhere else.

Once the bigger bats were off the market, it didn't really seem to matter much whether the Orioles signed Lee or LaRoche. I'm just glad they didn't dip any lower - and you've seen the list of remaining free agents.

Lee hit 19 homers and drove in 80 runs while playing with a torn ligament in his thumb. Who knows how much that impacted his swing and his production? He's a career .289 hitter vs. left-handers, who always give the Orioles fits. In limited action, he's hitting .346 vs. Toronto, .319 vs. Boston and .293 vs. the Yankees.

Lee won't hurt you at first base and he's regarded as a good clubhouse guy. Oh, and he's a career .298 hitter in September, so that'll help when the Orioles are trying to hold onto first place (just making sure you're still paying attention.)

Lee wasn't the Orioles' first choice and they weren't his. Take him for one season, hope that Brandon Snyder or Josh Bell has a monster year in Triple-A and still make a run at a premium first baseman next winter. Yes, see how much it would cost to bring Prince Fielder here. And try not to lose your breakfast.

Good advice on this day.

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