An established left fielder would be nice. Someone who can get on base. Someone who can steal a base. Someone who can clear the bases on occasion, though the Orioles didn’t lack for power this year.
That hole at second base needs to be filled.
A left-handed designated hitter is on executive vice president Dan Duquette’s shopping list.
However, the Orioles’ top priority should remain a top-of-the-rotation starter to pair with Chris Tillman. Then, let the rest of the candidates fight it out in spring training.
Pitching wins championships. Pretty sure I read that somewhere.
The Orioles can hit the ball a long way and they can field it. They need to throw it consistently for strikes and get deep into games before calling upon a bullpen that wasn’t as good in 2013.
About that bullpen, which posted a 3.52 ERA this year, compared to 3.00 in 2012 ...
Until we’re told otherwise, Jim Johnson returns as the closer in his final season before reaching free agency. If he hits the open market, he most definitely could be wearing a different uniform in 2015.
Maybe another team would give him the chance to be a starter. Or just be more willing to sink a lot of money into a closer.
Darren O’Day will be back in a setup role and presumably healthy after experiencing numbness and tingling in the fingers of his right hand in September. Left-handers batted .205 against him in 2012 and .309 in 2013. The Orioles need the 2012 version.
O’Day will make $3.2 million next season, and the Orioles hold a $4.25 million option for 2015. Not that he needs the extra incentive to pitch well, but it’s there anyway.
Tommy Hunter also figures to work in a set-up role again, though he wants to compete for a starting job in spring training. He posted a 2.81 ERA in 68 games this season. He’s a terrific late-inning power arm and a nice change of pace from O’Day and lefty specialist Brian Matusz.
Right-handers batted .141 against Hunter, but left-handers hit .294. That’s one area that needs improvement.
Matusz also prefers to start, and as I’ve written, the Orioles could go in a few directions with him. It’s not inconceivable that they package him in a trade, since his salary could approach $3 million. Or they could just keep him in his current role and let him dominate David Ortiz.
Left-handers batted .168 against Matusz this season, compared to .302 by right-handers. In Matusz’s career, lefties bat .208 and right-handers bat .305.
New pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti will try to figure out why there’s such a discrepancy. Matusz will welcome those fresh eyes - assuming he’s still with the team, of course.
Southpaw Troy Patton had reverse splits, with left-handers batting .289 and right-handers .254. His overall ERA was 2.43 in 54 games in 2012 and 3.70 in 56 games this season.
Patton also is a trade candidate who otherwise could benefit from those fresh eyes.
I’ll suggest again that Josh Stinson, who’s out of options, could break camp as a long reliever and swingman. He allowed one earned run and three hits in nine September innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts. Overall, left-handers were 2-for-22 against him, and right-handers batted .216.
That’s six relievers, by my math, leaving room for one more.
The Orioles could slide a failed starter into that spot. They could choose between Edgmer Escalona and left-handers Kelvin De La Cruz and Chris Jones. They could sign someone else. It’s anybody’s guess in November.
Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” from 11 a.m.-noon on MASN. I’m expecting a resolution to last weekend’s heated debate over whether teams insure every contract.