Challenges of an early lineup and the need for a left-handed bat

The Orioles still have lots of work to do as the holidays approach, which doesn’t qualify as breaking news. It’s more of an observation.

They found a starting catcher, signing Welington Castillo to a one-year deal with a player option for 2018. But they’re unsettled in right field and at designated hitter, positioned with fallback options, and continue to seek another reliever despite having an abundance of arms and an extra starter who could move to the bullpen.

The latest reminder, not that it was necessary, came this week when a national publication asked for a mock lineup and bench.

Rickard-Swings-White-Sidebar.jpgIf the season started today, I guess you’d have to put Joey Rickard in right field and let him lead off. It’s not a huge stretch, though the Orioles are expected to find someone else before breaking camp. Trey Mancini would be the designated hitter.

The bench would include backup catcher Caleb Joseph, assuming the Orioles don’t option him and keep Francisco Pena, infielder Ryan Flaherty and one of the Rule 5 outfielders. I’d go with Aneury Tavarez based on his experience and better defensive skills, which leaves out Anthony Santander.

The fourth spot is a tough call at this date. The Orioles won’t carry two Rule 5 picks, but there isn’t an obvious choice. The 40-man roster includes outfielders Dariel Alvarez, Christian Walker and minor league strikeout king Adam Walker. The Orioles signed outfielders Logan Schafer and Chris Dickerson to minor league deals.

Doing the mocks also illustrated the Orioles’ need for a left-handed bat. Forget that the Red Sox’s rotation could include four southpaws. The Orioles currently lean too far to the right.

Let’s play with the lineup as if the Orioles won’t make another move. Here’s one idea:

Joey Rickard RF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Adam Jones CF
Trey Mancini DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Welington Castillo C
J.J. Hardy SS

I’m able to alternate right-handed and left-handed bats for the top five spots. However, check out the last five hitters. Jones, Mancini, Schoop, Castillo and Hardy bat from the right side.

Matt Wieters won’t return, but the Orioles could re-sign Pedro Alvarez as a left-handed designated hitter. They want to bring back Mark Trumbo as the primary DH, but we’re talking about another right-handed bat. The right fielder really needs to hit from the left side.

Kim could move down in the order to supply a left-handed bat closer to the bottom, but there isn’t an ideal setup.

Good thing the season doesn’t start until April.

Which of the six starters falls to the bullpen - barring a trade, of course? I’d exclude Ubaldo Jimenez simply because Wade Miley gives the rotation a left-hander. I don’t have the benefit of a competition with a December deadline.

The current bullpen therefore would include Jimenez, Zach Britton, Darren O’Day, Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and Donnie Hart. The seventh spot could go to Logan Verrett, Logan Ondrusek, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, T.J. McFarland or Joe Gunkel, just to name a handful.

Executive vice president Dan Duquette will sign another reliever. I’ve written that David Hernandez could return to the organization and the door isn’t shut on Vance Worley. I haven’t heard anything about Tommy Hunter, but he’s always a possibility.

The Orioles have long coveted left-hander Boone Logan, but how much are they willing to spend? MLBTradeRumors.com predicted that the White Sox would sign Logan to a two-year, $12 million contract.

Could someone please start a Gavin Floyd rumor? I’m tired of having to do it.

I’m working under the assumption that the Orioles go with a five-man rotation, seven-man bullpen and four-man bench. I’m also expecting Rickard to settle into a reserve or platoon role if he makes the club out of spring training. But he’s the obvious choice for right field on Dec. 22.

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