Inbox: What is the goal for the O's in 2010?
Beat reporter Spencer Fordin answers fans' questions
Even with a pretty bad year as far as wins and losses goes, the Orioles did show some promise particularly with the young kids. What's a realistic goal for the 2010 Orioles?
-- Andrew C., Miamisburg, Ohio
At this point, there's really only one goal, and that's to have Baltimore's first winning record since 1997. That may or may not happen in 2010, but Andy MacPhail, the team's president of baseball operations, has said that the team will have to be judged on wins and losses, a departure from the previous rebuilding plan.
Even so, some perspective is required. Baltimore hasn't won more than 75 games since 2004, and it's done so only once since 2000. And even with that recent track record, the Orioles are coming off the second-highest loss total in franchise history, a fact that leaves plenty of room for improvement along the way to contention.
Baltimore can take heart in having one of the league's youngest rosters, a group that could grow together and form the nucleus of the winning Orioles team. But it will have to supplement that core with some important pieces this winter, and it's hard to really circle a win total until you see who Baltimore will add via trades and free agency.
At any rate, one thing is certain, and that's that the Orioles can gain a large measure of improvement simply by playing competitively against their division rivals. Baltimore went just 24-48 against American League East teams last season, a record that includes a 2-16 mark against Boston and a 5-13 slate against the Yankees.
Andy MacPhail has said he likes the outfield makeup, but with two right-handed power bats on the market, will the Orioles try to sign Matt Holliday or Jason Bay? A move like that could move Nolan Reimold to DH where he'd stay healthier and also free up Luke Scott for a trade.
-- Jon F., Augusta, Maine
The Orioles have said on multiple occasions that they hope to add a right-handed bat or two this winter, but it's highly doubtful that those bats will play in the outfield. Baltimore has a far greater need in the infield and feels that Felix Pie and Reimold can split time at both left field and DH, giving the team strength in numbers.
Baltimore has seen Adam Jones and Nick Markakis blossom over the last few years, and Pie showed in the second half that he can be a dynamic power-speed threat. Reimold also had an impressive showing during his rookie season and should be fine for Spring Training following surgery to repair a tear in his left Achilles tendon.
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Scott, meanwhile, suffered through an up-and-down season that saw him settle near his career norms in batting average, on-base and slugging percentages. The Orioles can bring him back to serve as an inexpensive slugging force at designated hitter, or they could package him in a trade to help in another area.
Baltimore needs an experienced starting pitcher to help Jeremy Guthrie and the team's flotilla of young arms, and the team could also use help at either first or third base. The Orioles may also look to upgrade on Cesar Izturis at shortstop, but the vacancies at first and third appear to be of far greater urgency.
After Melvin Mora's departure at the end of the season, who is being considered for third base next season? Also, what are your thoughts on Ty Wigginton?
-- Brittany C., Cockeysville, Md.
Mora's departure isn't official yet, but it's heavily assumed that the Orioles will decline their club option for the veteran's services. And if/when they do, they'll be in the market for a new third baseman for the first time since 2004. Mora played in more games at third than any Orioles player except Brooks Robinson, underlining the end of an era.
Now that he's gone, things might get interesting. Wigginton appears to be the only in-house option, but the Orioles could attempt to convert second baseman Justin Turner. Baltimore also has prospect Josh Bell, who was acquired from the Dodgers for George Sherrill and will likely need a half-season of development at Triple-A Norfolk.
The situation is similar at first base, where Wigginton and Michael Aubrey seem to be the team's best holdovers. Prospect Brandon Snyder struggled in his first taste of Triple-A and may need some more time before he's ready, which could lead to Baltimore signing or trading for a veteran upgrade at both infield corners.
Mora had two All-Star seasons for the Orioles at third base, but they haven't had a difference-maker at first in several seasons. Jeff Conine and Will Clark provided some solid years at the beginning of the decade, but Baltimore hasn't had a first baseman hit more than 25 home runs since Rafael Palmeiro blasted 43 back in 1998.
What's wrong with Chris Ray? His arm angle is different than it used to be, and there's no deception in his delivery as there used to be. Is he still recovering from his arm surgery?
-- Rusty W., Waynesville, N.C.
Ray could be forgiven if he asked for a mulligan year, and the Orioles are prepared to offer him one and hope that an offseason away from the game helps cement his recovery. Ray struggled with his mechanics in his first season after ligament replacement surgery on his pitching elbow and never really got comfortable on the mound.
The right-hander took a trip to the disabled list with a tired shoulder at one point and endured a demotion to the Minor Leagues at another, but he stayed positive all the way through his trying season. Ray, a former third-round draftee, feels that he can improve himself just by staying home and getting a full winter's worth of workouts.
Ray never really had time to do his standard weight-training last winter, and he said that he played the 2009 season at 15 pounds under his normal playing weight. Baltimore's erstwhile closer plans to spend this winter packing on some added strength and will come to Spring Training ready to prove something to himself and the team.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.