Even with the moves I outline below, the O’s would obviously not be the favorite, and there are plenty of good reasons for that.
The Orioles would head to Spring Training picked no better than 3rd, 4th by many, and still last by some. None of the moves I outline below mean anything if the O’s do not get better production from the younger core. So let us start with that.
For the O’s to contend in ’11, I picture the following:
1) Markakis, Wieters, Jones, Reimold, Matusz, Arrieta, and Bergesen have to improve. Looking at each player individually, that seems realistic. Looking at them collectively, that is a lot to ask.
I understand that not all of the aforementioned players are going to step-up, that it just doesn’t work that way. I think Markakis can get back to his ’08 levels, but that remains to be seen. I think Wieters is capable of an .850 OPS season in ’11, but that has more to do with his Minor League production than anything else. I’d like to think that with 2 years of ML experience, and still several years from his likely prime; that he can make that jump. Still has to do it.
Jones has had 3 months with an OPS over .900 during the past two years, but numerous other months with below league average production. That is not even including his defense, which even if you are not a fan of UZR/150, has clearly not been as good as his reputation the past two seasons. Reimold is a personal favorite of mine, and I think he is closer to the .830 guy we saw his rookie year, but who knows? He is also 27, and has had less than 500 at-bats in the Majors. Maybe he is no better than a guy somewhere between his ’09, and ’10 seasons?
The pitching? All basically the same thing. I’d like to think the consistency shown by Matusz down the stretch will continue. I’d think Arrieta in his second year would be better than his rookie year, but his control will continue to be an issue. I’m confident that Bergesen is better than he showed in the first-half of 2010, not fully convinced he is quite as good as he showed in the second-half.
2) Roberts, Scott, and Guthrie have to avoid significant regression. Reynolds, and Hardy need to provide league average production at a minimum.
It is realistic to expect regression from Roberts, Guthrie, and Scott – the question is how much? Roberts health has to be an issue, as plenty of his game is built on speed. How well does his back hold-up? Does he lose any further range? I’m fairly confident that Guthrie will give another 190 ip, and keep the O’s in a lot of games. Scott? You’d have to expect he will regress from ’10, we will see how significantly. Part of my scenario had him moving to LF. If he has to go out there, how well does he play? Does that additional time in the field cause additional wear and tear that hurts him offensively?
League average production from Hardy and Reynolds is the expectation. Getting that would be a significant improvement over ’10 for the O’s.
3) Trade Tillman, Johnson, and Pie for Quentin and Floyd.
Hard to guess on trades. There are conflicting reports out of Chicago about the availability of Quentin and Floyd. By some reports the O’s could potentially give up less than I suggested. By some reports Quentin is not available at all. Quentin’s defense was horrific by UZR/150 the past two seasons. Prior to that he was fine. He dealt with a foot issue in 2009 that obviously would have impacted his range, and potentially his defense. No excuse to be found for his 2010 numbers though. I look at Floyd as a Guthrie type/clone. Fairly limited peripheral numbers that will give the O’s 200 innings and keep the team in games more often than not. I think Quentin is closer to his 2008 self vs. what we have seen the past two years, and that this is an opportunity to buy low.
If there is anything I dislike about my plan, it is trading Tillman.
4) The O’s sign Lee or LaRoche.
I believe according to Wins Above Replacement that the upgrade of Lee would be slightly more significant than LaRoche, but that either one would add roughly 2-3 WAR to the O’s lineup.
5) The O’s sign Rhodes, Feliciano, or Ohman as their 2nd lefty, The O’s also sign Gregg (or DelCarmen, or Peralta). Even if the O’s add several of these arms I am not expecting more than a win or so of improvement there.
Tatum, Izturis, 2 of 4 of Reimold, Patterson, Harris, and Fox
Matusz, Guthrie, Floyd, Arrieta, Bergesen
Gregg or DelCarmen or Peralta
Simon or Rule V pick Rosario
Rhodes or Feliciano or Ohman
1) That lineup is 9 deep. If you can project a lineup with Wieters batting 7th, and Jones batting 8th you are in good shape.
Again, on the shown additions of Hardy, Reynolds, Lee/LaRoche, one of the five DH’s, and Scott to LF – I see that as 100 run improvement. That does not take into account increased production from Markakis, Jones, and Wieters. I would ask those reading this, do you find that realistic?
2) Just how good Matusz is in ’11 would go a long ways to determining the O’s chances. That is a capable rotation 1-5. The O’s had a 4.59 era in 2010. If the O’s were to drop that to 4.40 in ’11, that is another 35 run improvement.
3) I’m guessing that payroll is approaching $95M. That might be $10M more than the O’s are comfortable with.
4) I like that team to win 90 games, even in the AL East. Would be very surprised if they were not .500 at the absolute minimum.
The point I am looking to convey is that there is enough talent here that with a few additional (and fairly realistic) moves, that contention is possible this season.
As the O’s are today, without Lee or LaRoche, without one of the DH’s, and without Floyd or a similar starter; I think the O’s are somewhere between 77 and 85 wins. Where do you have the O’s as of today? Where would you have them with the projected moves above?
After I posted this, I saw a story from the Chicago Tribune quoting the White Sox’ General Mgr. Kenny Williams as stating the rumors about Quentin being available are untrue.
So that throws a kink in the initial plan. You could still sign Lee or LaRoche for 1st, move Scott to LF, and sign one of the DH’s (Vlad, Thome, Ordonez, Matsui). You could go with a rotation of Matusz, Guthrie, Arrieta, Bergesen, and Tillman; or you could trade Tillman, Johnson, Pie (among others) for another starter similar to Floyd.
Either way, you would wind-up with a similar roster talent wise.