Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles 2014 Season Preview

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Recap of 2013

85-77, 3rd in the AL East

I’m pretty sure 2013 didn’t finish the way many Baltimore Orioles fans had hoped. Or their manager. Or the guys in the clubhouse. Or those in the front office. At the All-Star break, Baltimore was 10 games over .500, 4.5 games behind division leader Boston, and third in the division.

Then the second half of the season began, and the O’s tripped up a bit. They were two games under .500 after the ASG and missed out on the postseason by six games. Dropping six in a row during the season’s next to last week as well as a 20-31 record in one-run games didn’t help matters either.

Key Transactions

Additions: DH/OF Nelson Cruz, OF David Lough, 2B Jemile Weeks, P Ubaldo Jimenez, P Ryan Webb, P Suk-min Yoon, P Brad Brach

Departures: P Jim Johnson, P Scott Feldman, P Jason Hammel, P Francisco Rodriguez, INF/OF Danny Valencia, 2B Brian Roberts, OF Nate McLouth, OF Mike Morse

To acquire Lough, the Orioles had to give up Valencia who had a bounce back season in 2013. Dealing Johnson for Weeks and minor-leaguer David Freitas seemed like a lopsided deal in the A’s favor. Might be justified in saying the money the O’s “sent” to Oakland was used to bring in Jimenez and Cruz. Of course, the bottom line is that the Orioles spent far more than the $10MM that was estimated Johnson would receive through arbitration. Cruz is getting $8MM. Don’t think Ubaldo is only making $2MM.

Among the newcomers, I absolutely love the signing of Webb. I felt that was one of he better free agents signings this past winter.

And what do we make of the Johan Santana deal? Zero risk, all potential reward. If only he can recover some velocity.

Payroll

Cot’s shows that the O’s currently have committed $92.1MM for this season. Even if they don’t add another penny (what’s that?), it would set a high water mark for the club. Baseball Reference estimates that Baltimore will be looking at around $100.8MM as their opening day payroll. Should this come to pass, I have a question.Did O’s fans – or anyone else for that matter – ever think they’d see the day the payroll would eclipse nine figures? Maybe at the earliest a couple of years down the road, but now? In 2014?

Playing in a division loaded with spenders such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox can make baseball life difficult.

Player to watch

To say this would be Cruz would be a vast understatement. He has the Hubble on him due to the Biogensis dealings and 50-game suspension. Those will surely bring about chatter should Cruz stumble this season. Even then, I don’t think it will matter. Will anyone even mention that Cruz will be 34 on July 1? Let’s say he matches his career triple slash (.268/.327/.495) and 162-game averages of 32 HR and 99 RBI. The talk will still be persist.

I’d also keep one eye on Tommy Hunter, the heir apparent to Johnson’s closing gig.

Must improve on 2013

If for no other reason, Matt Wieters seems to be the guy that’s getting the finger pointed in his direction. After a pair of seasons that average to .255/.329/.442 with a 108 OPS+, 2013 was a contrast to 2011 and 2012. His OPS+ was 88 while his OBP dipped below .300 (.287). Last season wasn’t crappy (except for the OBP), just not what was expected. Ah, those expectations.

A return to his 2011 and 2012 form would be a welcome sight to manager Buck Showalter, as well as the entire Orioles fan base.

Regression?

All the lights will shine on Chris Davis after his breakout performance in 2013. I wouldn’t exactly say breakout. David “crashed” through the door and kept running.

Can he match his 2013 numbers (.286/.370/.634, 53 HR, 138 RBI, .348 ISO,103 R)? He had a ridiculous 2013, but to think that he will back that up will a duplicate is wishful thinking. Of the 2014 projections I have seen, only Oliver has him close to his 2013 stats (.279/.368/.600, 45 HR, 119 RBI, .321 ISO, 90 R). The others are less optimistic, but still display a rather nice showing.

The one question for 2014

Are the Baltimore Orioles serious contenders for the AL East title and/or a wild card spot?

We’ve read and heard that the Orioles’ window of opportunity may be closing. This is partially based on the potential free agency of Davis and Wieters. For now you could throw J.J. Hardy into that discussion as well. Baseball currently has some decent depth at the first base position. If the front office has to replace Davis within the next couple of years, it might not be as difficult as we assume. Then again, you never know how the “new crop” will rise over these next two seasons.

Not sure you can say the same about catchers though. They don’t grow on trees. Neither do MLB shortstops that can hit with pop and field their position at the level Hardy does.

Quite honestly, I don’t see much of a difference in the 2013 Orioles and what will most likely take the field as the 2014 version. Sure, some names have changed, but I don’t believe the roster is improved enough, if at all. I’d love to see this team snag a wild card spot, but I can’t see this club making any noise this season.

And that’s a bummer as I have a soft spot for Buck.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles

comments powered by Disqus