Apr 11, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) high fives third base coach Bobby Dickerson (11) after hitting a home run in the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
There is probably nothing more foolish than predicting or suggesting rosters and lineups for MLB teams like the Baltimore Orioles, and doing so in the month of November. If there is anything to be learned from years of baseball writing and blogging, it is that nothing can be fully predicted very far in advance. There are always a number of unforeseen events and transactions that shift the sands dramatically. And this is especially true for a team like the Orioles who have six free agents and a host of holes to fill and questions to answer.
Even so, speculating and putting together varied scenarios generate interest in surfacing team strengths, weakness and needs. And along the way, players both on the team, as well as those who might be of interest for the O’s, can be highlighted.
One item that would cut down on the total number of changes would be the re-signing of Chris Davis and the Brinks truckload of cash that would go in one direction. This limits the total number of other moves that can be made. And this writer remains more optimistic than most that such a signing is possible. The speculation here is that, all dollars being relatively equal, Davis would rather stay in a place of success where home runs are more easily tallied; and also that perhaps for once, Peter Angelos will want to keep a popular free agent, in spite of the dollars.
Yes, there is laughter at this point; but again, he is a businessman, and after NOT re-signing popular players last year, he may feel the need to keep the fans coming to the park by consummating a rare expensive move. But for this discussion, let’s begin by having Davis return.
Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants did not pick up the option on Nori Aoki. Perhaps it could be argued that if the Orioles had any interest in this corner outfielder, they could have gotten him last year. He is not terribly expensive to have, and he could add some skills the O’s are in desperate need of adding to the team — i.e., the annual claim of desiring to build on base percentage.
Aoki is just about the most consistent player imaginable, so you pretty much know exactly what you are going to get. Look at these numbers from year to year …
Aoki struck out in only 6.4% of plate appearances, the best number in all of baseball. The Orioles don’t have anyone who is anywhere near to something like that.
Imagine putting Aoki at the top of the order (he has plus speed) along with the opposite corner outfielder Nolan Reimold — also with good speed and OBP (.344). Add in everyone else, and this is what a lineup could look like …
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Aoki – LF
Reimold – RF
Machado – 3B
Davis – 1B
Jones – CF
Schoop – 2B
Clevenger/Pearce – DH
Hardy – SS
Joseph – C
This is a decidedly right-handed lineup, especially with Pearce; but it would be deadly against lefties. But in thinking through it, you are always going to have Machado, Jones, Schoop and Hardy in the order, no matter who is pitching. And Aoki and Reimold have relatively even splits left and right. To add some left-handed strength, perhaps the Orioles would have to keep Jimmy Paredes and Ryan Flaherty. And the probable third catcher that will be secured could be a left-handed batter.
None of this addresses the pitching issues. It may well be the eventual Orioles plan will be to add a number of lower-level starters and relievers, going the route of having so many options that a sufficient number will hopefully pitch well enough to total an improvement over 2015. This may not be the best way to go, but it is a believable scenario given the historic timidity about paying for top-drawer pitchers (Jimenez being the exception … and not giving confidence to go down that road again).
Speaking of Ubaldo, this offseason and the Orioles overall roster has more moving parts than a Jimenez pitch delivery. Oh boy.