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Baltimore Orioles December Reflections: The Dan Duquette Era
- Updated: December 29, 2011
The Dan Duquette era in Baltimore has started with a collective yawn among the orange and black clad faithful. Duquette said all the right things in his introductory press conference about building the farm system, increasing the team’s International scouting presence, and generally upgrading the talent level across the organization. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge Duquette’s clearly long range goals after less than two months but the Orioles do have a season to play in a few months and several gaping holes left on an already unspectacular roster.
Baltimore stills needs an everyday third baseman, assuming Mark Reynolds stays at first. The internal options at third are the defensively challenged Chris Davis and 26 year old rookie Matt Antonelli who is a second baseman by trade. Former prospect Josh Bell has been so overmatched in his stints in Baltimore that he shouldn’t be counted on as more than organizational filler at this point. Baltimore selected Cubs minor leaguer Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft. Flaherty has some power but has struggled to play third in the minors. He could get a look at the hot corner in Spring Training. There are no reliable third base options on the free agent market so any answer will have to come through a trade or one of the options mentioned above.
The Orioles also need a second baseman. The status of two time All Star Brian Roberts is still unclear. Roberts missed the last four months of the 2011 season with post concussion symptoms. Roberts also missed over 100 games in 2010 and can no longer be considered a regular contributor despite the $20 million he’s owed over the next two seasons. Baltimore’s options at second base include the aforementioned Antonelli, Roberts, Robert Andino and prospect Ryan Adams. Andino filled in admirably in Roberts’ absence last season but he is best suited for a super utility role.
While second and third base are huge question marks, the Orioles biggest area of need remains starting pitching. Former GM Andy MacPhail‘s mantra of “Grow the arms, buy the bats” was a colossal flop. Now it’s up to Duquette to sort out the mess and come up with a new slogan. The Orioles have added two potential starters this offseason though neither has garnered much faith among the fan base. Duquette traded for former Oakland starter Dana Eveland during the Winter Meetings. Eveland spent most of the 2011 season with the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate but did make a few starts for LA and was a likely non-tender candidate. He should join once promising prospects Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Brad Bergesen and Jake Arrieta for a spot at the back end of the Orioles rotation. The other starter added by Duquette is Japanese lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, a 30 year old control artist likened to Jamie Moyer. Wada reportedly tops out at around 89 mph with his fastball. He exhibited excellent control during his tenure in Japan. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the AL East. In addition to Wada the Orioles have been rumored to have interest in two other Japanese free agent pitchers Wei-Yin Chen and Hisashi Iwakuma. If Duquette is able to land another Japanese starter perhaps he can copyright “Import the arms, buy the bats.” The only thing the Orioles grow in abundance is fan unrest.