Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Looking Forward to the Oriole Windfall, Part 2

In Part 1, we broke down the guaranteed and expected salaries for players currently on the roster and looked at possibilities for free agent third basemen the Orioles could target. We'll look at pitching but not before we take a look at first base.

Assuming the O's sign a free agent third baseman, that would leave Ty Wigginton to man first base. Brandon Snyder is hitting much better in Norfolk these days and may well seize the job in Spring Training sending Wiggy back to the bench. If so, great. If not, there will a bench spot left for corner infielder at the beginning of the year which could be filled by a guy from AAA (newly acquired Ryne Hughes, Michael Aubrey or a healthy (if there is such a thing) Scott Moore).

The bullpen is set without free agent signings (except for the signing of a lefty like Mark Hendrickson or someone of his ilk) and four of the spots in the starting rotation are Guthrie, Tillman, Matusz and Bergesen.

Jeremy Guthrie may not be a staff ace but he's not a 5.66 ERA pitcher either. I expect him to rebound next year, at least to league average levels.

Brad Bergesen is the most polished of the rookies and although he's unconventional, he should stick next season.

Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz are the young studs, great stuff, great pedigree and have found some success in 2009. They are here to stay, at least for 2010.

This leaves one spot to be filled by David Hernandez, Jason Berken or Jake Arietta internally. But all three of these guys have shown some strong signs of not being ready yet. So why rush them? Baltimore has the cash to sign a veteran to help anchor the rotation for the next few years.

The candidates?

Tim Hudson

2007 3.33 224.1 132 53 10 1.22 16 10
2008 3.17 142 85 40 11 1.16 11 7
2009 ----- has not pitched ----

The issues here are obvious. Firstly, the Braves have an affordable 2010 option on Hudson (but Hudson could void it if he wishes). Second, he's coming off elbow ligament replacement surgery. Third, he'll be 34 in 2010.

However, he's a pitcher who may be available and his style would fit in very well at Camden Yards. He's a ground ball pitcher and a good control guy. He would be available for probably $12-14 million per year due to health questions. He's had success in the American League before.

Why would he come to Baltimore from a team that could contend in Atlanta? Atlanta management, while they think they have a team that can contend, has tended to cheap out over the past few seasons when it comes to spending money. They may look at their pitching depth and not even pick up Hudson's $10 million option, looking instead to spend that money on a bat.

Hudson's a risk and you'd have to keep an eye on his rehab starts...but if he's healthy I think he's a good fit.

John Lackey

2007 3.01 224 179 52 18 1.21 19 9
2008 3.75 163 130 40 26 1.25 12 5
2009 3.73 118 99 33 12 1.23 8 5

Peter Schmuck stole some of my thunder on this one but Lackey is probably the best free agent fit in terms of health, age and performance. The problem is you'll have to pay for that performance.

It would take at least a 5-year deal to land Lackey and, for the Orioles, a 6 or 7-year deal might be necessary to lure him away from the Angels. Offering a long term deal to a starter in his thirties (Lackey will be 31 to start next season) is always risky and this contract would be an expensive risk.

Lackey is a bit more on the fly ball pitcher range of things but should still be OK at OPACY.

The other free agent pitchers are less than overwhelming. Jarrod Washburn, John Garland, Brad Penny, Erik Bedard...all mediocre to lousy or big injury risks. Maybe you bring a guy or two like that into camp with an incentive laden contract but you wouldn't pursue any of these guys hard.

For the first time since the 2004, the Orioles have some money to spend and a couple holes to fill. It's time to go fill them and start competing in 2010.

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