2013: 85-77, 3d place (tied), 12 games back
2014 projection: 74-88, 5th place
Manager: Buck Showalter, 5th season
Projected 2014 payroll: $69.9 million
Will these Birds ever soar to the top? The Orioles regressed in 2013 as they could not quite repeat the late-inning, one-run-win magic that saw them hit 90 wins in 2012. Their brilliant bullpen looked more ordinary last season and things don’t appear to be getting better for frustrated Orioles fans in 2014.
What hasn’t changed is the Orioles tight-fisted ways when it comes to the spending on players. No one will confuse Baltimore with the New York Yankees this offseason.
GM Dan Duquette shipped closer Jim Johnson off to Oakland to save money in advance of his last year of arbitration.
Others leaving the confines of Camden Yards include second baseman Brian Roberts via free agency, starters Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel, infielder Danny Valencia and outfielders Nate McLouth and Michael Morse.
The underwhelming additions include signing Delmon Young to a minor league contract. The Birds also picked up light-hitting second baseman Jemile Weeks, outfielder David Lough, and reliever Ryan Webb, who could be in the mix for the closer’s job.
Old friend Alfredo Aceves was also received an invitation to the Baltimore’s big league club this spring, signing a minor league contract.
Projected lineup: Nick Markakis, RF; Manny Machado/Ryan Flaherty, 3B; Chris Davis, 1B; Adam Jones, CF; Matt Wieters C; J.J. Hardy, SS; Delmon Young/Nolan Reimold, DH; David Lough, LF; Jemile Weeks, 2B
Rotation: Chris Tillman; Wei-Yin Chen; Bud Norris; Miguel Gonzalez; Kevin Gausman
Bullpen: Tommy Hunter, CL; Darren O’Day; Brian Matusz
Off the bench: Alexi Casilla, Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop
Outlook: The Orioles rotation appears to be their weak link again in 2014. Chris Tilman is solid at the top of the rotation, but then the question marks begin. And losing Johnson and his 50 saves at the back of the bullpen will prove devestating. Unless they sign a free agent before the season starts, Tommy Hunter – who has four career saves – is expected to win the closer job.
To make matters worse, reliever Troy Patton will start the season serving a 25-game suspension he received for testing positive for a banned amphetamine.
On the offensive side, first-baseman Chris Davis led the majors with 53 home runs in 2013 and should have another monster year at the plate. Third baseman Manny Machado – who delivered 189 hits in 2013 but is recovering from left knee surgery – looks like the real deal when he’s on the field. And Adam Jones is another emerging superstar having belted 33 homers while knocking in 108 runs last season.
But in the end, the Orioles won’t be able to compete in the AL East until they bring in some top-tier pitching talent to fill the holes in the both the rotation and the bullpen.