The Orioles made a lot of noise this off season with the signings that they made, but did they make moves that will push them into the winners circle. Last season they struggled, to say the least, with a record of 66-96. They play in one of the most challenging divisions in sports, the AL East and they have very little budget to work with. This off season though they went out and picked up quite a few free agents to bolster their roster. Vlad Guerrero, Derek Lee, Kevin Gregg, Justin Duchscherer, Koji Uehara and Jeremy Accardo all signed to join the club. The Orioles invested over $25 million to bring them on board, will it pay off?
Looking at the acquisitions the first thing to jump out at me was the number of position players they went for. Derek Lee is a solid first basemen in most regards but his age has driven down his value significantly. Last season his batting average dropped to .260, the worst it's been since 1999 and his strike out rate jumped 4%. At $7.25 million, which is what the O's are paying him this year, they must believe last season was a fluke.
Vlad had a solid year last year embracing the DH role batting .300 with 29 HRs for the Rangers. He should be able to at least come close to those numbers in the hitter friendly confines of Camden Yards, but now where do they play Luke Scott? Scott was just behind Vlad last year with a batting average of .284 and 27 HRs and looks to be fighting for at bats in left field or spelling Lee at first.
They also made the trade with the Diamondbacks for Mark Reynolds who will take over at 3rd base. He will likely hit quite a few home runs for them as last year he had 32 but only batted for an average of .198. He struck out an amazing 42.3% of the time last year against the NL West pitchers. Although the Giants had quite possibly the best pitching in the league last year I don't think moving to Baltimore where he will have to face the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays will be much help for him. He will be replacing Melvin Mora who batted .285 last season but only hit 7 HRs. So apparently the O's are planning on hitting enough long balls to push them to the top.
Last season they scored only 613 runs, it is likely that they will increase that number by a few this year. However even with more long balls I don't see them getting over 660 or 670. The real problem last year for them was pitching. They gave up 785 runs with a team ERA of 4.59. To address their pitching woes they picked up Kevin Gregg and Duchscherer.
With a team ERA of 4.59, I don't see a couple of relief arms bring them down into contention. Duchscherer was a low cost pickup at $700 K for the season. This is obviously them hoping that he can stay healthy and give them a full season which would make him a bargain. In his 5 games last year he posted a 2.89 ERA for Oakland, but he hasn't pitched a full season in the majors since 2008. If he can stay healthy he could significantly help this Baltimore staff.
The Orioles are hoping for some of their young starters to take big steps forward this year if they want these signings to be worth what they paid. Although Duchscherer may help by giving them a potential ace to the staff, without break out campaigns from Matusz, and company they are still looking at a weak rotation, by far the weakest in their division. I don't see the O's finishing very high in the standings, although they may win a couple more games and finish around 70 wins $25 million is a lot to pay for 4 more wins. Even if Duchscherer stays healthy and Matusz breaks out, Reynolds bats over .220 and Derek Lee brings his average back to where it has been the O's still look like a team missing too many pieces to put together a winning campaign.