The Orioles finally made some moves this offseason that will impact the 2009 opening day roster. They traded catcher Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for utility-man Ryan Freel and 2 minor-league prospects.
They also have agreed to terms with short-stop Caesar Izturis and appear to be close to officially signing the defensive specialist.
Neither of these moves is going to create excitement in the fan-base, but they do somewhat improve the make-up of this team.
Trading Hernandez was addition by subtraction. His constant laziness behind the plate and inability to run out ground balls quickly turned fans against him despite his still decent offensive output.
By adding Freel, the Orioles get the competent utility guy they’ve been missing since they traded Chris Gomez. Freel is a career .272 hitter with a .733 OPS. He’s a vast improvement over former UTI-men Freddie Bynum, Brandon Fahey and Alex Cintron.
The 2 minor league prospects involved in the trade are 2B Justin Turner and 3B Brandon Waring. Turner will be 24 and has not played above AA-ball, meaning that he will likely be AAA fodder, but he has shown some power throughout his MiL career, with a .445 SLG.
Waring is the intriguing one, but at 23, he is a tad old to have not advance beyond single-A. However, Waring has a ton of power .523 career SLG. His downfall, however is the strikeout (156 K in 441 AB in 2008).
Both players somewhat deepen the offensive talent pool in the O’s minor league system. Look for Turner to start in Bowie and Waring to begin the year in Frederick.
The O’s also just announced the signing of short-stop Caesar Izturis. Some call the signing a lazy one, but with the O’s expected above-average offense in 2009, they can afford a no-stick SS with a great glove, and Izturis fits that bill. And at 2 years, $6 million, he comes cheap.
In addition to these moves, the Orioles were still very busy, and a reported 4-way deal involving the O’s, Padres, Cubs and Phillies was at one point close to being completed. The move would have sent LHP Garrett Olson to the Padres and brought back LH OF Felix Pie from the Cubs.
It is unknown whether it is still on track or fallen apart.
In any case, Felix Pie was the centerpiece of the oft-reported Brian Roberts trade last offseason, but that deal never was completed. So far, in limited MLB at-bats, Pie has yet to live up to his Adam Jones-like potential, but the O’s still believe he can become a starter in the OF.
That obviously means that the O’s soured on Olson in 2008, and it would be hard for them not to. Olson did pitch well in about half of his starts, but was shelled in the other half, finishing with a 6.65 ERA. One has to think that Olson will improve in ’09, simply because he can’t get any worse, but after compiling 165 IP in the majors over 2 seasons, Olson’s career 6.87 ERA is causing hopes to rapidly fade.
The potential Olson/Pie deal also likely squashes any hope that the O’s had in Nolan Reimold becoming a starter in 2009. Reimold had a great ’08 season for AA-Bowie, hitting 25 HR, knocking in 84 RBI and compiling a .868 OPS. But adding Pie to an already crowded OF with Scott, Jones and Markakis, means that Reimold will either be traded or become AAA fodder in ’09.
There were also rumors that the O’s would be getting back SP Jason Marquis in the Olson deal. Marquis is basically a salary dump for the Cubs, who have soured on his failure to live up to his excellent 2004 season when he won 15 games with a 3.71 ERA for the Cardinals. Since then Marquis has turned in ERA’s of 4.13, 6.02, 4.60 and 4.53. He does, however, eat innings, and rumors of the O’s thinking hard about signing Jon Garland support the O’s desire to have someone in the rotation who can give the bullpen a smaller workload despite the mediocre-at-best outcome.
Unfortunately there is still little movement on the Mark Teixeira or A.J. Burnett front, although the O’s have officially met with both players and their agents. And with the Washington Nationals reported to throw their hat into the ring for Teixeira, O’s fans are already starting to worry that Tex will be playing for the “other hometown team” in 2009. And let’s face it, being outbid by the Nationals, would be an embarrassment to O’s fans.
My take? Tex re-signs with the Angels or comes back to the east coast to sign with the Red Sox.
So there you have it. Things are starting to heat up as the winter GM meetings in Las Vegas continue. Stay tuned to the Bad Oriole for updates and takes on any solid rumors and official moves!