Regular Articles
2006 Record: 70-92
Fourth in the AL East – 27 games back

New Birds
Danys Baez (RP)
Paul Bako (C)
Chad Bradford (RP) Free Agent from Mets
Freddy Bynum (OF)
S Guthrie
Aubrey Huff (1B/LF/DH) Free Agent from Devil Rays
Jay Payton (OF)
Adam Stern
Steve Trachsel (SP) Free Agent from Mets
Scott Williamson (RP)
Jarret Wright (SP) Free Agent from Yankees

Flying the Coop
C. Britton
Bruce Chen
Jeff Conine
LaTroy Hawkins (RP)
Rodrigo Lopez (SP)
Luis Matos
David Newhan (OF) Signed as Free Agent by the Mets
Russ Ortiz

Veteran General Manager Dan Duquette said he had four priorities to address this off season – to bring in better bats for left field and first base, to get the team an ace pitcher, and to add depth to the bullpen. If you are in a charitable mood you could make a case that he addressed three of the four, and if feeling nasty you could suggest he managed none of the four. In truth the team is better although the improvements are not stellar ones.

Strengths: Offense. The offense should be better than last year but it’s not one which compares well with the top teams in the division. Brian Roberts and provides a reliable presence at the top of the lineup but there are questions as to if Corey Patterson (inconistant) or Nick Markakis (limited experience) will be adequate to help set the tables for the big men. After that it’s likely to be Miguel Tejada and new addition Aubrey Huff. Huff will likely share the DH role (with Kevin Millar) due to defensive liabilities, and almost certainly will bat in the fourth (or fifth spot). He’s coming off a couple of down seasons statistically but he’s a potential monster in the lineup and should offer Miguel Tejada a lot more protection in the lineup.
After that there is a lot of variability as to who’ll bat where. Ramon Hernandez has to be the favorite to hit fifth but Kevin Millar and Jay Payton are also candidates for the middle spots. Corey Patterson and Melvin Mora are solid major leaguers but Patterson has been remarkably inconsistent with the bat and Mora has a weak OPS which should force him towards the back of the order.

Bullpen: The O’s should have a pretty good pen this year but they’ll probably need to be stellar and training for endurance if last season was any indicator. New additions include the submarining Chad Bradford who was brilliant with the Mets last season, former Devil Rays closer Danys Baez, and workhorse Scott Williamson. They’ll be pitching in front of closer Chris Ray. They’ll probably end up being overworked (like last season)

Weaknesses: Starting pitching. There is a lot of potential on the mound for the O’s but little of it is developed or proven major league talent. Youngsters Eric Bedard, Daniel Cabrera and Hayden Penn could all turn out to be very good pitchers one day, but all of them still have a lot of growing up to do. That makes for a very shaky rotation since Bedard is being asked to step into the role of staff ace, Cabrera is prone to incredible wildness and Penn might not even make the roster out of spring training. That’s not exactly a recipe for success. More likely is a patched together end of the rotation featuring retreads Jarret Wright, Steve Trachsel and youngster Adam Loewen – a trio who are more apt to elicit anticipation than fear in the hearts of opposing batters, especially since Loewen and Trachsel featured 5+ ERAs last season..

Potential Lineup

Brian Roberts (2B)
Nick Markakis (RF)
Miguel Tejada (SS)
Aubrey Huff (DH)
Ramon Hernandez (C)
Jay Payton (LF)
Melvin Mora (3B)
Kevin Millar (1B)
Corey Patterson (CF)

Potential Rotation

Erik Bedard
Daniel Cabrera
Steve Trachsel
Jarret Wright
Adam Lowen
Hayden Penn

Keys to success: The O’s need to find some serious pitching magic. Daniel Cabrera needs to find control, Eric Bedard needs to step to the next level, and someone else – maybe Hayden Penn needs to show that the minor league potential that we saw can translate directly to the big leagues. If all this happens the O’s could improve considerably on last season. Is it likely? No, but who saw the Tigers coming in 2006?

Prediction: This team is marginally better than it was in 2006 but it’s a precarious better. Odds are they’ll still finish in fourth place but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them battling with the Jays for third or with Tampa for fifth either. There still needs some serious work done before the O’s are anything but a weak sister in the eastern division.