When will Buck Showalter's coaching staff finally be settled, and am I the only one who thinks this is much ado about nothing? -- Steve S., Columbia, Md.
Well Steve, all signs indicate that the Orioles' 2011 staff is all but completed, with the exception of the bench coach. Former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is not in the running for the Pirates' managerial job, but he has been rumored to be a potential candidate on the Mets' list. It's been said and written before, but if Wakamatsu does not get a managerial job, he's expected to join close friend Showalter as his bench coach. When -- or if -- that will be is largely up to the Mets now.
Next year's O's staff will be headed by hitting coach Jim Presley (who replaces the spot Terry Crowley vacated when he took a newly created hitting-evaluator post) and pitching coach Mark Connor. Rick Adair will take over bullpen duties with former interim manager Juan Samuel in talks to return as third-base/outfield coach. The leading candidate to be the first-base/infield coach is Wayne Kirby, who has reached an agreement with the Orioles, a move first reported by the Baltimore Sun.
To answer the second part of your question, I wouldn't totally dismiss the validity of who does and doesn't make Showalter's staff, although I acknowledge that most fans are tired of some of the back-and-forth. The unprecedented amount of movement at the Major League level handcuffed the Orioles to a certain degree. Presley, formerly the Marlins' hitting coach, had several options, and the always-prepared Showalter had a Plan A and Plan B to prepare for decisions like the one made by Brian Butterfield, who opted to return to Toronto as its third-base coach after being passed over for the Blue Jays' managerial gig.
As president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail has said, at the end of the day, it's who Showalter feels confident and comfortable with. Each of these new coaches -- several of whom could end up on multiyear deals -- will be relied on to add consistency and stability throughout the organization, something the Orioles have often been lacking.
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Is there any chance the O's make a splash via trade, with Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke potentially on the block? -- Joe, Syracuse, N.Y.
Interesting trio of names here, Joe. Gonzalez and Fielder both provide what the Orioles lack most: a middle-of-the-order bat. The O's have made it no secret that the top priority this winter is to acquire a power hitter, and where that comes from -- either free agency or trade -- and what position it fields will largely dictate what the club does going forward.
In Gonzalez's case, the Padres picked up his option for next season and reportedly have plans to meet with his agent, John Boggs, to discuss the possibility of a long-term extension. While the two sides aren't likely to reach an agreement that locks up Gonzalez -- given the money involved -- the Padres could try to reach an extension that keeps him for the short term. San Diego will listen to offers, but with the payroll and prospect-deep Red Sox heavily rumored to have interest and West Coast teams like the Angels also having a geographical edge, it's unlikely the O's would be able to compete in bidding for Gonzalez without substantially sacrificing their future.
The case with Fielder is slightly different, with the Brewers more likely to trade away their power bat who was also rumored to be up for grabs at last year's Trade Deadline. Fielder is still young and will command upwards of his $10.5 million salary last season as he heads into his final year before free agency. If the Brewers don't work out an extension, they will try to add some pitching in return, and the O's young arms are an enticing bunch that has been asked about before. Still, some are skeptical about Fielder's body type and this season's declining power numbers. Another thing to consider is if the Orioles make a trade for a one-year rental, would they be able to sign a guy like Fielder to keep him around? Or would they be willing to trade away a young arm or two for essentially one season?
Greinke, the Royals' young ace, can reportedly waive a trade to 15 teams, and it's not known whether the Orioles are among them. The team remains focused on obtaining a big bat, so making a big-splash trade to get an arm is far more unlikely than getting a big-name bat. There were a multitude of games last season in which the O's couldn't support their starters. It remains the team's biggest hole.
Not that he necessarily will or won't, but do you get the impression MacPhail is more willing to package some players in return for a premium power hitter than last year? -- Justin L., Elwood, N.J.
MacPhail said around the Trade Deadline that "no one is untouchable" and that bodes just as true this winter. I don't know if I'd say he's more willing to package away certain guys, but with most of the team's top prospects now on the big league roster, I'd say the organization has a better idea what it's dealing with. I also think the Orioles learned from last season's gamble on Garrett Atkins, who was released due to poor performance, and that the emphasis is even greater on obtaining a big power bat. It's a relatively uninspiring free-agent class beyond Cliff Lee, Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford, so it might be the best avenue for the team to explore a trade rather than trying to fulfill its needs via free agency.
It's never too early for spring! What are your thoughts on the Orioles' 2011 rotation and who might get the nod on Opening Day? -- Andy S., Elkridge, Md.
Given that spring means a trip to sunny Spring Training, I couldn't agree more, Andy. The Orioles' starting pitching was great in the last two months with Showalter at the helm, and the hope is it will foster some good competition for next spring.
Top prospect Zach Britton will challenge for a spot along with last year's group of arms -- Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. You can also toss long man Rick VandenHurk in the mix and starters-turned-relievers David Hernandez and Jim Johnson, both who could get a look at a return to starting.
The O's want a veteran arm, much like Kevin Millwood last year, but if they don't get one, Guthrie will get the Opening Day nod. It's hard to predict who will be in the rotation given that the O's arms are their best trade chip. But all things equal, I'd bet on Guthrie, Matusz, Bergesen and Arrieta with a to-be-decided veteran arm. Should the O's be unable to add another starter or package one in a trade, things could get interesting.