Will the Orioles pursue Adam Dunn this offseason? Or will Brandon Snyder, or someone else in the organization, get the first-base job?
-- Don P., Westminster, Md.
The Orioles could certainly use Dunn's power bat, and they have likely already been in contact with his agent to throw their name in for one of the top free-agent sluggers. They need a middle-of-the-order type hitter, and Dunn's 38 homers last year certainly fit the bill. However, he comes with several caveats, given that Dunn has made his distaste for the designated-hitter role known and is seeking a deal longer than the three years he was offered by the Nationals. Suspect defense aside, he's also a high strikeout guy and a Type A free agent, meaning Baltimore would have to surrender its second-round Draft pick to land him.
With division rivals like the Red Sox, Rays and Yankees all rumored to be in the bidding, as well as the Cubs, the Orioles would have to use significant resources to land Dunn, and I don't see them offering him a glitzy four- or five-year deal that would force him to consider Baltimore. There's no arguing that the O's need a Dunn-type bat, but I don't see him making the move across the Beltway for 2011. They are also expected to pursue free agents Victor Martinez, Paul Konerko and Adam LaRoche, as well as bounce-back candidates like Carlos Pena.
As for the second part of your question, Don, no one is guaranteed a starting job under new manager Buck Showalter. Snyder had a disappointing season at Triple-A last season, hitting .257 with nine homers and 43 RBIs in 98 games, although injury played a part in an abysmal first half. The organization hasn't given up on the 23-year-old, but he hasn't showed the power potential needed to be the O's answer at the Major League level. Showalter got an ample look at Snyder and Josh Bell in September, and barring anything unforeseen, neither expects to be a member of the team's Opening Day lineup next spring.
Who will play left field for the Orioles next season? Do they go with Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold or make a splash in the free-agent market and acquire Carl Crawford?
-- Steve B., Smithfield, R.I.
While Crawford isn't ruling anything out -- he told MLB.com in a text message last week that he's "weighing all options" -- Baltimore doesn't figure to be a major player for the speedy outfielder. The O's need a big bat, and Crawford is more of a table-setter than a power hitter. Considered one of three elite free agents this season, the organization would have to devote significant money to land Crawford, and that would take away from what it is trying to do this offseason, which is beef up its offense by getting a true cleanup hitter. Crawford will have plenty of suitors, with Anaheim one of his top choices, and Baltimore doesn't figure to be among them.
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But I could see where having an established glove like Crawford in left field would make sense. The left-field situation for the Orioles has been largely a platoon, although injuries and underperformance have left both Pie and Reimold's future in the organization cloudy at best. Reimold, who was hampered by personal issues and surgery on his Achilles tendon, was one of the O's biggest disappointments of 2010, which makes moving him via a trade difficult. Baltimore would have to sell low, and I don't see president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail trading away Reimold for little return.
Pie is an interesting case given how well he performed after an upper back injury sidelined him for half the season. A onetime can't-miss prospect, Pie hit .274 with five homers and 31 RBIs in 82 games, but he has never been able to stay healthy for very long. The O's could try to package him with a young arm to get back a big bat and hope Reimold rebounds enough to share platoon duty. Free agent Corey Patterson filled in admirably this season and would be a low-cost solution to bring back in place of Pie.
We need a healthy Brian Roberts in 2011. I have not heard anything in regards to his back. What are his plans this offseason to get it healthy again?
-- Evan P, Martinsburg, W. Va.
I couldn't agree more, Evan. Anyone who underestimated Roberts' presence in the Orioles' lineup saw firsthand how much the offense struggled without a true leadoff hitter. Roberts missed 3 1/2 months with a herniated disc in his lower back suffered during last offseason's workouts in Arizona, and he has said that he will approach this winter's workouts differently.
Roberts likes to maintain a low profile, and in this case, no news is good news. His self-inflicted head injury at the end of the season wasn't related to his back, and the organization expects he will be fully healthy for the start of Spring Training. With that being said, the Orioles will still make sure to have a viable backup for Roberts. A utility guy who can play second base, much like what Ty Wigginton did last year, is important to have on the roster.
Is MacPhail more inclined to sign another stopgap player for this year and cash in on next year's free-agent class, which includes Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez?
-- David F., Baltimore
MacPhail, and the rest of the Orioles' front office, is more likely to land both of those players via a trade than waiting for free agency. Baltimore hasn't exactly been a Mecca for newly-available players and a solid two months to finish 2010 isn't going to reverse the last dozen or so years of futility. It helps that Showalter, a highly respected baseball man, is on board. It also helps that the Orioles have money to spend, with only four players -- Roberts, Nick Markakis, Michael Gonzalez and Brian Matusz -- allotted money for next season. But the bottom line is the club will always be competing with big-money, big-market spenders in free agency, and until it puts together a respectable season, it makes getting a premier free agent that much harder.
Could the trade market satisfy Baltimore's need for a big bat? Yes, and given that the O's have made some shrewd swaps under MacPhail to rebuild and restock their farm system, they now have some pieces -- namely some young arms -- that other teams covet. The General Managers Meetings, which start Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., will likely lend to these types of discussions. MacPhail has said many times that no pitcher is untouchable, although Matusz has the most upside and it would take a substantial return for the club to deal away its prized young lefty. As I said before, I could certainly see a scenario where the O's package a starter -- such as Chris Tillman or Brad Bergesen -- along with a guy like Pie to land a big bat.