-- Jonathan M., Woodbridge, Va.
If you're waiting for the Orioles to start acting like the Yankees, you're going to end up pretty disappointed this and every other winter. The Yankees, as the high-bidding darlings of the free-market set, can afford to make an offer to whomever they want. The Orioles, on the other hand, operate with a little more fiscal restraint.
New York doesn't just make idle offers; it often sets the market. And teams like the Orioles tread a little more lightly because a bad contract will wreak far more havoc on their books than it would for the Yankees. With that said, the Orioles will attempt to make a splash this winter, but they likely won't telegraph their intentions.
Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, has developed a long-standing reputation for making conservative decisions on his own patient timetable. He's not going to rush into making an offer -- or publicizing said offer, for that matter -- because he knows the process isn't likely to end anytime soon anyway.
The Orioles will probably start making their offers right around the same time as the Winter Meetings, when they can gauge the market as it unfolds around them. MacPhail has said that Baltimore intends on exploring deals for Burnett and other veteran pitchers, and there's no reason to doubt his word at this point in the offseason.
Last year Brad Bergesen had a great season at Double-A Bowie. His numbers were remarkable. Why haven't we heard anything about him coming to the Majors?
-- Nathan C., Lutherville, Md.
You haven't heard anything about him going to the Majors because the Orioles have no immediate intention to promote him that far. Baltimore wants to give arms like Bergesen even more time to develop on their own terms, which is why the organization has made it a priority to remake the pitching staff this winter.
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The Orioles came to that conclusion after watching arms like Adam Loewen, Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson struggle at the big league level, and they want their next crop of arms to force a promotion instead of just getting handed one. That means some time at Triple-A Norfolk for Bergesen, which won't be a disaster.
The former fourth-round Draft choice had a true breakout season in 2008, posting a 15-6 record and a 3.22 ERA for Bowie. Bergesen had posted mixed results the season before, notching a 7-3 record and a 2.22 ERA for Class A Delmarva and floundering to a 3-6 record and a 5.75 mark after a mid-year promotion to Class A Frederick.
Now, essentially, the Orioles are telling him to do it again. If Bergesen continues his trajectory from his breakout year, he'll be in the Major Leagues at or right after the All-Star break. But Baltimore doesn't want to have to count on the best possible scenario as much as it would like to re-think on the fly if everything works out.
There have been talks about trading George Sherrill this offseason, but why do that when you could have him, Chris Ray and Jim Johnson locking down games in relief?
-- Bryant H., Sterling, Va.
When you trade, you've got to make deals from your respective strength. The bullpen has been a problem area in Baltimore for several seasons, but it began to turn around last year and now the Orioles have a few arms that carry interest around the league. If they choose to make a trade, they may have to part with one of them.
Sherrill, who's coming off his first spin as a full-time closer, may carry the most value of the three. Ray is coming off a season missed due to rehabilitation from ligament replacement surgery on his throwing elbow, and Johnson has only had one successful big league season. Sherrill, meanwhile, has proven his utility over several seasons.
The Orioles also have Danys Baez coming back from surgery on his throwing elbow, and Matt Albers and Troy Patton returning from respective shoulder injuries. They have a lot of moving parts and a lot of question marks on their pitching staff, and they'd like to add some certainty in the form of reliable veterans this offseason.
If Baltimore elects to move Sherrill, it will likely be in a deal for a shortstop or a starting pitcher. The team's needs are pretty well defined right now, and Sherrill could be a key chip in solving some of them. Only time will tell, and the Orioles will likely be as deliberate in this area as they appear to be on the free-agent front.
I like Brandon Fahey at shortstop and second base. He seems to improve with playing time, but the O's seem to not give him too much.
-- John G., Baltimore
Fahey may not play every day, but he's shown the Orioles exactly what to expect from him over the past three seasons. The 27-year-old has had more than 400 at-bats in the big leagues and is a .224 career hitter with a .279 on-base percentage and a .307 slugging mark, numbers that don't exactly merit more playing time.
Fahey keeps getting spins on the big league roster because Baltimore doesn't have anyone else resembling a shortstop prospect who's ready to take the job, and the Orioles seem intent on fixing that this winter. Fahey still may stick as a glove-happy reserve, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him stashed at Norfolk.
The Orioles went through Luis Hernandez, Freddie Bynum, Alex Cintron and Juan Castro at shortstop last season, so it's not like Fahey was alone in getting a shot. Baltimore just wants a player it can write into the lineup every day at shortstop, an option that went out the window with last winter's trade of five-time All-Star Miguel Tejada.