With the increase in attendance and the huge increases in revenue generated from MASN, will the Orioles go get top-of-rotation starting pitchers?
-- David S., Baltimore
To answer your question simply: no.
First, there's simply not a whole lot on the free-agent market. I've heard people in the O's organization and with other clubs grumble about this year's crop being relatively weak. Also, guys like Jason Vargas getting four years only makes the competition -- and bad money spent -- increase. Assuming the Orioles pay out what's expected in arbitration, their payroll would be close to $90 million -- even if they filled the rest of their roster with players making the Major League minimum salary. So it's going to be tough to stay under $100 million by just making some medium-sized upgrades, unless they make a trade and move around some payroll.
Even that isn't a great avenue, because any trade of consequence (i.e. one that would bring back a frontline starter) would require a serious haul of either cost-controlled Major League talent or promising youngsters like Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy.
Bundy should start baseball activities in June or July, so how does he figure in the 2014 rotation at that point?
-- J.C., Rochester, N.Y.
Actually, Bundy's timeline should be sooner than that. After having Tommy John surgery in June, the right-hander will start light baseball activities around the new year. The club's No. 1 prospect could be a legitimate option for the Orioles in the second half of the season.
Recovery time from Tommy John surgery varies, although Bundy's work ethic has been well-documented and there's reason to believe he'll be on the shorter end of the timetable. As for those who have asked about trading Bundy, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for the Orioles, who would have to sell low right now. Why not wait and see what they have, particularly when the organization is lacking in pitching?
Do you think Michael Morse will be back with the Orioles next season?
-- John A., Alexandria, Va.
I think it's safe to say that ship has sailed, John. Morse was a huge disappointment, and even though he had offseason surgery on his left wrist, the Orioles won't go down that road again.
Nolan Reimold has always been a threat both in the field and in the batter's box. Will he be back for one more shot? He deserves it. Those who think he's "soft" should take a closer look.
-- Andy H., Jacksonville, Fla.
Coming off his second season-ending neck surgery, Reimold is definitely a non-tender candidate. However, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has said that he will wait to see how Reimold's rehab is going before he makes that decision. Limited to just 56 games since 2011, Reimold has shown flashes of his potential, but he has dealt with some pretty horrific injuries. There's a chance the Orioles work out a deal to give him one more chance this spring, particularly if it's at a low cost.
Can the Orioles make the playoffs next year without spending a huge amount of money? Is the pitching that they need to make the postseason out there within what they want to spend?
-- Billy L., Pownal, Vt.
The answer to the first part of your question is absolutely a yes. See the Oakland A's or Tampa Bay Rays, who have both done an excellent job of eliminating the excuse of payroll in making the postseason.
As for the pitching that's out there, there are certainly some upgrades, and I think re-signing free agent Scott Feldman would also help next year's club. Like I said earlier, there's not a whole lot of "wow" factor on the market, although some of the mid-market guys, such as Feldman, could go a long way in helping the O's. Baltimore's interest in Tim Hudson, who signed a two-year deal with the Giants, was very real and the club woule like to have a veteran around to help eat innings.
The club is also hoping some maturation will occur with a new pitching and bullpen coach getting a look at the current group of starters. In fact, the 2014 season depends on that quite a bit. Who will step up the way Chris Tillman did a season ago?
Are the chances next to none on a Matt Wieters extension? In that case, will the Orioles hope he plays well until the All-Star break and then shop him for high-level prospects? Or more for proven players?
-- David A., Aberdeen, Md.
Lately, it seems this is everyone's favorite topic. I wrote in my last Inbox that it seems like a remote possibility that the Orioles and Wieters' camp reach an extension, and nothing has changed on that front.
Wieters is a Scott Boras client, and traditionally that hasn't been good news for the Orioles and their fanbase in trying to keep a player long-term. While there's a slightly better shot at this point at retaining Chris Davis, who would be a free agent after 2015 like Wieters, Boras said at the recent General Managers Meetings that no talks have begun on that front.