As one Baltimore team enters the off-season for rest and vacation, another team is ready to get back to work. The Baltimore Ravens ended their season in rather disappointing fashion, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 5 years. The Orioles are coming off a somewhat similar season, similar in a sense where they also failed to make the playoffs.
The Orioles have come into the spotlight in recent years, somewhere that they haven’t been too familiar with in many, many years. The team reached the playoffs in the 2012 season for the first time in 15 years.
The O’s are surrounded with a core group of young and old players. They also have some new faces and some familiar faces, as well as their coach, Buck Showalter, who has really turned the team around since his arrival in Baltimore in 2010.
One of the young and talented stars of this team is third baseman Manny Machado, who made his professional debut with the O’s in 2012. Machado is a skilled player who can play multiple positions, can hit the ball, and make plays on defense. He is everything you want in a 21 year-old player. Along with Machado, the Orioles have a young pitching prospect named Dylan Bundy, whom they hope they can groom into their number one starting pitcher.
In order to bolster their roster, the Orioles front office has made a bit of a splash in the free-agency pool this off-season. While they didn’t sign the best of the best, the O’s still managed to get a few guys who can add some tenacity to this team. Among those players signed are two pitchers who have more than made names for themselves in the league, Ubaldo Jimenez and Johan Santana.
Santana, a former Cy Young award winner, is past his prime, but is still in a position to add some wisdom and leadership to this predominantly young team. Local fan and Baltimore native Ryan Zentz said, “I like the moves the O’s made this season; we didn’t sign any top free agents, but we made some signings that will really help us grow as a team and an organization.”
Along with Santana and Jimenez, the Orioles signed former Texas Ranger outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cruz, who is coming off of a 50-game suspension for violating the leagues’ substance abuse policy, is a solid hitter who can add some runs to this Orioles lineup.
While they made moves to fill in some key holes on the team, they also lost a few players as well. Among those they lost is long time Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, as well as outfielder and utility man Nate McClouth. Roberts went on to sign with the New York Yankees and McClouth signed with the Washington Nationals.
Roberts, who had spent his entire career with the Orioles before his release, has been injury plagued for the past four seasons. This past season, Roberts only played in 77 games due to a multitude of injuries and in the past four years, he has missed twice the amount of games as he has played.
Local fan Nick Pearce said, “The Orioles need to make the best out of this season because there is no telling how long we will have this group of guys. Our top 5 or 6 players will all be free agents at the end of this season and if we don’t do anything about it, we could lose a few of them which could really hurt this team.”
And so, Pearce is right. At the end of the 2015 season, franchise players such as catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis are scheduled to become free agents. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are all scheduled to be free agents in the future as well.
Davis, who is coming off a career-high and league-leading 53 home runs, was arguably the best offensive player in baseball last year. Jones and Hardy each received a Gold Glove award for their outstanding field play, making all these players very valuable in the open market.
The Orioles have to go through one of, if not the toughest division in baseball if they want to get to where they want to be. The team was 85-77 last year, which landed them third place in the division and ended up missing the playoffs.
Teams like the Boston Red Sox, who are the defending world champions, and the New York Yankees are teams that the Orioles will have to get the best of in order to get into the playoffs. With the experience and leadership added to the team, the Orioles get that boost of tenacity they have been looking for that they hope will send them deep into the playoffs.
*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.
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