Why Don’t The Orioles Improve?

Are there no holes in Baltimore? The team was an unforeseen runner-up in the 2012 AL East, giving the New York Yankees a run for their money until the final series of the season.

After winning the first ever one-game wild card playoff match against the Texas Rangers, the Orioles returned to the postseason for the first time since 1997.

It was a very good year for Baltimore. But the 2012 offseason has been unpredictably sleepy, leaving fans wondering if the team’s resting on its 2012 laurels as it works toward a later window.

Other than re-sign (backup) Nate McLouth and trade (backup) Robert Andino for (minor leaguer) Trayvon Robinson, the Orioles have left well enough alone.

Perhaps their best offseason move was declining an $11.5 million payday to Mark Reynolds, the loveable sage of Ks. While Reynolds provided a much-needed burst of energy at the end of 2012, his services aren’t worth the price tag. Reynolds, in a nutshell, is periodic mashing with prodigious strikeout numbers. But the Reynolds move does create the need to find some offense this offseason.

The 2012 Orioles were called lucky by some, winning 93 games but barely scoring more runs than were scored against them: 712/705. Their 712 runs scored was the second worst in the division, only besting Tampa Bay.

The franchise has been associated with a few high-flying acts of this offseason, primarily Josh Hamilton and Adam LaRoche, yet they’ve failed to sign any free agents of consequence (sorry Nate).

The holes offensively are the first base and DH spots.

Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit are interchangeably first base and DH at the moment. While Chris Davis still has some good pop, he’s a below average defensive 1B (-3.2 UZR/150). Betemit is an above average defensive 1B (5.7 UZR/150) but lacks the bat that an AL East contender desires at 1B. Ultimately, Betemit is a better utility player than 1B or DH.

That being said, the Orioles would be well served to pick up an additional bat. Adam LaRoche is an above average 1B glove (5.7 UZR/150) and an above average bat (33 homers, 100 RBIs last season…which is above average for his career). The free agent DH stockpile is full of guys that the O’s have already tried (Nick Johnson, Luke Scott, Jim Thome). Travis Hafner is a serious injury concern and Hideki Matsui up and retired.

With options running out, LaRoche seems to be the free agency slam dunk the Orioles are looking for.

Or perhaps the Orioles don’t see themselves as lucky in 2012. Perhaps they aren’t interested in filling any holes. They’ve got their 2012 team back (almost) completely intact and 2012 was good to the Baltimore Orioles. But the facts do remain…it’s not often that at team can tow the bottom of the division in runs scored and make the playoffs.