Orioles fans divided: Concern or excitement?

Orioles fans divided: Concern or excitement?
January 7, 2013, 12:30 pm
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Five weeks from tomorrow, the Orioles begin spring training in Sarasota, Fla. As the winter drags on, the odds of the Orioles making a major move seem less and less.

Fans have clearly gotten excited about the Orioles; FanFest autograph vouchers sold out in less than an hour, and it’s probable that ticket sales will rise dramatically this year, but they’re clearly concerned, too.

Seemingly as many fans are worried about what they perceive as the Orioles inaction this winter as are excited about the team.

While there have been reports that the Orioles were interested In Jason Kubel of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the same reports say that Arizona’s asking price was too high.

Clearly, the Orioles aren’t going to trade Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman. They might trade Chris Tillman if the package was sufficient, but the players that might have to offer: Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Steve Johnson, don’t necessarily excite Arizona or everyone else.

It just seems that there have been more players linked with the Orioles this year than in the past. I think it’s a combination of Twitter and the Orioles being viewed as a more desirable team to trade or play with.

There’s always time for a trade, or there is until July 31. Several secondary free agents are still on the market, and it’s possible, even probable that one of two of them will find their way here.

For now, the Orioles seem to be concentrating on organic growth, hoping that Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts have full recoveries and that a full year of Manny Machado at third base will make him one of the better ones in the American League.

They seem to have gathered enough pitchers to make things interesting next month in Florida. The worry is that some of those who are on the trading block and don’t make the team will have their growth stunted by additional time in Triple-A.

Getting Alexi Casilla (395 major league hits), Yamaico Navarro (29), Luis Martinez (14), Trayvon Robinson (62)  and Danny Valencia (261) to jockey for bench roles may help, but the most accomplished hitters Dan Duquette signed were non-roster first basemen Travis Ishikawa (199) and Conor Jackson (591).

Jackson hasn’t played in the majors since 2011. Ishikawa played last year. With some injuries, Jackson could have a shot at an outfield spot.

Making off-season moves seems as if it’s winning the battle of December. While Duquette clearly wants to make more moves, the Orioles have enough depth to contend and aren’t desperate enough to make an overtly risky move to add a hitter.

The Orioles haven’t surrendered much this off-season. Robert Andino and Mark Reynolds left. Reynolds was surprisingly non-tendered, and seeing him sign quickly with Cleveland for $6 million indicated the Orioles really weren’t interested in keeping him.

Andino was about to join Reynolds in non-tender land before the trade for Robinson was made. With Casilla, Navarro and Ryan Flaherty to contend with Roberts, and possibly another last-minute free agent joining in, second base could be adequately cared for.

Chris Davis still doesn’t know if he’ll play first base or be the DH. That will be the biggest question in the next five weeks. If the Orioles get a DH-type, even though Buck Showalter prefers moving several players in that role, Davis would play much of the time at first. He still could be the predominant DH if the team decides they like Ishikawa at first or another first baseman is picked up.

If the Orioles had gotten Kubel, he could have played a lot of left field, just like Davis and Nate McLouth, who’s the left field placeholder. All three are left-handed hitters.

Nolan Reimold seems to be the wild card. He could be a right-handed DH at times, platoon with McLouth in left or maybe even get a genuine shot at first base.

Over the next several weeks, there will be more rumors to chase down and maybe even a trade or free agent signing.