No. 16 Orioles: Limited offseason moves mean a Baltimore regression could be in store

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports

Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Baltimore Orioles.

MLB Springboards: No. 30 Astros | No. 29 Marlins | No. 28 Mets | No. 27 Rockies | No. 26 Twins | No. 25 Pirates | No. 24 Indians | No. 23 Mariners | No. 22 Padres | No. 21 Cubs | No. 20 Brewers | No. 19 Red Sox | No. 18 White Sox | No. 17 Royals

2012 record: 93-69
Finish: Second place, AL East
2012 final payroll: $89 million
Estimated 2013 opening day payroll: $92 million
Yahoo! Sports offseason rank: 16th
Hashtags: #mynameisbuckandimheretowin #wilsooooooooon #dukeofbawlmer #sheeeeeeeeeee #onlyonewirereference #emasculation #polkhigh #mannybeingmanny #costcosized #cheapowners

OFFSEASON ACTION

After two months of near inaction – unless re-signing a fourth outfielder qualifies as action, in which case you ought best return to that Mahjong game – finally the Baltimore Orioles signed somebody. Two somebodies, actually. On the same day. To six-year contracts.

View gallery

.

Adam Jones looks on during the O's loss to the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS. (AP)

Neither of them can play, of course, and so locking up general manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter through 2018 didn't make quite the splash of signing, say, Josh Hamilton. Or pretty much anyone. Leave it to the Orioles, coming off their most successful season in 15 years, to spend their winter not using the newfound goodwill to recruit free agents or lavish their own players. Not with Peter Angelos, the owner who despises free agency, in charge.

Still, the lack of anything from Baltimore this offseason – not just a free-agent signing but a trade of significance – is rather surprising considering the Orioles enter 2013 with holes. There is the gaping one at second base, which they hope waiver claim Alexi Casilla can fill. And there is left field, where the helter-skelter Nolan Reimold roams. The Orioles don't have a designated hitter, either, not unless they want Wilson Betemit in the lineup daily, which they don't.

[Also: Cincinnati awarded 2015 MLB All-Star game]

Most odd is that Duquette has yet to offload one of his 11 starting pitchers. Really, he has that many. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Steve Johnson, Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton, with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman coming fast and Tsuyoshi Wada on the way back from Tommy John surgery. There is something to be said for depth, and one GM believes Duquette is biding his time for a team to get desperate before spring training begins or for the first significant injury. It's a reasonable theory; Baltimore didn't acquire Hammel until Feb. 6 last season.

Certainly part of the inactivity comes down to money. The Orioles are barely spending more this season than they did to end last year. Could be they're saving money for an inevitable Matt Wieters extension, though with Brian Roberts due off the books after this year and Nick Markakis after 2014, they'll have plenty of that. Limiting a team due for a regression this season to signing Nate McLouth, claiming Casilla, trading for Trayvon Robinson, Danny Valencia and Yamaico Navarro, and bringing in Travis Ishikawa and Daniel Schlereth on minor league deals is bad business, and any frustration from Baltimore fans is warranted.

REALITY CHECK

Few teams start from a better place than this: Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado. Jones is 27, Wieters 26, Machado 20. Jones and Wieters play vital up-the-middle roles, and Machado should once the Orioles remind themselves shortstop J.J. Hardy made outs nearly 72 percent of his plate appearances last season.

View gallery

.

Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette celebrate after a playoff win. (AP)

Two stars plus a gonna-be star, and Nick Markakis and Chris Davis, and all that starting pitching, and a bullpen that helped the Orioles get to 75 wins without a defeat when leading after seven innings – that is quite the core. And they find themselves on the cusp of the top half of teams in the game not because of that core but that with which the core must contend: namely, Toronto, New York, Tampa Bay and even Boston.

For years, the caterwauls from Baltimore sounded: Geography just isn't fair. The teams in the middle of the country get to play against year-after-year garbage, and the Orioles not only were stuck in the division of the two richest franchises in the game but the best-run team, too. And yet last year showed: With a pinch of luck – OK, maybe more like a metric ton of it – the impossible was made very possible.

The word luck attached itself to the Orioles last year, and they blanched at it with good reason. Whatever and however it happened, they won those 93 games. Even if they did so with a better record in one-run games than any team in history, Showalter inserted himself into so many of those, and the relievers did their jobs with aplomb. The talk about luck wasn't as much about last year as this year.

[Also: Kansas City Royals finally decide it's time to win]

As in: Repeating some of the outliers from last season simply isn't going to happen, so the Orioles need another dimension to prevent slippage. A full season of Machado certainly helps. So does getting Markakis back from a season-ending injury. Toward the end of last year, Chris Tillman resembled the highly ranked prospect he once was, Jason Hammel is in a contract year, and Zach Britton, so good two years ago, says he's recovered from a shoulder injury.

With Dylan Bundy a future ace and Kevin Gausman not far behind, the Orioles' pitching should keep them competitive for a while. The same, of course, was said about the Brian Matusz/Jake Arrieta/Tillman/Britton quartet that was supposed to sustain Baltimore well into this decade. Baltimore learned the hard way: pitching prospects do bomb out, and in spectacular fashion.

So it's on that offensive core and the home runs the Orioles serve in Costco-sized helpings. It sustained them last year. It broke them in the division series, too. And they don't seem too inclined to change it, or anything for that matter.

SAVIOR

With Jerry Dipoto's ongoing emasculation of Mike Scioscia, Buck Showalter takes over as the manager with the most say in personnel decisions. His handling of an injury-ravaged team with Duquette last season was simply genius. Almost always they would make the right move at the right time, and while Showalter did not need any more reason to think highly of himself, know what? He deserves it. With so many paint-by-numbers managers, Showalter thinks, strategizes, and plays games out in his head. This may be good for only a win or two a year, but in a division like the AL East, every game counts, and Buck may be just as likely to deliver it as Adam Jones or Matt Wieters or Manny Machado.

HAIKU

The cool wind's whisper
Turns into a mighty roar
Chris Davis. Swing. Miss.

View gallery

.

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:

NFL reinstates Saints head coach Sean Payton
Tiger Woods empathizes with Phil Mickelson over tax situation
Forde Minutes: Butler's flair for the dramatic doesn't faze coach
View Comments
  • Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda suspended 10 games for using pine tar

    Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda suspended 10 games for using pine tar

    BOSTON - New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was suspended for 10 games by Major League Baseball on Thursday for using pine tar to help him grip the ball. "I accept it," Pineda said before Thursday's game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway … More »

    The Canadian Press - 5 minutes ago
  • Impact brass confident new coach Klopas can turn around bad MLS season start

    MONTREAL - Montreal Impact management are confident that new coach Frank Klopas will get the team back on track after a horrendous start to the Major League Soccer season. Sporting director Nick De Santis said Thursday that Klopas has done a good … More »

    The Canadian Press - 7 minutes ago
  • Colorado PG Spencer Dinwiddie heading to NBA

    University of Colorado junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie is skipping his senior season and will declare for the NBA draft. Dinwiddie said at a news conference in Boulder on Thursday that he believes he's a ''first-round talent'' and doesn't … More »

    AP - Sports - 7 minutes ago
  • Hicks homers, Twins beat Rays 9-7

    Hicks homers, Twins beat Rays 9-7

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer, Kurt Suzuki drove in three runs, and the Minnesota Twins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-7 Thursday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 8 minutes ago
  • NBA fines Josh McRoberts $20K for forearm to LeBron James' throat, upgrades foul to flagrant-2 (Video)

    NBA fines Josh McRoberts $20K for forearm to LeBron James' throat, upgrades foul to flagrant-2 (Video)

    Despite the increased penalty and fine, the Charlotte Bobcats forward avoids suspension, and will be available for Game 3 in North Carolina. … More »

    Ball Don't Lie - 8 minutes ago
  • Canadian alpine skier and former world champion John Kucera retires

    CALGARY - John Kucera's career was shorter than he wanted but he leaves alpine ski racing knowing he achieved two firsts for Canada. … More »

    The Canadian Press - 11 minutes ago
  • New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for 2015 unveiling: alumni

    By David DeKok HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach" is set to begin two years after his image was removed from Penn State University because of a … More »

    Reuters - 12 minutes ago
  • Mavs home after split at Spurs, but is that good?

    Mavs home after split at Spurs, but is that good?

    Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks are coming home after showing they won't go quietly in a first-round series with top-seeded San Antonio. Part of the big German wants to stay in South Texas after the Mavericks squandered a strong game in the … More »

    AP - Sports - 12 minutes ago
  • Keeneland to run its final races on Polytrack

    Keeneland to run its final races on Polytrack

    When Keeneland's spring meet ends Friday, so will an era. The scenic horse racing landmark in the heart of the Bluegrass State will run its final races on the Polytrack synthetic surface before replacing its main track with dirt and a new drainage … More »

    AP - Sports - 15 minutes ago
  • Joey Hishon's long road from concussion recovery ends with NHL debut

    Joey Hishon's long road from concussion recovery ends with NHL debut

    On Tuesday, Joey Hishon was skating with the Colorado Avalanche’s Black Aces in Cleveland. Afterward, he was called into the coach’s office and given the news that he was being called up to the NHL. … More »

    Puck Daddy - 16 minutes ago
  • Lubash wins Big A feature

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Lubash, making his season debut, held off Kharafa by a neck Thursday in the $62,000 allowance feature for New York breds on the turf at Aqueduct. … More »

    AP - Sports - 17 minutes ago
  • Phelps wins first race in comeback

    Phelps wins first race in comeback

    By Julian Linden PHOENIX (Reuters) - Michael Phelps made an ominous start in his comeback to competitive swimming on Thursday, setting the fastest time in the 100 metres butterfly heats at a USA Swimming Grand Prix meet in suburban Phoenix. Racing … More »

    Reuters - 18 minutes ago
  • Late Lima strike gives Benfica win over Juventus

    (Reuters) - A brilliantly-worked Lima goal gave last year's runners-up Benfica a late 2-1 win at home to Juventus in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday. Central defender Ezequiel Garay headed Benfica in front after only … More »

    Reuters - 22 minutes ago
  • Lima blasts Benfica to Juventus win as Sevilla ease to victory

    Lima blasts Benfica to Juventus win as Sevilla ease to victory

    A stunning late goal from Brazilian Lima gave Benfica a 2-1 win over Juventus in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final while Sevilla won 2-0 against Valencia to seize the initiative in their all-Spanish clash on Thursday. Benfica scored … More »

    Reuters - 23 minutes ago
  • Yankees' Pineda banned 10 games for using pine tar

    Yankees' Pineda banned 10 games for using pine tar

    (Reuters) - New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda has been suspended 10 games by Major League Baseball on Thursday for having a foreign substance on his body during Wednesday's game against the Boston Red Sox. Pineda was ejected from the game in … More »

    Reuters - 23 minutes ago
  • Bobcats' Josh McRoberts fined $20,000

    Bobcats' Josh McRoberts fined $20,000

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Charlotte Bobcats forward Josh McRoberts was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Thursday for making unnecessary and excessive contact with Miami Heat forward LeBron James. … More »

    AP - Sports - 25 minutes ago
  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals

    Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals

    STUTTGART, Germany (AP) -- Defending champion Maria Sharapova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday to set up a Porsche Grand Prix quarterfinal with top seed Agnieszka Radwanska. … More »

    AP - Sports - 25 minutes ago
  • Swimming-Phelps wins first race in comeback

    * Qualifies for national titles later this year * Reached turn in second place before pulling away (Adds quotes) By Julian Linden PHOENIX, April 24 (Reuters) - Michael Phelps made an ominous start in his comeback to competitive swimming on … More »

    Reuters - 25 minutes ago
  • Why Jones vs Teixeira will be a 'fun fight'

    Why Jones vs Teixeira will be a 'fun fight'

    Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole breaks down UFC 172’s main event … More »

    Yahoo Sports Videos - 27 minutes ago
  • Kevin Iole’s prediction for UFC 172 - Jones vs Teixeira

    Kevin Iole’s prediction for UFC 172 - Jones vs Teixeira

    Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole explains why the main event of UFC 172 won’t go the full distance … More »

    Yahoo Sports Videos - 27 minutes ago
  • Pine tar, Vaseline, spit all part of baseball

    Pine tar, Vaseline, spit all part of baseball

    It's fair to suspect that Michael Pineda isn't the only pitcher trying a few tricks on the mound from time to time. The Yankees pitcher was suspended for 10 games for having a glob of pine tar on his neck to rub on his hands to grip the ball on a … More »

    AP - Sports - 28 minutes ago
  • Everest climbing season in disarray after deaths

    Nepal's attempts to salvage the Mount Everest climbing season fell flat Thursday as major expedition companies canceled their climbs and many Sherpas quit the mountain after an avalanche killed 16 of their fellow guides last week. While the season … More »

    AP - Sports - 29 minutes ago
  • Known for glove, Nolan Arenado improving at plate

    Known for glove, Nolan Arenado improving at plate

    Nolan Arenado is known for his hit-robbing glove at the hot corner. So he sends Troy Tulowitzki batting practice video for evaluation, hangs around Carlos Gonzalez near the cage to pick up pointers and has hitting conversations with Justin Morneau … More »

    AP - Sports - 30 minutes ago
  • Secret to Dallas Stars success? Meet the #RallyBelly

    Secret to Dallas Stars success? Meet the #RallyBelly

    Jamie Benn didn't start the fire. It wasn't Benn. It was the Rally Belly. … More »

    Puck Daddy - 31 minutes ago
  • Michael Phelps qualifies fastest for 100 butterfly final in comeback meet

    Michael Phelps qualifies fastest for 100 butterfly final in comeback meet

    MESA, Ariz. - A giddy Michael Phelps qualified fastest for the 100-metre butterfly final Thursday in his first competition since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics. Friend and rival Ryan Lochte was second-quickest, winning his heat in 52.94. … More »

    The Canadian Press - 34 minutes ago
  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard cites pretty high-ranking source in tweet saying Frank Vogel's job is safe

    Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard cites pretty high-ranking source in tweet saying Frank Vogel's job is safe

    "Larry Bird just told me his sources say Frank Vogel's job is safe." … More »

    Ball Don't Lie - 37 minutes ago
  • Tiger Woods' rocky season

    Tiger Woods' rocky season

    While the PGA Tour continues to roll on with golf tournaments and new champions, a lot of the focus still sits with a man that is recovering from a back surgery.

    Tiger Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, missed the Masters because of a surgery on

    More »

    45 minutes ago
  • Habs sign pair to entry-level contracts

    MONTREAL (AP) -- The Montreal Canadiens signed Union College scoring leader Daniel Carr and Ontario Hockey League forward Connor Crisp to entry-level contracts Thursday. … More »

    AP - Sports - 39 minutes ago
  • Texas' Kouzmanoff to have back evaluated

    Texas' Kouzmanoff to have back evaluated

    Texas third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff was scheduled to be evaluated Friday at home by a back specialist before the Rangers have to make a roster move to active Adrian Beltre from the disabled list. Kouzmanoff, who is hitting .362 in 13 games and is … More »

    AP - Sports - 46 minutes ago
  • Cabrera, Scherzer lift Tigers by ChiSox

    Cabrera, Scherzer lift Tigers by ChiSox

    Miguel Cabrera drove in three runs, Max Scherzer struck out 10 and the Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago White Sox 7-4 Thursday. Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his fourth save in six tries. He got the final two outs on a strikeout where Jose Abreu … More »

    AP - Sports - 47 minutes ago
  • Michael Phelps wins 100 fly heat in comeback meet

    Michael Phelps wins 100 fly heat in comeback meet

    A giddy Michael Phelps qualified fastest for the 100-meter butterfly final Thursday in his first competition since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics. The 28-year-old swimmer was second at the turn and came on down the stretch to win his heat … More »

    AP - Sports - 48 minutes ago
  • Meet the hardest thrower in baseball

    Meet the hardest thrower in baseball

    Yordano Ventura has reached 103 miles per hour on the radar gun this season. Yahoo Sports' Evan Doherty looks at the Royals pitcher and what kind of difference his speed makes for opposing batters. … More »

    Yahoo Sports Videos - 50 minutes ago
  • Marshall hires Lakers' Dan D'Antoni

    Marshall hires Lakers' Dan D'Antoni

    Marshall hired Los Angeles Lakers assistant Dan D'Antoni as its men's basketball coach Thursday. The 66-year-old D'Antoni is scheduled to be introduced at a news conference on Friday. He replaces Tom Herrion, who resigned last month after an 11-22 … More »

    AP - Sports - 54 minutes ago
  • NLRB to review Northwestern union ruling

    The National Labor Relations Board has granted Northwestern University's request that it review its ruling that football players at the university are essentially employees of the school with full collective bargaining rights. It said a previously … More »

    AP - Sports - 54 minutes ago
  • NFL owners to discuss expanded playoffs

    NFL owners to discuss expanded playoffs

    The NFL will discuss expanded playoffs at the owners' meetings next month in Atlanta. Commissioner Roger Goodell told a gathering of Associated Press Sports Editors on Thursday that a vote is uncertain on the proposal to add two teams to the … More »

    AP - Sports - 55 minutes ago
  • Duke assistant Jackson named Cougars coach

    CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- The College of Charleston has hired Duke assistant Candice Jackson as its women's basketball coach. … More »

    AP - Sports - 59 minutes ago
  • Kosar believes he's off TV for slurred speech

    Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar believes he's been unfairly sacked as a TV broadcaster. Kosar has been removed as a color commentator for Cleveland's preseason games by the team. The Browns said Wednesday night he was being replaced by … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 1 minute ago
  • NFL questions appear on 'Jeopardy' (Tebow included!) but contestants miss easiest one

    NFL questions appear on 'Jeopardy' (Tebow included!) but contestants miss easiest one

    It's not often you see a bunch of NFL questions on the game show "Jeopardy" (fine, it's answers, and you answer in the form of a question) but they recently popped up. You never know how sports questions will go over on the show, known for much … More »

    Shutdown Corner - 1 hour 2 minutes ago
  • Speeding Ferrari driver sidelined, fined, young passenger OK, in B.C. incident

    VANCOUVER - Mounties say they're appalled by the actions of a Ferrari driver from Langley, B.C., who used area roads as his personal race track. … More »

    The Canadian Press - 1 hour 3 minutes ago
  • Mets hand Cards' Lynn first April loss

    Mets hand Cards' Lynn first April loss

    Chris Young homered to start New York's comeback and slumping Curtis Granderson singled in a run as a pinch hitter as Bartolo Colon and the Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 Thursday to send Lance Lynn to his first career loss in April. New … More »

    AP - Sports - 1 hour 6 minutes ago