It’s no question that Buck Showalter has changed the attitude in the locker room, held his players more accountable and made fans more excited about the direction of the Baltimore Orioles in under a month as the manager of this ball club. We’ve seen ratings spike on the O’s broadcasts, the players’ stand up for the ball club and fans discuss the Orioles into late August.
So far Buck Showalter has been a great addition to the Orioles from a managing stand point, how will that translate into the 2010 off season?
The Orioles have some interesting gaps in their roster to fill and a number of free agents on their team. We know for certain that around the MLB trade deadline Showalter had expressed interest in holding on to Ty Wigginton. Wiggy will be a free agent after this season, as well as Julio Lugo, Miguel Tejada, Kevin Millwood, Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson.
I would expect Buck and the Orioles to hold on to Ty Wiggington and Koji Uehara. Both players have had success this season, Ty made his first career All-Star game and stepped up showing fire against the Texas Rangers in a play in which he tagged out Andres Blanko out third base. Uehara, after struggling with injuries since his arrival in Baltimore, has found his groove out of the bullpen. In his last 16 appearances Uehara is 1-0, earned his first two saves, recorded three holds, pitched 19 innings surrendering just one earned run, two walks, two strikeouts and a 0.50 ERA. He’s pitched 11 straight scoreless innings going back to July 30.
As for the rest of the Oriole free agents, I would be surprised to see them go out and bring back Miguel Tejada or re-sign Kevin Millwood, though Mark Hendrickson may be a valuable left handed reliever for the Orioles next season.
But how will Buck help the Orioles recruit free agents to Baltimore? Fans would like to think that the combination of both a proven manager and general manager would help bring bigger names to Baltimore than we’ve seen in recent history.
Should the Orioles bring back Ty Wiggington, we would hope to see him as more of a designated hitter than a first baseman in 2011. Players link Hank Blalock, Adam Dunn, Troy Glaus, Eric Hinske, Adam LaRoche, Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena are all available for the Orioles to scoop up. While I would love to see Dunn play here in Baltimore, it is unlikely that the Nationals will let him get away. Besides LaRoche (21 home runs), Derrek Lee (22) and Carlos Pena (24) this bunch won’t provide the power that this ball club needs in the middle of their line up. Pena’s average, currently at .213, doesn’t impress much either, but he’s a guy that should hit around 40 home runs for his ball club.
Of course the biggest option would be to make a trade for Prince Fielder, who isn’t a free agent until after the 2011 season.
The 2011 rotation is another question mark for Baltimore. The young starters have been given their chance this season with guys like Chris Tillman and Zach Britton beating down the door at Triple-A Norfolk. But Baltimore will likely lose their veteran presence in Kevin Millwood and will need at least one proven guy to step in and lead the rotation. Washington’s ageless starter Livan Hernandez is available, he wouldn’t be the leader that Baltimore may be looking for but he’s pitched to a 3.36 ERA this season and pitched 7+ innings 11 times. Vincente Padilla, who Showalter managed in Texas is available this off season. Padilla is 6-4, with a 3.96 ERA with the Dodgers this season.
Other available free agents for the rotation include Jeremy Bonderman, Jon Garland, Rich Harden, Cliff Lee, Carl Pavano and Javier Vazquez among numerous others.
The Orioles need a decent free agent splash this season in order to really take the next step. Will Showalter’s history help to bring in the free agents this club needs? What do you think?