by Matthew Taylor
Obviously, free agent talk is topic number one, two, and three now that we've officially entered the Hot Stove season. Sports Illustrated provides a through dousing of cold water with its assessment of what the O's have, what they need, what they're likely to do, and what they should do.
"If the Jays should look beyond 2009, the same goes doubly for the 68-win Orioles, who employed the fifth-oldest lineup in the league, one in which only Jones and Nick Markakis were on the right side of 30. For far too long the O's have been in denial about their plight, which now extends to 11 straight losing seasons. A typical winter's patchwork involves trying to get them to 75 wins, a level that the Orioles have actually reached just once in this millennium. This only forestalls a more extensive rebuilding effort; they need to face the music and clean house. Take the rotation -- please. The unit's ERA as a whole was an MLB-worst 5.51, and Jeremy Guthrie was the only member with at least a dozen starts and an ERA below 5.25; in that light perpetually maddening Daniel Cabrera starts to make sense because of his ability to eat innings. The Orioles need another arm or two to stabilize a corps of not-so-young and none-too-effective pitchers like Radhames Liz and Garret Olsen, but they shouldn't overpay for name-brand studs on long-term deals, because they're a couple of years away from a credible run at .500, let alone the division flag. Paging Odalis Perez...."My assessment of the team's future is a tad more optimistic than this one. What, no mention of the improving farm system? Not even a word about Matt Wieters? However, the overall age of the roster is easy to forget if, like me, you focus on guys like Jones and Markakis.
Even with last year's successful off-season maneuvering, the team hasn't provided a definitive indication of how long the latest, greatest rebuilding effort will take. What happens in the coming weeks should provide a hint of the team's thinking in that regard.