Baltimore Orioles

Signed: Yankees Get Their Miller

Andrew-Miller1[1]

Andrew Miller’s career looked like it was over. The former 6th overall pick (Detroit) in the 2006 draft was derailed by injuries and ineffectivness. Then things suddenly turned around him for as a lefty specialist with the Boston Red Sox in 2012. It paid off for him today. The YES Network’s Jack Curry reported that the New York Yankees and Miller agreed on a four-year, $36MM contract.

The Yankees did not want to go to four years, but compromised once they were able to reduce the yearly average. Miller had reportedly been seeking $10MM per season. The Yankees have struggled to find a consistent left-hander out of the pen for the last decade. Guys like Boone Logan had some good streaks, but would often fail at the worst possible time.

Miller’s bust out season saw him strike out 11.4 batters per nine innings. He appeared in just 37 games in 2013 due to foot surgery, but saw his Ks/nine innings increase to 14.1. Last season, with Boston and Baltimore, he set personal bests with 62.1 IP, 14.9 Ks/nine innings, and a 0.802 WHIP. Good timing for a great contract.

Even with Miller signed, the Yankee cannot leave their bullpen as is. The team had a superb 1-2 punch at the back end of games last year as Dellin Betances emerged as a power right-handed set up man and David Robertson excelled as the closer that replaced Mariano Rivera. Robertson, as of this writing, is an unsigned free agent. Miller’s acquisition will strengthen the bullpen, but only if they resign Robertson or an equivalent. It would be a huge mistake to turn away Robertson if he wants four years after giving Miller four years, even if it’s likely to cost the Yankees an additional $50-$52MM.

Despite Miller’s numbers, Robertson is the better pitcher and it shouldn’t be assumed that Betances can step into the closer’s role.

 

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Signed: Markakis Joins a Brave New World

markakis

Over the years Baltimore has lost a number of long-time Orioles to free agency. Guys like Mike Mussina who the fans hoped would spend their whole careers in the orange, black, and white uniforms. Right fielder Nick Markakis can now be added to the list, though he didn’t have much choice.

Markakis, who signed with the Orioles after they took him with the 7th overall pick in the 2003 MLB Amateur draft, has departed Baltimore to join the Atlanta Braves after the two sides agreed on a four-year deal. The money has not been officially announced,  but ESPN.com’s Buster Oleny estimates that the nine-year veteran will earn around a total of $45MM. That would represent a pay cut from the $15MM Markakis earned the last two seasons.

The 31-year old became a free agent after the Orioles turned down their portion of a mutual option that would have cost the club $17MM for the coming season. Instead the team bought Markakis out for a mere $2MM.

Though he holds a career .358 on-base pct. and a .436 slugging pct., Markakis’ never reached the offensive heights that the early part of his career might have indicated. Granted, he played on some awful Orioles squads, but Markakis averaged 20 home runs, 45 doubles, and 100 RBI from 2007 – 2009. He hasn’t reached 20 home runs since then and had the worst OPS numbers of his career (.685, .729) over the last two seasons.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Markakis’ superb defense and rocket-like arm. He won his second Gold Glove Award this season after he captured one in 2011. He did not commit an error in either of those two years as well as in 2013, and has made just 18 errors in his career to date. Markakis is expected to replace right fielder Jason Heyward, who was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Shelby Miller, in the Orioles outfield.

The Orioles have lost two outfielders to free agency, with Nelson Cruz having agreed to a deal with Seattle this past Monday.

Nick Markakis among the Orioles All-Time hitters

Hits – 7th
Games played – 13th
Home Runs – 15th
Doubles – 7th
Runs scored – 11th
RBI – 13th
Walks – 11th
At-Bats 10th

Signed: Cruz Joins Cano in Seattle

NCruz

Had Nelson Cruz not been busted in the Biogenesis scandal in 2013 he likely would have landed a five year deal last year with at least a value of $90MM – $100MM. Instead he signed with the Baltimore Orioles for one year and bashed an AL leading 40 home runs and drove in 108 runs.

It was those numbers that landed Cruz a four-year, $57MM deal with the Seattle Mariners Monday morning. It’s still shy a year and some millions of what he could have made, but after last season’s compromise (Cruz earned $8MM), the new deal looks pretty golden.

The Mariners made a committment last season towards a brighter tomorrow when they held firm to their policy of holding on to ace Felix Hernandez and then signed free agent second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM deal. The team also inked closer Fernando Rodney last offseason and recently signed slugging third baseman Kyle Seager to a seven year extension. They also dealt for centerfielder Austin Jackson at the 2014 trade deadline.

Cruz is likely to spend most of his time at DH, though he should see upwards of 50 games in left and/or right field spelling Dustin Ackley and Michael Saunders. The 34-year old, who has been subject to hamstring injuries throughout his career, matched his career high for games played last season with 159. His home run and RBI totals were both career highs (it was the first time he knocked in 100 runs) and helped earn Cruz his third All-Star appearance and a 7th place finish in the AL MVP voting.

His season was made more interesting by the fact that Cruz only put up .783 OPS at his home ball park, the hitter friendly Camden Yards. His bat also went to sleep from June through part of August.

The New York Mets originally signed the Dominican native to a contract in 1998. He was dealt to the Oakland A’s in 2000 and then moved on to Milwaukee in 2004. The deal that kickstarted his career though came in 2006 when he and Carlos Lee were sent to the Texas Rangers for reliever Francisco Cordero and outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.

Cruz had his break out season in 2009 when he slugged 33 home runs. He’s averaged 29 home runs in his last six seasons. He had 27 HR and 76 RBI when he was suspended 50 games for his involvement with Biogenesis, the performance enhancing drug (PED) “store” that mascaraded as a health clinic.

With Cruz’s departure, the Orioles may ramp up their talks with the LA Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp.

Rumor: D-Rob Has 3 Year, $39MM Offer

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David Robertson had the opportunity to be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera, who retired after the 2013 regular season. “D-Rob” took full advantage as the new New York Yankees closer, with 39 saves and better than 13 strikeouts per nine innings. A fine season when your about to embark on free agency as well.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday evening that Robertson has a three-year, $39MM offer in hand. The team that made the offer remains unknown at this time. The Yankees definitely want Robertson back and don’t consider set up man Dellin Betances ready to assume the job. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Yankees signed another closer to a short term deal for when, and if, Betances is ready to assume the 9th inning role.

Heyman and Designated For Assignment agree that the Yankees won’t offer Robertson a guaranteed fourth year, but a three year deal would probably be in the range of $40MM – $50MM. The amount would surpass the $12.5MM average per year of the four year deal Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2012 season.

Earlier D4A reported that the San Diego Padres were talking to the Los Angeles Dodgers about outfielder Matt Kemp. According to FoxSports’ Ken Rosenthal the Baltimore Orioles have also talked turkey with the Dodgers. The Orioles have free agent outfielders in Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis that would “only” cost them money rather than the players they would have to give up to land Kemp.

Lester and Price Lead The Winners and Losers of Deadline Day

Tigers supergroup

Three Cy Young winners All in a row.

It’s been a five days since the craziness of the final hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline came to an end. I cannot recall the last time there was such monumental team changing/game changing deals on July 31. Lately, many of the bigger trades have taken place as the deadline neared. This year, it was a frenzy right down to the final minutes, with some deals announced shortly after the deadline had passed.

So, who came up as the winners and losers at the deadline? Let’s take a look.

Winners

Oakland A’s: This isn’t Moneyball, this is sending and receiving at its finest. The A’s needed to strengthen their starting rotation and add some veteran presence to it. Prior to the deadline, they went out and got Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samarzdija and fellow starter Jason Hammel for a package that included highly rated shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Inserted in the A’s rotation, Samarzdija pitched to his reputation, but Hammel struggled, leading GM Billy Beane to pull off a bold move. He sent his slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The A’s outfield had been thinned with an injury to Coco Crisp, so the addition of Gomes gave them another World Series ring-wearing veteran.( Beane would later flip aggrieved starter Tommy Milone for outfielder Sam Fuld to strengthen the bench and play centerfield while Crisp is out)

Lester was the key maneuver, though, joining a rotation of Samarzdija, veteran Scott Kazmir and youngsters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. The left-hander started his first game as an Athletic on Saturday, in front of a charged Oakland crowd. Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in the A’s 8-3 victory. It was Lester’s 110th career victory and his first in a uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox. (A day later Lester took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the fans.)

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. That’s a pretty intimidating starting rotation right out of the box. Now add David Price to it and look out. That’s exactly what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski was able to do on Thursday. As soon as Lester was dealt by Boston, Tampa Bay Rays’ Executive VP of Operations and GM, Andrew Friedman, began to get inundated with calls about Price.

The 2012 AL Cy Young winner still had another year on his contract, so Tampa did not need to trade him this year with the worry of losing him to free agency in the offseason. But Friedman found a deal he liked and brought in the Seattle Mariners as a third team to get it done.

The Rays sent Price to Detroit, who in turn traded centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to the Rays. The Rays also received second base prospect Nick Franklin from Seattle.

The Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young winners with Verlander (2011, also MVP), Price (2012) and Scherzer (2013). Sanchez is now the best number four starter in the Major Leagues. The Tigers still need to work on their bullpen –as the Phillies can attest, a great rotation (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) doesn’t always get it done – which has not performed up to par, but they may not need to make too many appearances with a group of starters that can routinely pitch into the 7th and 8th innings. Price makes his Tigers’ debut Tuesday evening in a place he has started 23 games, Yankee Stadium. (Price is 10-5, 3.66 vs. the Yankees, including 6-2 in the new Yankee Stadium.)

Boston Red Sox: There were a lot of disgruntled Red Sox fans on Thursday, most of them not wanting to see Lester go. But with a better than 50/50 chance of Lester returning as a free agent, GM Ben Cherington took a team that went from first to worst and got it back on the road to future success.

In Cespedes, he got a bona fide power hitter whose power had been lessened by the A’s spacious home ballpark. Now he has the Green Monster to pepper shots off of. It also gives David Ortiz more protection in the lineup than he had with Mike Napoli and allows manager John Farrell to move Dustin Pedroia into the number two slot in the order. Cherington also sent John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly

Craig drove in 90-plus runs the last two seasons before an ankle injury robbed him of much of the current season. He’ll give depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs this season. The Red Sox also added youth with the just turned 30-year old Craig and the 26-year old Kelly. The right-hander was solid the past two seasons as a reliever and occasional starter, and helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three years in 2013.

Kelly was limited to 10 starts between the Majors (7) and minors (3) this season due to a strained hamstring that kept him out of action for three months. He’ll join the only remaining Boston starter, Clay Buchholz, from the rotation that began the year. (The Red Sox had already dealt Jake Peavy prior to the deadline and sent lefty Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on the 31st.)

The Sox also dealt veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, to the Yankees of all people, to free up playing time for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts. The aforementioned Peavy deal brought them pitcher Edwin Escobar, ranked in the 2014 top 100 MLB prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, and a possible addition to their bullpen in right-hander Heath Hembree.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia Phillies: One has to wonder how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has managed to keep his job. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and repeated as NL pennant winners a year later. But the writing was on the wall for quite some time and Amaro ignored it. He also doled out way too much money for too many players and was unable to move any of them by the deadline.

One of those players was starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The former AL Cy Young Winner still has about $37.5MM owed to him for the next two years. Whether he’ll be able to play or not is another matter. Lee was bothered by elbow problems this season, which made him and his contract harder to move. But Amaro should have done something, even if it meant not getting much in return. He may have been able to move some of Lee’s salary. He didn’t and Lee re-injured his elbow and is likely done for the season, which means no waiver trade either.

First baseman Ryan Howard is not what he used to be, which was a home run smashing, RBI-producing, bad-fielding first baseman. Okay, he is still the last part. Amaro foolishly gave Howard a six year, $106MM extension after the 2012 season. It’s a deal that will be paying Howard $25MM the next two years when he is 35 and 36. The Phillies are just lucky, if you want to call it that, they have a $10MM buyout on a $23MM option in 2017.

If you are to believe the reports, Amaro was also asking for too much in return for outfielder Marlon Byrd. As of this writing, the 36-year old had a .799 OPS with 21 HR and 63 RBI in 110 games. Ah, but Amaro’s over-generosity did him in again. There are plenty of teams that want Byrd for this year, maybe even next season at the $8MM it may cost them. But they don’t want a 38-year old Byrd with another $8MM in 2016.

Amaro was clearly counting on Byrd not being able to attain the vested portion of his contract – 600 plate appearances (PA) in 2015 or 1100 PA between this year and next. Byrd already has 462 PA as of this writing, with nearly two full months of the season left.

Amaro could have also moved A.J. Burnett, whose performance has dropped off from last season. Burnett makes $15MM and has a mutual option with just a $1MM buyout for next year. In today’s market, Amaro did a good job on Burnett’s deal. Burnett is the most likely of the Phillies to pass through waivers and be dealt. He’d better be or Amaro’s trade season will be a complete flop. Not that it still won’t be a complete flop even if Amaro does move Burnett.

There were a number of teams that hoped to improve with minor moves that fall somewhere in between winner and loser. Time will tell which of the categories those deals fall into.

 

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

 

Lester Scratched as MLB Deadline Nears

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

by Drew Sarver

We’re less than two days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline and the number of rumors is starting to add up. The biggest name among them is Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester. The veteran left-hander has been scratched from his Wednesday start, which means Boston will be making a heavy push to trade him for a boatload of prospects and/or Major Leaguers prior to Thursday’s 4 pm EDT deadline.

With the team and Lester unable to agree on a new contract to keep the left-hander in Boston beyond this year – he becomes a free agent after this season – a trade is now very likely.

Lester’s a grade ‘A’ player; a top performer, team leader, and whose departure would leave a major vacancy in the Red Sox rotation. The 30-year old, who beat anaplastic large cell lymphoma eight years ago, holds a 110-63 (.636) record as of this writing and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. His K’s per nine innings (9.4) is the highest in four years and he has career bests in ERA (2.52) and WHIP (1.119).

He’s also been solid in the post-season. Last year he helped lead the Red Sox to their third World Series title in 10 years. He won four games, including two in the World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be difficult to cut the cord, but if the Red Sox truly feel they cannot resign him, they might as well try to deal him. Needless to say, they’ve getting calls from many teams. That includes the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last night emerged as a “dark horse favorite”.

Lester could be part of a Boston fire sale now that the Red Sox have dropped 12 games out in the AL East and 9.5 games out of the second wild card position. The team, which dealt starter Jake Peavy to San Francisco on July 26, has been fielding calls on John Lackey, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, and Jonny Gomes.

The Red Sox are also rumored to be interested in Matt Kemp, which makes no sense whatsoever. The injury-plagued LA Dodgers outfielder is owed $107MM over the next five seasons. The Red Sox would be better off spending money on starting pitcher. They don’t have to look that far back to see how injured and/or overpaid players (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez) failed in Boston.

The next best pitcher available is Cole Hamels. After not being able to pull off a Cliff Lee deal so far, the Phillies have reportedly either been shopping Hamels or steadfastly refusing to trade him. Even if Hamels is dealt, the Phillies would like to deal Lee and the minimum $37.5MM he stands to make the next two years. He’s also owed the remainder of $25MM this season. Lee will not command the return of players he once was able to unless Philly eats the majority of the salary.

Hamels stands to make $90MM through 2018, with a possibility of making an addition $20MM-$24MM in 2019. Like Lester, Hamels is 30-years old and is having a very good season. Tuesday night he tossed eight shutout innings in a win against the New York Mets. It lowered his career-best ERA to 2.55 and a very good ratio to 1.128 His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings is his highest total since 2006. The Phillies certainly won’t give him away and are probably going to hold on to him.

Like the Red Sox, the Phillies could move several players. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is in high demand and inquiries have been made about A.J. Burnett. The Phillies would love to rid themselves of Ryan Howard’s remaining $60MM over the next three years (the last year is an option with a $10MM buyout.), but that’s not likely to happen.

Other pitchers that could move today are the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who has one year and $11MM remaining on his contract. The Minnesota Twins would part with Kevin Correia, though there isn’t much demand for a pitcher who leads the AL in losses and whose ERA is over 5. The Twins have also been fielding calls for catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Josh Willingham.

The Kansas City Royals will likely lose James Shields to free agency after the season, but with the team five games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 3.5 games behind Toronto for the second wild card, how could they not keep him?

The Cleveland Indians face a similar dilemma. They’re 6.5 behind Detroit and sit five games in back of Toronto. Do they think they can make a run and become buyers or do they go ahead and become sellers? The Indians are a team that might try to do a little of both. Rumor has it they are trying to move starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is having a disastrous season. Another player having a bad year is Nick Swisher (.615 OPS as of this writing), though the two years and $30MM will make it harder to move him. Add on his failure in several post-seasons, and Swisher won’t bring much return at this point. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be in a new home by Friday, as he enters free agency after this season.

The Padres are reportedly shopping reliever Joaquin Benoit, who can either set up or close. Other players that could move on are pitcher John Danks, outfielder Dayan Viciedo, and 1B/DH Adam Dunn of the White Sox, pitcher Colby Lewis and outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers, Cubs’ Pitcher Edwin Jackson, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Stay tuned!

Done Deals

Cleveland sent Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect James Ramsey. Masterson has been having an off-year in a contract year, but the Cards are hoping he can be the second coming of Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals depth in the outfield allowed them to deal Ramsey, the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Red Sox have traded a left-handed pitcher, but it’s not Jon Lester..yet. They’ve sent Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later.  A Cubs official told Peter Gammons that Doubront was getting “One more change to grow up.”

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Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

MLB Preview: The Buck Starts Here

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Manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles are counting on a big season from Ubaldo Jimenez.

by Drew Sarver

Key Acquisitions: Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, Ryan Webb, Delmon Young, David Lough

Key Losses: Brian Roberts, Nate McLouth, Scott Feldman, Wilson Betemit, Chris Dickerson, Jason Hammel, Jim Johnson

 

In 2011, Manager Buck Showalter took over a club that had only finished higher than fourth place in the AL East once since 1997. A year later, he led the team to a 93-win season and their first playoff appearance since ’97, ultimately losing to the Yankees in the fifth game of the divisional series. Last year, the team won eight less games than in 2011, missed the playoffs, and settled into a third place tie with the Yankees.

The offense revolves around Chris Davis, who finished behind Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout in last year’s AL MVP voting. Despite missing the playoffs, there’s a legitimate argument that Davis should have been the MVP. Davis struggled in his years with the Texas Rangers organization (2006-2011), and wasn’t highly regarded when he and Tommy Hunter were dealt to the O’s for Koji Uehara at the 2011 deadline.

The change of scenery had an impact for Davis in the 2012 season. He belted 33 home runs, drove in 85 runs and recorded a .501 slugging percentage. Last season, Davis reached another stratosphere – an AL- leading 53 HR and 138 RBI, and a 1.004 OPS. It earned him his first All-Star appearance and his first Silver Slugger Award.

The Orioles finished tied for fourth in the AL in runs scored last season, but general manager Dan Duquette signed free agents Nelson Cruz and Delmon Young to give Davis protection in the lineup. Cruz has a history of injuries, mainly hamstring, and is coming off a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic. He’s averaged 27 HR and 81 RBI over the last five  seasons, but has topped 130 games played just once in non-suspended seasons.

At 28, Young is not so young any more and is at a crossroads in his career. His image has been damaged by his off-the-field comments and he hasn’t produced on the field. His lone big season came in 2010, when he knocked in 112 runs and topped an .800 OPS for the only time in his career. He’ll likely platoon in right field with David Lough.

The Orioles will be without the services of their phenom third baseman Manny Machado to start the season.  In his first full season in the Majors, Machado earned an All-Star nod and won a Gold Glove award. The 21-year old tore the medial patellofemoral ligament of his left knee in the final week of the 2013 season. He had reconstructive surgery in October with an expected recovery time of 4-6 months. In the meantime, Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, and Steve Lombardozzi could see time at third base (as well as second base).

LINEUP

C: Matt Wieters
1B: Chris Davis
2B: Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi
SS J.J. Hardy
3B: Manny Machado (Flaherty/Schoop/Lombardozzi)
LF: Delmon Young/David Lough
CF: Adam Jones
RF: Nick Markakis
DH: Nelson Cruz

Chris Tillman didn’t look good in his 36 Major League starts over 2009 – 2011, but he impressed in his 15 starts for the Orioles in 2012. That led to a breakout 2013 season. Tillman topped 200 innings, struck out 179 and won 16 games. He needs to cut down on serving up home runs, and control is sometimes still an issue, but Tillman should be able to build off of last season’s success.

He’ll be joined by Ubaldo Jiminez, who the Orioles signed to a four-year contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50MM. It’s a big risk, considering that outside of the second half of last year, Jimenez hasn’t been good since 2010. Jimenez did post a career-high 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings last year and cut his wild pitches (8) in half from 2012. The money per year isn’t bad, but the number of years sounds nuts at the moment.

ROTATION

SP: Chris Tillman
SP: Ubaldo Jimenez
SP: Miguel Gonzalez
SP: Bud Norris
SP: Wei-Yin Chen

Hunter will replace Jim Johnson as closer. He has the tools, but has not had the role of full-time closer before.

BULLPEN

Tommy Hunter
Darren O’Day
Ryan Webb
Evan Meek
Zach Britton
Brian Matusz
Josh Stinson

BENCH

Steven Pearce gives Showalter versatility with the ability to play first base and outfield. The second base/third base triumvirate will have one to two of the three coming off the bench. Steve Clevenger backs up Matt Wieters at catcher. Nolan Reimold continues to struggle in his comeback from a pair of neck surgeries and will start the season on the DL.

OUTLOOK

There are talented players in the Orioles lineup, but neither the pitching nor hitting will provide enough to finish ahead of the big three AL East powerhouses, Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay.