Monday, October 15, 2012
What's next for Orioles, Nationals?
By Jim Bowden
Lohse might look good in a Washington Nationals or Baltimore Orioles uniform next season?
It was a summer of success for baseball's mid-Atlantic teams. After much losing over the past decade, both the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals took their divisions by storm. One surprised, the other finally arrived, but both buoyed fan bases thirsting for a winner.
Considering the success of both teams, neither needs to do anything drastic this offseason. Both need to supplement their current roster with one big acquisition and perhaps a small tweak here and there. So what's next for the Nationals and Orioles?
The Nationals officially arrived in 2012, finishing with the best record in the National League. And perhaps if they hadn’t shut down ace Stephen Strasburg, they might have even won the World Series. However, they are built for the long term and already are the favorites to repeat as NL East champs in 2013 -- and will boast a rotation armed with Strasburg the next time around.
The Nationals' offseason will focus on acquiring an above-average defensive center fielder, preferably one who can lead off, a starting pitcher to replace free agent Edwin Jackson and building quality depth in the bullpen.
The Nats probably will vest their part of their $10 million mutual option with first baseman Adam LaRoche, and are willing to give him a multiyear deal. However, after hitting .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBIs, they can bet LaRoche won’t vest his side and will test the free-agent waters. This will be an interesting negotiation as his middle-of-the-order left-handed bat is important to the balance of their lineup.
Jackson will be looking for a long-term contract, but the Nationals will not invest that type of money on what would be a fourth starter for them. The Nationals are expected to pick-up the $3.5 million option on left-handed reliever Sean Burnett. They probably will bring back free-agent reliever Mike Gonzalez, but let Mark DeRosa go.
Davey Johnson’s contract is up too, but he surely will be offered a short-term contract to return after a magnificent manager of the year-caliber season.
Possible free-agent targets Michael Bourn: This is the best fit for the Nationals. He would give them the true leadoff hitter and defensive center fielder they need, and his makeup would fit nicely in their clubhouse. Signing Bourn also would weaken a division rival and allow Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth to play the corners and free up Michael Morse to be traded for pitching help.
Kyle Lohse: General manager Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras have a special relationship and Lohse is Boras' best starting pitcher available this fall. It is doubtful that the Nationals will spend this type of money for another starter, but that doesn’t mean that Rizzo can’t dream about him in the rotation with Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler.
B.J. Upton: Though he’s not a true leadoff guy, Upton started to break out in August and September. Don’t be surprised if 2013-17 are his prime years. If the Nats can’t sign Bourn, Upton would be the next best fit.
Shane Victorino: Not sure if the Nationals view Victorino as an overall upgrade to their outfield, but he's arguably the third-best center fielder on the board.
Others: Grady Sizemorewould be a worthwhile inexpensive gamble because he won't cost much. ... Joel Peraltawould give the Nationals depth in the late innings with Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen. ... Jeremy Affeldtwould give the Nationals even more flexibility in their ’pen. ... Former Nat Luis Ayalawould give them a different look in the bullpen and a pitcher who could take the ball every day.
Possible trade targets Every impact setup reliever in baseball will be of interest to the Nationals, and if they can’t reel in Bourn or Upton, look for them to pursue the following players:
Ben Revere, Minnesota Twins: The Nationals would love to get Revere to be their future center fielder and leadoff hitter. He has a chance to develop into one of the best in the league.
Denard Span, Minnesota Twins: Another high-character player who would improve the Nationals' defense in center field if he can stay healthy. The Nats have had their eye on him for years.
The Orioles became a surprise contender in 2012 and were one of the best stories in baseball. They matched the New York Yankees pitch for pitch until the Game 5 of the ALDS. The Yankees won because of their ace, CC Sabathia. The Orioles could only counter with Jason Hammel. Hammel pitched great this season, but he is clearly not a No. 1 starter. Therefore, if the Orioles want to progress in 2013, a top-of- the-rotation starter should be their main priority.
Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Hammel give the O's a nice foundation in their rotation, and they would like to re-sign left-hander Joe Saunders, a Virginia native, and fortunately for them the feeling is mutual. Their bullpen was one of the best in baseball, especially after manager Buck Showalter shrewdly moved both Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz out there.
The Orioles should be back as contenders next year, but they are in an interesting spot this winter. Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy are two of the best young talents in the game, but both of them are untouchable. But beyond that pair, their system lacks depth, so it will be tough for the Orioles to swing a big trade.
This 93-win club will return nearly completely intact and the Orioles have control of almost all the players. However, the one thing they need is an ace, and there is at least one to be had on the free-agent market.
Possible free-agent targets Zack Greinke: The former Cy Young Award winner is the best available on the market.
Kyle Lohse: He has been one of the best starters in the regular season the past two years and his value continues to rise.
Brandon McCarthy: If McCarthy hadn’t been hit in the head with a line drive, he might have been the A’s Game 1 pitcher in the ALDS.
Jake Peavy: You can’t find a better competitor and leader for this young Orioles rotation.
Ervin Santana: The Angels will soon be declining his option and a bounce-back year is due based on his track record.
Ryan Dempster: It appears that Dempster’s preference would be Los Angeles, Chicago or Texas, but money does talk.
Hiroki Kuroda: Nothing would please Peter Angelos more than to be able to add Kuroda and take him away from the Yankees at the same time.
Anibal Sanchez: Has enough stuff to win in the AL East but is more of a third or fourth starter.