- Mike Petriello, ESPN Insider
There might not be a fan base that has suffered through a drearier offseason to date than that of the Baltimore Orioles, which has watched the New York Yankees import Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran while the Boston Red Sox re-signed Mike Napoli and the Tampa Bay Rays added Grant Balfour.
Baltimore, meanwhile, has made more news for the deals it hasn't been able to close -- voided signings for Balfour and Tyler Colvin after physical concerns -- than the ones it has actually made. So far, all the Orioles have done is complete minor trades for infielder Jemile Weeks (more of a salary dump of useful reliever Jim Johnson than anything else) and outfielder David Lough along with signing middle reliever Ryan Webb to a two-year deal.
A quiet winter is fine when a team is in the midst of a rebuild, but the Orioles have raised expectations by winning 178 games over the past two seasons, including making it to the playoffs in 2012 for the first time since 1997. Despite that, they have rarely even been mentioned in rumors this winter and by most indications haven't made a serious push for any of the big-name free agents. Will Webb or a potential Chris Capuano or Bronson Arroyo satisfy the Baltimore faithful? Not likely.
Fortunately for the Orioles, luck just might be on their side. Somewhat unexpectedly, the market has a new "best pitcher available," one who won't demand a long-term contract or cost a draft pick and who might limit himself to a geographic area, which means the Orioles need to battle only four or five teams for his services.
He's A.J. Burnett, and Baltimore absolutely has to sign him if it's going to make something out of this winter as the 2014 season looms.
Mike Petriello explains why the Orioles need to sign A.J. Burnett.