For the last month or so up until last week, I wasn’t feeling very good about the Orioles’ 2014 prospects and believed they weren’t as good as they were last year, an 85-77 fourth place AL East finish missing the AL Playoffs by five games. There is a reason for this, because going into the 2014 off-season, it was very clear what the Orioles needed to be better than they were in 2013, which was another frontline starting pitcher if not two of them to go along with Chris Tillman (the ace of the staff), a full-time productive designated hitter, and another outfielder.
Up until recently the Orioles were signing mostly minor league free agents, guys who are career minor leaguers, who are at best potential major league players, or guys who were once major leaguers but are now at the downpoint of their careers, looking for another shot at getting their careers back on track but certainly not players you are expecting to make a major impact for the Orioles in 2014. This meant it was clear who was running the show in Baltimore, Mr. Tightwad Peter Angelos, the majority owner of the franchise, someone who only wants to spend enough money to make the Orioles look credible (his record in the past at least) but not commit the resources to make the Orioles a real contender.
What we now know after trading for outfielder David Lough who, at least going into the 2014 season, will be the Orioles’ regular leadoff hitter, someone with a solid bat who runs well, has decent power, and is a good outfielder, is what the Orioles were looking for. They were always going after at least one more frontline starting pitcher and a regular everyday DH, but because of Mr. Angelos they were waiting for the market to calm down, when everyone else has made their offers, leaving possible free agents to wait to bring their prices down. That is when they would swoop in and get the players they were after, which is how they signed pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and DH/OF Nelson Cruz.
A month ago the the 2014 Orioles looked like they had a better chance of finishing last in the AL East than winning it or even grabbing one of the AL wildcards. But with the signings of Jimenez to go along with what else they have in the starting rotation with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, and Miguel Gonzalez, still one of the best bullpens in baseball even without a proven closer, then the lineup goes 1-9 in power, run production, and hitting and the best defense in baseball.
They don’t need a great pitching staff or even great starting pitching to make the AL Playoffs in 2014. What they need their starting pitchers to do is stay healthy and be solid and give their offense and defense a chance to win the game. They should keep walks and extra base hits down and eat up innings but not have to play shutout baseball when your offense is giving you 5-6 runs a game with a great defense as well. If their starting pitching gives them that consistently, turning the gavel over to the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning with a lead or a chance to win and stays healthy, look for the Orioles to at least be back in the AL Playoffs in 2014. (See quote below.)