2008 Record: 68-93 5th AL Eastbaltimore-orioles-crest
2009 Prediction: 5th, AL East

Impact Player: Nick Markakis
Impact Pitcher: Jeremy Guthrie
Top Prospect: Matt Wieters

Significant Acquisitions: OF Felix Pie, UTIL Ryan Freel, SS Cesar Izturis, C Gregg Zaun, P Rich Hill, P Mark Hendrickson, P Koji Uehara, 2B Ty Wigginton
Significant Loses: P Daniel Cabrera, P Garret Olson, C Ramon Hernandez, OF Jay Payton, 1B Kevin Millar, OF/P Adam Loewen

Surprisingly, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the busier teams in the ’09 off-season making a number of key trades acquiring the likes of outfielder Felix Pie and some much needed starting pitching help in Rich Hill from the Cubs in two separate deals as well as some veteran role players such as Gregg Zaun, Ryan Freel and Ty Wigginton.  I’m inclined to say that the Orioles are the most-improved team in the AL East on paper.  Unfortunately that doesn’t mean they’ll be roaming with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees in the toughest division in baseball in ’09.

Pitching
The Orioles feature a rotation that is still young and rather inexperienced with Jeremy Guthrie likely being its ace in spite of only garnering a 10-12 record a year ago.  The addition of Hill from the Cubs is significant if he can return to his ’07 form when he went 11-9 with a 3.92 ERA in 195 innings but he’s coming off a year when he couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make a difference for the Cubs.  The Orioles went overseas to grab Koji Uehara from Japan.  Uehara will be 34 once the season starts and has had problems with injuries in the past few years but a career 112-62 record with a 3.01 ERA in Japan makes Uehara a potentially great pickup for the O’s.  The last two spots in the O’s rotation are up for grabs with a mix of young pitchers and veterans like Mark Hendrickson and former closer Danys Baez vying for spots.  The bullpen was a point of contention last year for the O’s but closer George Sherrill is back along with his 31 saves and 9.79 K/9 in ’08.  Righty Jim Johnson was the team’s best pitcher last year once Chad Bradford was traded to Tampa and finished with a team best 2.23 ERA.

Rotation

* Jeremy Guthrie (R)
* Koji Uehara (R)
* Rich Hill (L)
* Matt Albers (R)
* Mark Hendrickson (L)

Bullpen

* George Sherrill (L) — CLOSER
* Jim Johnson (R)
* Jamie Walker (L)
* Dennis Sarfate (R)
* Chris Ray (R)
* Jim Miller (R)
* Kam Mickolio (R)

Lineup
The O’s will have one thing to brag about for years to come: Nick Markakis.  Markakis was locked up to a 6-year $66-million contract this offseason and figures to be a staple in the middle of this young lineup for years to come.  Outside of Markakis, the O’s have one of the best young outfields in all of baseball with Adam Jones in center and newly-acquired Felix Pie in left.  All three have tremendous defensive and offensive ability and should be the core of the team for management to build around.  In the infield, Brian Roberts is back at 2B and has been as consistent as anyone at that position in the past few years, Cesar Izturis was signed to be the team’s main option at short, and run-producing veterans Melvin Mora and Aubrey Huff will anchor the corners (they had 104 and 108 RBI respectively last season).  Luke Scott will be the team’s DH and fourth outfielder option and Ty Wigginton figures to give Huff some much needed DH-days at first.  The O’s also acquired utility man and speedster Ryan Freel from the Reds. Former Blue Jay Gregg Zaun will man the backstop until minor league prospect Matt Wieters is ready. Wieters will probably start at Triple-A Norfolk this spring and may be called up in the fall.

Lineup
2B Brian Roberts (S)
CF Adam Jones (R)
RF Nick Markakis (L)
1B Aubrey Huff (L)
3B Melvin Mora (R)
DH Luke Scott (L)
C   Zaun (R)
SS Cesar Izturis (S)
LF Felix Pie (L)

Bench
UTIL Ryan Freel (R)
INF Ty Wigginton (R)
C Gregg Zaun (S/38)
INF Donnie Murphy (R/26)

Outlook
It looks like another losing season for the O’s, but they should be better than last year.  Their pitching is marred by inexperience and will be the biggest obstacle for the team to overcome.  Offensively this team should not have a problem, if their younger players continue to develop as expected, they have the potential to be one of the toughest offensive teams in the AL, but it won’t overcome the problems in the pitching staff.  Final Prediction — 74-88, 5th AL East