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AL East Preview: Baltimore Orioles

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Stacey Long of Camden Chat was kind enough to write a preview of the O's for us -

So, the Baltimore Orioles. The only thing you really need to know about them (which I know you all already do) is that they're not good. They're not good enough to win the NL Central, let alone the AL East. And new GM Dan Duquette has done little to help them in their quest to ascend to mediocrity, making a bevy of moves that, while defensible on their own, add up to a whole lot of nothing.

Are you familiar with a little show called The Wire? If you're not, I'm sorry that you are living such a sheltered life. There is one scene in The Wire that has been the running theme on Camden Chat for the moves that Dan Duquette has made this off-season. None of them were rage inducing, but none of them made anyone terribly happy either. They were all, in essence, 40-degree days, as explained by Stringer Bell. That clip, as with every clip from The Wire, is very not-safe-for-work. So I've transcribed below a cleaned up version for those unable or unwilling to listen to such foul language:

That's like a 40-degree day. Ain't nobody got nothing to say about a 40-degree day. 50 will bring a smile to your face? 60? [Golly, young men are] down there barbecuing on that mother[lover]. Go down to 20? [Young men] get their [complaining] on, get they blood complaining. But 40? Nobody give a [darn] about 40. Nobody remember 40 and y'all [young men] is giving me way too many 40-degree days!

So what were these 40-degree-day-like moves by the Orioles this off-season? Let's start with the offense. In need of a fourth outfielder, Duquette signed Endy Chavez to a one-year, $1.5M deal. He traded a few no-name prospects for catcher Taylor Teagarden, who will serve as backup to Matt Wieters. He signed former top prospect Matt Antonelli to compete for a job as a utility infielder. And he signed Wilson Betemit to replace Vladimir Guerrero at designated hitter. As I said above, individually none of those moves can really be considered bad, but adding a backup catcher and outfielder and a few possible utility guys is not going to make the Orioles much better at all.

Thanks to these non-moves, the offense remains about the same. Wieters will be the catcher, Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds will share duties in the corner infield, Robert Andino will play second base (unless the concussed Brian Roberts makes a miraculous recovery) and J.J. Hardy will man shortstop. The outfield will be made up of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold, who will hopefully flourish with a season of regular playing time.

As for the pitching, Duquette seems to be going with the old "throw a bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks" strategy. With the frustrating struggles of the young pitching staff, Duquette went out and acquired a number of other options. He signed Wei-yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada out of the NPB, traded for Dana Eveland, and, in the biggest move of the winter, traded staff veteran Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Chen, Wada, Eveland, and Hammel will compete with Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter for the starting five in the rotation. It would appear that Chen, who is just 26 and who signed a three-year deal with the O's, is a lock for the rotation along with Tommy Hunter (who Buck Showalter likes just a little too much for my taste) and Hammel. As for the rest, well, who knows. If Britton and Arrieta are healthy I'd like to see them be given the last two spots, but the Orioles aren't exactly known for doing what I want them to do.

The bullpen will feature Jim Johnson instead of the disgraceful Kevin Gregg. That can only be a good thing. Other new faces include Lindstrom and Darren O'Day, who was claimed off of waivers from the Rangers. Expect that Brad Bergesen, Alfredo Simon, and Pedro Strop will also make the team in relief.

Overall don't expect the Orioles to look very different this year. There will be some new members of the starting rotation, but none that I expect to be impact players. Other than the Guthrie trade, which is more memorable for shipping off a fan favorite than for the return, all of the moves this off-season will be soon forgotten, just like the 40-degree days in The Wire.

So what are your thoughts on the O's? Will they finish last again?