Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Orioles Get Serious About Fixing The Bullpen

If you're big starting pitching acquisition is going to be five-inning-Jaret Wright, you're bullpen needs to be better than the 5.25 ERA and 21 blown leads that the O's 'pen posted in 2006. Toward that end, the O's are apparently on the verge of signing their third and fourth veteran relievers of the offseason, Chad Bradford and Scott Williamson, according to ESPN.com.

While the Orioles front office has admitted a need to focus on the holes in left field and at first base/designated hitter, so far the offseason has brought nothing but pitching ... not to say that's a bad thing.

The O's bullpen ranked next to last in the majors last year, and adding Bradford (2.90 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 62 innings with the Mets last year), Jamie Walker (2.81, 1.15 in 48 innings with Detroit in '06), Williamson (3.32 ERA in six big league seasons) and Danys Baez (2005 All-Star with the Devil Rays) should be an improvement over the retreads and call-ups that the Orioles cycled through the bullpen last year.

Before the Williamson/Bradford double-signing, The Baltimore Sun's Roch Kubatko, purely speculating, projected the 2007 Orioles bullpen to be:

Chris Ray
Jamie Walker
Danys Baez
"Another new guy (Dustin Hermanson? Joe Borowski? Chad Bradford?)"
John Parrish
Kurt Birkins
Hayden Penn

Well now it's clear that there are TWO new guys, which means Parrish, Birkins or Penn is likely out, barring a trade.

I'd like to see Aaron Rakers get a shot, but it would probably be better for him to start out in AAA Norfolk after missing all of last season with a torn labrum.

After the Baez signing, some -- and by some I mean one -- is speculating that the Orioles may now look to shop young stud closer Chris Ray for a power bat.

The good thing about adding a bunch of relievers, besides immediately helping the bullpen, is that relievers are relatively unheralded in the offseason but when the trade deadline rolls around contending teams suddenly find themselves in desperate need of the bullpen help that will nudge them into the postseason (see the Reds sending Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez to the Nationals this past season for Gary Majewski and Bill Bray). If the O's find themselves out of it in July, guys like Williamson could fetch a high price.

On the other hand, Bradford, Baez and Walker are all looking at three-year deals, which would make them more difficult to trade at the deadline to a team looking for a rental.

Meanwhile, Ken Rosenthal says the O's are close to re-upping with Kevin Millahhhh and that he could find himself as part of a platoon with Aubrey Huff or some other lefty batter. I'd like that idea if Millar hit lefties (.244 AVG, .722 OPS last year) better than righties (.283 AVG, .845 OPS). But he doesn't. So that idea is stupid.

The Orioles were also linked to the Manny Ramirez conversation, but apparently those talks never really got anywhere.

The real question is can the Orioles pry a power hitter (of course I'd love Manny being Manny, but for the sake of sanity let's say Adam Dunn) away from someone without parting with Erik Bedard?

The bullpen help is nice and all, and will probably be worth a solid 5-10 wins next season, but the O's need a real power bat and Aubrey Huff is not the answer.

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