One of the more interesting storylines for the Orioles this winter is what the club does to shape its rotation.
The obvious hope is that they land Cliff Lee. Don’t expect it.
Lee can break the bank for a team that is going to compete immediately. The Orioles, two good finishing months or not, just aren’t there yet. Thirteen losing seasons, a hitters’ park and the AL East don’t help their cause.
There are some other starters – certainly not as top shelf as Lee – that will intrigue the Orioles, guys like Jake Westbrook and Carl Pavano. They aren’t aces, but they’d add experience to a young crew.
The question is how badly is that needed? Jeremy Guthrie did plenty of mentoring in 2010 and he may be better suited than any free agent to lead this rotation in 2011.
That said, there are some in the organization that believe Kevin Millwood’s presence took a lot of pressure off Guthrie and allowed him to concentrate on his game. And, in an interview with me in late September, Andy MacPhail admitted that he wouldn’t mind adding a similar presence in 2011 if the opportunity presents itself.
It’s possible he could try to find another high-priced veteran through a trade instead of giving a multi-year deal to a mediocre veteran.
I asked several Oriole pitchers what they thought of adding a veteran arm, and they responded how they should have: saying it’s not their place to make roster decisions. However, Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, in particular, talked about how much they enjoyed having Millwood around.
“He is a guy I could talk to about the mental side of the game and go to and ask him, ‘Hey, this is where I really struggle in the game, what do you do? How do you go about it? What do you do to get back in the groove?’” Matusz said about Millwood. “Here is a guy that I could really go to. So to have someone like that was really pretty awesome to have, a veteran guy like that who really knows what he is talking about, like Kevin, was pretty special.”
Millwood likely won’t return. He’ll probably go to a contender and fit nicely at the middle/back end of a rotation, maybe in the National League.
Said Tillman: “Having Milly around made it easier on all of us … Watching him work through his struggles, I think that taught us a lot. He has come a long way with all of us. It is good having those guys around, but I think watching all these young guys pitch every day, they all looked pretty good, too.”
And that’s the rub. Because if the Orioles acquire another veteran, then one of the younger guys, such as Tillman, will go back to Triple-A. And top prospect Zach Britton would stay there longer. And there would be no obvious spot to move a reliever into the rotation, something the Orioles are at least mulling.
Then again, having a surplus of big league starters can never be viewed as a problem. MacPhail says he likes going into a spring with a minimum of 7 pitchers penciled in for the rotation, because inevitably some get hurt or struggle.
So I want to know what you would do. Would you bank on four young arms with Guthrie? Or do you want one more veteran innings-eater to help take pressure off everyone, even if it is for one year?
Daily Think Special: Should the Orioles add a veteran starter to the 2011 rotation?