Revisiting the most pressing Orioles questions heading into spring training
Dan Connolly: On occasion, usually at an obvious jumping-off point in baseball's seemingly never-ending calendar, we like to look at five questions facing the Orioles.
We'll get to the most intriguing ones heading into spring training on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers report in Sarasota, Fla., for their first workout.
But today we wanted to put a new twist on an old staple and revisit the five questions we posed at the beginning of this offseason to see how they were answered.
Frankly, many of them weren't -- or at least not in the fashion fans were hoping for after the Orioles won 93 games in 2012. There were no major free agents added or blockbuster trades made. The biggest move was the re-signing of left fielder Nate McLouth to a one-year, $2 million deal.
Everything else fell into the "building depth, filling roles" categories. The Orioles claimed four players off waivers, made two minor trades, bought a player from the Boston Red Sox and selected a pitcher in the Rule 5 draft.
But don't tell executive vice president Dan Duquette that he didn't do anything of significance. He believes the addition of second baseman Alexi Casilla (claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins), the minor league signings of first baseman Travis Ishikawa and outfielder Chris Dickerson and the re-signing of Nate McLouth has improved the club's already strong defense.
He thinks that will only help the young pitching staff, which has a lot of talented candidates to compete for spots in the spring. He didn't think this club needed a big name or two.
"Sometimes [improvement] is incremental, but everyone likes to add the well-known players," Duquette said. "But the guys we are getting are starting to develop good, productive records, but not a lot of them are already established in the big leagues."
The bottom line is that Duquette's plenty happy with where his team is right now, despite the lack of a signature offseason move.
"There are always things we can do to get better and we are still looking at ways to improve the ballclub," he said. "But based on the players we have returning and the players we added in the offseason, the Orioles should be very competitive in 2013."
Here are the five questions we asked in November. And the updated answers.
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3. Which pending free agents will they attempt to keep?( Getty Images / October 12, 2012 )
The Big Three were McLouth (pictured), lefty Joe Saunders and designated hitter Jim Thome. All of the club's other free agents, such as Bill Hall (who signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Angels) and Nick Johnson (who retired) were never in the team's future plans.
McLouth re-signed in December. Saunders just signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners. Thome, who was considering retirement, sent signals that he would like to play again in the right situation, but the Orioles seemingly didn't pursue him. He is still without a 2013 job.