Outfield

Assuming right fielder Nick Markakis recovers from a broken thumb — and he is progressing well — right and center (Adam Jones) are locked up. That leaves a big question in left field.

Nolan Reimold started the season there and excelled for a month until he was lost for the season with a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery. The club hopes to have him back by spring training.

McLouth ended the season in left and provided great defense and a steady presence atop the lineup. He's a free agent and, though the Orioles would like to re-sign him, he wants to play full-time and that opportunity may not be available if Reimold returns. So he could seek a less complicated route to playing time.

Outfield is the strongest position on the market, featuring such solid players as Torii Hunter, Shane Victorino and Nick Swisher, all competent veterans with a history of getting on base and playing for winning clubs. Swisher may be the best fit of all, because he also can play first base. But he won't come cheaply, and his outgoing personality is an acquired taste.

Hamilton, a perennial MVP candidate, is also an unrestricted free agent, but his expected price tag, his checkered past and the fact the Orioles would lose a first-round pick if they signed him make Hamilton a pretty big risk — and therefore a huge long shot.

If the Orioles do make any splash offensively, it likely would be at left field. And, in that sense, Hunter and Swisher, in particular, would have to be considered.

Catcher/designated hitter

The Orioles are set at starting catcher with 26-year-old Matt Wieters, and they were pleased enough with backup Taylor Teagarden, who provided solid defense, occasional offensive pop and accepted his role as a reserve without complaint.

The only way they upgrade at catcher on the major league market is if they could convince an established catcher to play first base, DH and spell Wieters on occasion behind the plate.

Mike Napoli and A.J. Pierzynski could fit into that role, but both likely would prefer to be the primary catcher on a team and play other positions occasionally.

Jim Thome was the club's primary designated hitter at the end of the season. The 42-year-old likely Hall of Famer was a great clubhouse presence, but the likelihood of him returning depends on whether he wants to play again and whether the Orioles want to clog the DH with one player — something manager Buck Showalter prefers to avoid.

Starting rotation

Numbers-wise, the Orioles are set here with plenty of rotation options, including Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Steve Johnson, Zach Britton, Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz, among others. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are waiting in the wings and the club is interested in bringing back lefty free agent Joe Saunders, who excelled in the playoffs.

But both Duquette and Showalter subscribe to the theory that a team never has enough starting pitching. The club likely will kick tires on myriad starters — there's a fairly deep list that includes Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, Joe Blanton and possibly Hiroki Kuroda.

But if the starting market is inflated as usual, the Orioles and Duquette — who don't like to offer contracts of more than three years to pitchers — may pass and look to secure below-the-radar starters on one-year deals.

There's only one ace available this offseason: Greinke, who won a Cy Young in 2009 with the Kansas City Royals. The Orioles need a No. 1 pitcher, but unless his value dips, he likely is too pricey for the club to seriously consider.

Bullpen

This was the Orioles' strength, and they will probably build on it with smaller acquisitions, with most probably coming on short or minor-league deals. Duquette believes in gathering depth, and there will be quality relievers — like Luis Ayala last year — that fall through the cracks and can be signed relatively cheaply in late January or early February.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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