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Orioles: What, me worry?

Actually, I am a little worried about the direction the Orioles may take this offseason, because Andy MacPhail has painted himself into a corner with his stated desire not to trade any of the top prospects for offensive help. That wouldn't bother me if the free agent market -- which opens for business tomorrow -- was heavy with run-producing corner infielders that could be had for reasonable years and salary, but the choices are fairly limited and none of them is a slam-dunk fit for this team going forward.

I believe the Orioles have to go out and get at least one decent middle-of-the-order bat, and I'm starting to wonder if they're willing to spend even the medium money it would take to do that. I'm afraid there might be a disconnect between the front office, which may be dispassionately looking at the team and figuring that there's no point in spending much if there is little chance of competing for a wild card berth next year, and a disintegrating fan following that wants to see the team take a tangible step forward in 2010. In which case, we may see another half effort to upgrade the batting order.

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There may be some nuts and bolts logic there, but you can't remove the fans from the equation. They need to be reassured that the club is really moving forward, and you're not going send that message by conceding another 90-plus loss season. That doesn't mean you have to throw the plan out the window, but you can't steer around every opportunity to improve because a player might block one of your unproven prospects.

The Orioles need to upgrade offensively at first and third base and they have prospects who have a chance to pop over the next two years at those positions. That is an argument against giving out big multi-year deals to fill both holes, but in the DH league, you still have the flexibility to sign or acquire one quality corner infield guy without really blocking anyone.

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If we wake up in February with Michael Aubrey projected at first base and Ty Wigginton at third, it's going to be very hard to convince the paying customers that the team will ever be willing to do what it takes to really compete in the American League East.

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