How do the Orioles reverse the slide of 12 consecutive losing seasons?
Obviously, the answer isn't simple or the Orioles wouldn't be facing the question. However, the team is doing what it needs to do in order to win in the always competitive American League East.
With their moves so far this offseason -- trading for Kevin Millwood and agreeing to deals with Garrett Atkins and Mike Gonzalez -- the Orioles are addressing their weaknesses heading into 2010.
How do you get a veteran pitcher like Millwood to anchor your rotation?
If you said it would take one of the Orioles' top pitching prospects, the risk might not be worth the reward. But when the price is Chris Ray, a former closer who has struggled recently with injuries, the potential payoff makes the deal a no-brainer.
How do you fill a void at third base and in the middle of the lineup?
Since it's hard to convince top free agents to sign in Baltimore due to the team's struggles, the Orioles need to find a player looking to rebound from a down season.
The terms of Atkins' deal give us a glimpse into the Orioles' mindset. With the club option for 2011, the Orioles now have an insurance policy in case prospect Josh Bell isn't ready for the jump to the majors.
Throw in the fact that Atkins averaged 25 home runs and 110 RBIs per season from 2006 to 2008 and the Orioles' calculated risk becomes even more attractive.
How do you find a valuable relief pitcher, particularly a left-handed one, to solidify the bullpen?
With an abundance of available closers, the Orioles went for Gonzalez, who successfully returned from Tommy John surgery two years ago to pitch 80 games last season.
Gonzalez's career ERA over parts of seven seasons is 2.57. The Orioles' team ERA in 2009 was 5.15, which was last in the major leagues. You do the math: Gonzalez will immediately help to improve the team's late-inning woes.
All three moves have the potential to work out very favorably for the Orioles. At the same time, none of the moves will hurt the team in the long run if they don't work.
Millwood is a free agent after the 2010 season, so it won't cost the team if he isn't the best fit in Baltimore. The same thing can be said about Atkins' one-year deal because the team won't pick up his option if he falters.
As for Gonzalez, the Orioles are only on the hook for two years -- and his track record points to the fact that he is the most likely bet to succeed of the three players.
It's the perfect low-risk, high-reward scenario. These are the type of moves that a team needs to make in order to escape mediocrity and return to prominence in baseball's toughest division.