Here should be a sobering thought for Oriole fans: The organization could go into this offseason with even more holes than the past couple of offseasons. Things could obviously change if the Orioles make a couple of trades before the July 31 deadline, but as things stand, the club may need two starting pitchers, a couple of late-game relievers (assuming Jim Johnson is put in the rotation and Koji Uehara does not return), a power-hitting first baseman, a second baseman (it would be a stretch to count on Brian Roberts right now), a left fielder (Nolan Reimold could have something to say about this) and possibly a DH (Luke Scott is a prime non-tender candidate). That's going to be quite a challenge, and all the more reason that the Orioles' front office situation better be settled not long after this season ends. If Andy MacPhail does not return in his current capacity – and I've said several times that I'd be surprised if he did – the new general manager is going to have to hit the ground running.
I continue to get emails and read in other places about why the Orioles should trade outfielder Nick Markakis before the July 31 deadline. I don't object to the philosophy of trading him per say, but it's just not realistic to do it right now. Markakis still has $44 million guaranteed on his contract over the next three seasons. With Markakis In the midst of another uneven and disappointing season in several facets, there is little to no chance that another team will be willing to both absorb his contract and give you enough value in return to warrant a deal.
Let me preface this note by saying it's subject to change and it occasionally does: the 2012 schedule won't be finalized until September at the earliest. However, the tentative one has the Orioles playing home interleague series against the Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies, and road ones against the Nationals, Florida Marlins and New York Mets. The Orioles are also expected to open up the season at Camden Yards for the first time in three years. Before you ask, I don't know the opponent.
We'll have plenty of time to talk about potential Orioles' free agent targets once the offseason begins, but here's a name that I bet we'll see connected to the Orioles once or twice this offseason: Minnesota Twins first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer. He's a .340 career hitter at Camden Yards (yes I understand that's against Orioles pitching), he has averaged 22 homers and 91 RBIs over the previous four seasons in which he's played 140 or more games, he's a great clubhouse guy who grew up in Virginia, and he'll be a lot more attainable than Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols. The Twins may re-sign him for all I know, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me if he's an Orioles target if he hits free agency.
This has been written before, but it's an amazing stat that deserves to be mentioned again. Koji Uehara currently has a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.48. Let me put that in context for you: It's the best career ratio since 1890 for any pitcher who has logged a minimum of 150 innings.
I think we can all put to rest the notion that young catcher Matt Wieters is too mild-mannered to be a team leader. That tongue-lashing that he gave home plate umpire Todd Tichenor yesterday after the called third strike with Markakis on third base was both well-deserved in Tichenor's case, and good to see. I'm sure Wieters was none too pleased that he got the bat taken out of his hands on a pitch at his shins, but I'm also quite confident that the catcher was sticking up for his starter Jeremy Guthrie, who he didn't feel was receiving the same benefit of the doubt as the Angels pitcher
Much of the talk for the next four weeks or so will be on Dylan Bundy, the Orioles top pick in the 2011 draft who has to be signed by Aug. 15 or the club loses his rights. However, before the end of the season, I fully expect Dylan's older brother, Bobby, currently a pitcher for Single-A Frederick, to have his well-deserved moment in the sun at Camden Yards. Bundy has emerged as the clear favorite to win the Jim Palmer Award as the organization's top minor league pitcher. Bundy threw another gem last night for the Keys, throwing seven innings, allowing just one unearned run, two hits and no walks while striking out six. The 21-year-old right-hander, who was drafted in the eighth round in 2008, is now 10-5 with a 2.92 ERA in 19 starts for the Keys. He's allowed 99 hits and 30 walks while striking out 97 in 114 innings. If you are looking at prospects who have really made strides this year, Bundy has to be on top of that list.