There's no question the Orioles' biggest area of concern is the starting rotation. To be competitive, they need to add three or four dependable veteran starters.
Problem is, that won't - can't - happen this offseason. First, it would be cost-prohibitive to add that many free-agent starters, even for a big-market club like the New York Yankees. Secondly, history tells us there are only a few free-agent starters each year who pan out. And you expect the Orioles to hit on all of them? The Orioles?
Realistically, they'll probably sign one solid veteran starter - an A.J. Burnett, maybe, or a Paul Byrd. So they'll still have to lean on young, unproven pitching again. That's why getting a quality shortstop looms so important this offseason. The Orioles need another strong glove up the middle to take pressure off the inexperienced rotation.
The Orioles need someone they can put into a lineup 140 times, get a little bit out of offensively and who will catch everything that comes his way. The alternative? More Freddie Bynums and Alex Cintrons. Enough said.
The good news is there are lots of shortstop options for 2009. Like the big three free agents: Orlando Cabrera, Rafael Furcal and Edgar Renteria. Or potential trade targets: Khalil Greene, Jack Wilson and maybe even J.J. Hardy. And some defensive-minded free agents, such as Cesar Izturis and Adam Everett, could be stopgaps for 2009.
Next year must be about developing players, and one of the most important components in building a young pitcher's confidence is a reliable defense.