As the Orioles prepare to start spring training later this week at the Ed Smith Stadium complex in Sarasota, Fla., here's a look at what other media outlets are saying about the team.
* ESPN's Tim Kurkjian discusses Orioles center fielder Adam Jones' ability to go from cracking jokes and doing impressions off the field to being all about business on it.
And then Jones stopped laughing, paused and said, "But when that game starts ..."
When that game starts, that's when we see the other side of Jones, one of the best players in the American League, and the intense leader of the Orioles.
"When I first got here , he was our best player, but he also played the game the right way," Showalter said. "His words come with a lot of weight. He walks the walk. No one plays harder than Adam Jones. Nine innings, 90 feet, no one. That's not something that everyone can do in the big leagues, play hard every play, post up every day. Sometimes, he wants to override his brain, but we don't want to take that away from him. We don't want him to be a robot. He will tell the truth, and he will say it to your face. He loves to win, doesn't like to lose."
* In his column this week, Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe ranks all 30 major league managers. The Orioles' Buck Showalter is No. 2 on the list.
2. Buck Showalter, Orioles -- Showalter seems to be one of those guys who can win games for his team. Tremendously organized, aware of the limitations or abilities of his personnel, and a good in-game manager who sets a professional tone for his team.
* SI.com's Jay Jaffe grades the Orioles' offseason. Overall, he gives the organization a D+, but he believes second baseman Jonathan Schoop could use some time at Triple-A Norfolk.
It's too soon to give up on 23-year-old Jonathan Schoop, but he's coming off a brutal rookie campaign in which his 16 homers were offset by a .209/.244/.354 line featuring a 122/13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 481 PA. Amid all the swings-and-misses, he did prove himself more than capable at second base (+10 DRS and +6 UZR in 123 games there), but it's fair to say that he could probably use a few months at Triple A. A better fallback than Ryan Flaherty (.221/.283/.369 in 750 career PA) would give Schoop more time to develop. While veteran utilitymen such as Nick Punto and Ramon Santiago are off the board, taking a flyer on free agent Mark Ellis, who was terrible in limited duty with the Cardinals in 2014 (.180/.253/.213) but worth a combined 5.3 WAR in 2012-13 with the Dodgers (.264/.328/.357, +22 DRS), isn't a bad idea.
* Jesse Spector of the Sporting News also grades the Orioles' offseason as a D+, the worst among the 15 American League teams.
Woof. The Orioles did their major business last offseason in mid-February, signing Ubaldo Jimenez on the 19th and Nelson Cruz on the 24th — one of which worked out. This time around, there are much slimmer pickings on the late free agent market, and after losing the major leagues' leading home run hitter in Cruz and a veteran stalwart in Markakis, Baltimore's only real option for corner outfield help (to be fair, the Orioles' only position of legitimate need) is the trade market. There are teams out there, specifically the Padres, who have an outfield surplus, but dithering through a winter that included rumors of Dan Duquette leaving his GM post to go to Toronto has left the Orioles in a position where the roster looks set to enter 2015 worse than 2014, even with the eventual returns from injury of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters. Consider the trade for Travis Snider to play right field and the re-signing of Delmon Young to, in the most optimistic best-case scenario, be a poor man's Cruz at DH and left field, less than inspiring.
* USA Today's Scott Boeck gives an organizational report on the Orioles, including a position-by-position breakdown and thoughts on the club's top prospects.
RHP Dylan Bundy: The last two years haven't turned out how Bundy or the Orioles had hoped. The 2011 first-round pick, fourth overall, missed 2013 and much of 2014 after Tommy John elbow surgery. He returned in June and went 1-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 41 1/3 innings in the minors. Bundy, 22, commands an above-average fastball and is considered a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The Orioles have placed an innings limit on him that they hope will help him reach the majors this season.
* Anthony Castrovince of Sports on Earth believes the Orioles' defense is No. 2 in the major leagues behind the Kansas City Royals.
Buck Showalter put it best: "In our [payroll] situation, we can't afford to take a player who can't defend." The metrics surrounding new right fielder Travis Snider are varied, but the O's have studied him enough to believe he'll be another solid defender in a lineup full of them. The O's re-signed J.J. Hardy after a down offensive season in large part because his glove doesn't slump, and he and center fielder Adam Jones were once again deserving winners of the Gold Glove last season.
This is a repeat of last year's spring storyline, but getting Manny Machado back in action after knee surgery will ensure strong defense at the hot corner, and catchers Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph are terrific at controlling the running game. Jonathan Schoop's strong arm and quick feet allowed him to seize the second-base job as 2014 evolved.
The O's prioritize defense more than most, and it shows on the field.
* Castrovince also ranks the Orioles' bullpen as the fourth-best in the major leagues.
Losing Andrew Miller doesn't help, but the O's had a pretty good bullpen before they acquired the big lefty, and they should still have a pretty good bullpen without him, too.
Zach Britton's quick adaptation to the closer role (1.65 ERA, 37 saves, 0.90 WHIP) after his starting career went wayward was a sight to behold as 2014 evolved. He's set up by Darren O'Day (1.70 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) and Tommy Hunter (2.97 ERA, 1.10 WHIP). The O's also have Brian Matusz, who had a 1.42 ERA in the second half, and Brad Brach, who had a breakout year.
With Buck Showalter manning the switches and finding the appropriate roles for his available arms, you have to like the O's chances of ranking in the upper-tier in relief ERA again this season.
* And Castrovince says the Orioles have the eighth-best lineup.
Look, they've lost a lot -- the 40 homers Nelson Cruz hit last year, and the steady on-base presence of Nick Markakis. But in both cases, the O's were better off in the long run to let other people overpay for those assets. The company line of Matt Wieters and Manny Machado coming back to keep up the offensive pace is not without merit, nor is it crazy to conceive of a bounce-back season from Chris Davis (who was a mess yet still hit 26 homers last year) and J.J. Hardy (whose power went suddenly south). Adam Jones' bat still strikes me as underrated.
I also like Travis Snider as a sneaky pickup for right field. And you just know the O's will probably have some waiver claim or retread (Alex Hassan, perhaps?) rip off a bunch of big hits for them, because that's the sort of thing that happens for the Orioles.
* SI.com lists the Orioles at No. 13 in their preseason power rankings.
* David Schoenfield of ESPN.com puts the Orioles at No. 9 in his preseason rankings.
The final word: But I'm not a computer! I like the O's to finish above .500. If Machado returns and Matt Wieters gets back behind the plate on a regular basis, that will help; but even if he doesn't, Caleb Joseph threw out a league-leading 40 percent of base stealers. They lose Cruz's power but Davis will have a better year. And, like the Red Sox, maybe the rotation lacks an ace, but it has depth -- especially if Kevin Gausman can produce 30 starts in his first full season. Don't sleep on Chris Tillman, who had a 2.33 ERA in the second half with a much-improved strikeout rate. The defense and bullpen are both solid and no manager is more prepared than Buck Showalter.
* On Sports on Earth, Castrovince ranks the Orioles at No. 7 to start the season.
PECOTA and ZiPS both have the O's as a sub-.500 team. I'd be more worried about that if they didn't have the same projection for them a year ago, when they wound up winning 96 games.