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AL East 2012 Team Previews: Baltimore Orioles

Oriole fans in their native garb.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Oriole fans in their native garb. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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I've asked the other AL East bloggers to write us up a preview of their team for 2012, let us know their team's additions and subtractions as well as a feeling for how their team will do this year.

We heard from the Yankees yesterday. Today Stacey from Camden Chat has been nice enough to stop by to tell us of the Orioles off-season:

Greetings, Blue Jays fans. I come to you in peace, one beaten down Orioles fan, to offer you hope that in your team's continued efforts to rise in the American League East, that they will once again not be hindered by the Orioles.

If you're familiar with The Dugout and their often hilarious portrayals of "Major League Baseball's Official Chat Room," there was one post in which a just-promoted-to-the-big-leagues Matt Wieters proclaimed, "I shall lead these Peoples to the promised land, also known as slightly ahead of the Blue Jays." Well, that obviously hasn't happened, and I wouldn't put money on it happening any time soon.

In August 2007, Andy MacPhail was hired to turn the sad, sad Baltimore Orioles around. He made a few good trades and tried to say all of the right things, but ultimately failed, leaving town this winter. Then began the circus that was finding his replacement. Some assistant GMs chose to stay with their current, less pathetic teams, others removed their names from consideration, and the Orioles ended up with Dan Duquette, a man who has been out of baseball for a decade.

Duquette's strategy this off-season has been...boring. He's done a decent job in building depth on the team, but he really hasn't done anything that would make them better. After the disappointing performance from the young starting pitchers the past few seasons, Duquette went for reinforcements. He signed Wey-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada as free agents out of the NPB. He traded some minor leaguers for Dana Eveland, and in what is really the only big move of the off-season, he traded staff veteran Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies for Matt Lindstrom and Jason Hammel.

So what does that mean? Going into Spring Training Chen, Wada, Eveland, and Hammel will be competing for rotations spots with the underachieving Jake Arrieta, possibly injured Zach Britton, hot mess Brian Matusz, AAAA All-Star Chris Tillman, and, to a lesser extent, destined-for-the-bullpen guys Brad Bergesen and Alfredo Simon. Chen and Hammel are pretty much locks to make the rotation, leaving the disgraced youngsters and mediocre veterans to duke it out for the three remaining spots while the Orioles cross their fingers that at least one will be surprise us all.

As for the offense, it won't look too different than last year. Nolan Reimold will hopefully get a chance to play every day in left field while Adam Jones and Nick Markakis return to their places in center and right, respectively. Markakis had off-season surgery on his abdomen and while he claims he'll be ready for Opening Day, a delay in his recovery could move Reimold to right field and new backup Endy Chavez to left.

The reanimated corpse of Vladimir Guerrero has been replaced at designated hitter by Wilson Betemit, which can only be an improvement. The infield will remain the basically the same with Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, Robert Andino, and Chris Davis around the horn. Everyone is hoping for a miracle that will see the concussed Brian Roberts ready to start the season, but considering he couldn't even attend FanFest a few weeks ago because of his sensitivity to light and sound, it's not looking good for the fan favorite. I will personally be surprised if Roberts starts another game as an Oriole. Truly a sad end to a good career.

Matt Wieters, the one player I'm really looking forward to seeing, will of course be the catcher and will continue to make me happy with his generally bad-assery behind the plate.

The bottom line is that the 2012 Orioles will probably not be much better than the 2011 Orioles. Dan Duquette made some moves that make sense on their own (Chavez gives the O's depth on the bench, Betemit is great against righties, etc.) but he did nothing to really improve the club to a position where they could climb out of the AL East cellar or post a winning season.