While the whole city was having Ravens fever, as we all should have, Andy MacPhail and the Orioles have been making some moves during the offseason to prepare for 2009. Here's a look at some of the moves that have gone on in the post-Teixeira world:
Nick Markakis signed to a 6-year, $66.1 million deal
The Orioles re-sign one of their rising stars to a six-year deal. Markakis had a .306 average plus 20 home runs last season, and at only 25, his career is getting better. Earlier in the year, it was a concern with the Orioles and Markakis as negotiations were not going well and although no one expected MacPhail to let him go, it wasn't making anyone feel better that this was getting drawn out. But now he has his contract and will be a fixture in right field for years.
The signing could incur Brian Roberts to want to stay now since the Orioles seem to be trying to go in the right direction. Adam Jones mentioned that Roberts should be next. I'm still not sure if it would be better to trade Roberts or re-sign him since he is 31-years-old, but the market for Roberts does not seem like is that good right now, so until there is, keep him around and happy.
Cubs trade Felix Pie to Orioles for Garrett Olsen, Henry Williamson
The Orioles had been going after Felix Pie for a while, and they finally got him, just not for Brian Roberts. Pie, a former #1 overall prospect, gets traded for Olsen and Williamson after not panning out the way the Cubs wanted. The Cubs tried him out as a center fielder but did not have a good 2008 season, only batting .241 in 43 games played, so the Orioles will put him as the starting left fielder for the season. If Pie pans out, this would set the outfield possibly for the next decade: from left to right Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis, all are under the age of 25 and are considered future stars. Nothing is assured, but for the future of the Orioles, this is an exciting premise of a sturdy outfield.
As for who the Orioles lost, Garrett Olsen showed some decent talent, but the fact is he would not have been a part of the future. He does not have the longevity you want in a starter and there is even talk the Cubs would use him as a reliever. And no one quite knows who Williamson is. So the Orioles are trading away two players that probably would not have meant much to the future for a possible big time player, a risk well worth taking. But, John Maine wasn't expected to be much either in the Benson trade.........
Orioles sign Koji Uehara, first ever Japanese-born player to play for franchise
The Orioles have dipped into the international market to grab Koji Uehara, a former Yomiuri Giants pitcher that will play his first game in Major League Baseball. Though he has seen better years, he was formerly one of the best pitchers in Japan, being a dominant starter in the early part of his career.
This will give the Orioles a new and possibly good starter, but I'm not sure this will have the effect a lot of people do. Some have been saying this will open the Japanese market and get the Orioles some great foreign players. Although Uehara had been approached by other teams, he will be 34 going into the '09 season and it appears that he will not get much better. The Japanese market is dominated by a few teams, mainly the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Mariners, and it is unlikely that the Orioles getting Uehara will give them much influence. But it still is a good idea, he could be a good pitcher here and the Orioles need starters badly.
--Luke Scott is signed to a one-year deal. Since Pie is here, likely he will either be a designated hitter or a primary reserve outfielder.
--Red Sox trade David Pauley to Orioles for Rancor Beird. Pauley, 25, was a solid starter in triple-A but had a terrible run with Boston. Beird did well as a reliever in the beginning for the Orioles then had a bad stretch.
--Other signings include veteran catcher Gregg Zaun, pitcher Mark Hendrickson, and infielder Chris Gomez.
(Photo credit: SI (Markakis), MLB (Pie), Japan Times (Uehara))