Orioles looking to fill holes in outfield

The Orioles have added depth in their middle infield and bullpen, but will have a pair of large holes to fill in their outfield this season.

After nine seasons, right fielder Nick Markakis left via free agency and signed a four-year, $44 million contract with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves offered Markakis the contract even though he had surgery on his neck during this offseason. Left fielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz also left via free agency after leading Major League Baseball with 40 home runs last season. He signed a four-year, $57 million contract with the Seattle Mariners in December. The Orioles also lost a key arm in their bullpen after left-hander Andrew Miller signed a four-year, $36 million contract with the New York Yankees,the largest contract ever fora reliever. The Orioles acquired Miller from Boston at the trade deadline last summer, and was a valuable weapon coming out of the bullpen during Baltimore’s postseason run. Baltimore did re-sign closer Zach Britton and left-hander Brian Matusz to avoid salary arbitration.

Travis Snider has previously played for both Toronto & Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of Flickr user James G. under a Creative Commons license.
Travis Snider has previously played for both Toronto & Pittsburgh.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user James G. under a Creative Commons license.

Baltimore still has a waiver-wire pickup from last season in Alejandra de Aza, and the Orioles also re- signed outfielder/DH Delmon Young to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

Young could also earn an additional $750,000 in incentives. The Orioles traded Class A pitcher Stephen Tarpley to Pittsburgh for right fielder Travis Snider. Snider hit .264 with 14 homers and a career-high 38 RBIs.

The Orioles will have an abundance of catchers heading into Opening Day. Matt Wieters continues to recover from Tommy John surgery last season, and his status for the start of the season is still uncertain. If Wieters isn’t ready for Opening Day, Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger will be the Orioles’ catchers, and a roster move will have to be made once Wieters returns.

Baltimore continues to add depth to its middle infield. The Orioles signed infielder Everth Cabrera to a one-year contract. Cabrera hit .232 with 18 stolen bases for San Diego last year. Cabrera has played for the Padres since 2008, and has 136 steals in his career, including a Major League- high 99 over the last three seasons. However, Cabrera has struggled defensively in Spring Training has he looks to join last season’s platoon of Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop. As for the corner infield spots, Manny Machado will be back at third base after recovering from knee surgery that abruptly ended his 2014 season. Chris Davis has received a therapeutic use exemption from Major League Baseball, allowing him to use Adderall, but he’ll still have to sit out Opening Day to serve the final game of his 25-game drug suspension.

The Orioles’ depth in their starting rotation is also helping them cushion the blow from the struggles of right- hander Ubaldo Jiminez this spring. This follows his demotion to mop-up duty out of the bullpen after signing a four-year, $50 million contract at the start of Spring Training last year, and then posting a record of 6-9 with a 4.81 earned-run average. Wei-Yin Chen had 16 wins to lead four starters who had double-digit wins last season.

Baltimore will open the season with three games at Tampa Bay April 6-8. The Orioles will open their home schedule on April 10 with the first of three games against Toronto, followed by three more against the Yankees and Boston Red Socks. The Chicago White Sox will also come to Baltimore for three-game series during April.

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