Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Slice of Pie

Felix Pie, that is. News broke this afternoon that the Orioles and Cubs have agreed to a deal that will send Garrett Olson and minor-leaguer Henry Williamson to the Cubs and Felix Pie to Baltimore. Pie has long been a Cubs top-prospect--and subject of Orioles/Cubs trade rumors--but he could never seem to force his way into the lineup on an everyday basis for Chicago as it contended in the NL Central. Olson has been a frustrating pitcher the past two seasons, succeeding on the basis of command, and certainly not raw stuff, in the minors but never having much success in Baltimore. A change of scenery could do him well, especially since it gets him out of the AL East and into the weaker National League.

The addition of the lefthanded hitting Pie, while on the surface a bit curious, is exactly the type of move the Orioles should be making. Sure, the Orioles are set in center and right field and had Luke Scott and maybe even Nolan Reimold to play left, but for a rebuilding team like the Orioles, you choose young talent over old stopgaps at every opportunity. What can a full season of playing time do for Pie's development? Let's hope it turns out similarly to the Adam Jones experiment from 2008.

Speaking of Adam Jones, an outfield of Pie, Jones and Nick Markakis, plus a middle infield of Brian Roberts and Cesar Izturis, should tremendously help the development of the pitching staff. Run prevention comes in two flavors, pitching and defense, and while the Orioles may not have much of the former, they should do very well with the latter. Depending on how prospects like Radhames Liz, Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, David Hernandez, Jake Arrieta, et al. develop, the first half of that equation could look very different come September.

So what are the Orioles looking at in terms of a lineup for 2009?

2B - Brian Roberts (S)
3B - Melvin Mora (R)
RF - Nick Markakis (L)
1B - Aubrey Huff (L)
CA - Matt Wieters (S)
DH - Luke Scott (L)
CF - Adam Jones (R)
LF - Felix Pie (L)
SS - Cesar Izturis (S)

Bench - Ryan Freel, Greg Zaun, Chris Gomez

Others: Nolan Reimold, Lou Montanez, Oscar Salazar, Scott Moore

That lineup definitely tilts to the left; if the Orioles were closer to contention, they would ideally find a right-handed hitting first baseman, shift Huff to designated hitter and Scott to a back-up role. I suspect that Nolan Reimold will be donning a first baseman's mitt quite a bit this spring.

Still, MacPhail has done an admirable job building this team for 2009 as it waits for young pitching to develop for the future. The lineup above, especially if Reimold earns a slot, has a nice mix of long-term solutions (Markakis, Wieters, Jones, Pie) and veteran fill-ins (Roberts, Mora, Scott, Huff, Izturis), plus it should play very good defense. With Roberts, Mora and Huff, all up for free agency after 2009, there are still lots of holes to fill for the long-term, but this does appear to be a team headed in the right direction.

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