Following a surprise run to the playoffs in 2012, the Orioles fought to return to the postseason this year but ultimately couldn't hang with the Red Sox and Rays in the AL East and buckled in the wild-card race as well. General manager Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter made few changes last offseason, taking the chance that the same team could make the playoffs again. The O's eventually realized that wouldn't work and were active at the non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines, but it wasn't enough. Will Baltimore try to add an impact pitcher or batter to its roster this winter?
Second base and left field look like the priorities on the Orioles' roster. Brian Roberts could be re-signed to a short-term, incentive-laden deal. But since he hit .249 with a .704 OPS this year, Baltimore probably wants to upgrade. The O's could also bring back Nate McLouth in left field, but there might be more competition for his services after he hit 12 homers with 30 stolen bases.
Additionally, Duquette might look for a starting pitcher to anchor their rotation. The O's appear to be well-staffed with Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris, but may want a veteran at the back of the rotation that can throw a lot of innings.
The Orioles likely don't plan on making a run at Robinson Cano, but the second-best free agent second baseman available might have some appeal. Omar Infante could be a good fit in Baltimore, coming off a strong season during which he hit .318 with 10 homers and 51 RBI. Kelly Johnson could be another possibility, especially if the O's want some pop at that position. But they already have several players in the lineup who strike out a lot and might prefer someone who makes some more contact.
Among left fielders, Baltimore's best options are to re-sign either McLouth or Michael Morse. Morse would probably cost less, coming off an injury-plagued season. He would certainly be a defensive downgrade from McLouth, though could make up for that with power (especially hitting in Camden Yards) if he stays healthy.
Plenty of starting pitchers who fit the Orioles' need for a back-end starter are available. Re-signing Scott Feldman would address that concern. The question is how much the O's want to spend on a starting pitcher. If the market gets expensive, the team may prefer to see what in-house options like Kevin Gausman and Zach Britton can provide. Of course, Dylan Bundy could also be in the mix, depending on how he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Jim Johnson is probably Baltimore's biggest trade chip. He has one more year of arbitration eligibility and will get a raise from his $6.5 million 2013 salary after racking up 50 saves for the second consecutive season. But other teams might not be willing to give up too much for a closer who becomes a free agent after 2014. Last year, Johnson was attached to trade rumors with the Tigers' Rick Porcello. But with only one year of club control, Detroit probably isn't as interested in that deal as they would have been last winter.
Baltimore's best chance to get a second baseman is through the trade market. If the Reds are seriously considering trading Brandon Phillips, he would be an excellent fit as a possible top-of-the-order hitter with speed. He was asked to be more of a run producer this season, however, so could also help Chris Davis in the middle of the lineup. Phillips does have four years and $50 million remaining on his contract, which could be more than the Orioles want to commit to, especially if Jonathan Schoop is soon ready for the majors.
Dan Uggla may be preferable, since he's under contract for two years and could possibly move to DH. Yet he's owed $26 million. Danny Valencia of the Nationals and the Angels' Howie Kendrick are two other second basemen the Orioles could pursue.
The Orioles claimed Twins outfielder Josh Willingham on waivers in late August, but wasn't able to work out a deal and Minnesota pulled him back. But could the two teams revisit a deal during the winter when there's no pressure of completing a trade in 48 hours? A left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery kept Willingham's numbers down this year, but he would almost certainly provide more power than the O's have gotten from left field during the past two seasons. With only one more year on Willingham's contract, in addition to coming off an injury, perhaps Duquette could get him for less this time around.