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 Orioles continue to make changes

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Orioles GM



Posts : 16
Join date : 2009-02-16

PostSubject: Orioles continue to make changes   Sun Feb 22, 2009 10:32 pm

BALTIMORE: GM James Feldman continued to shake up his roster today as he dealt outfielder Felix Pie and minor-leaguer Zachary Phillips to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher and minor-league outfielder Che-Hsuan Lin. "This was a difficult move for us to make," said Feldman, "since Felix is a young player with a world of potential. But we cannot afford not to make moves which we feel can improve our team."

Feldman admitted that this move was part of a long-term plan made in the later rounds of the inaugural draft. "It became clear that we were going to rely a great deal on youth, but that we had the potential to contend quickly if a few things went our way. And we always intended to deal from our surpluses to obtain the players we needed to make our team a contender." Many around the league have been surprised to see the Orioles, with the league's third-lowest payroll, at .500 two months into the season, although a .500 record is only good enough for fourth place in the highly competitive AL East.

The departing Pie was one of the Orioles' best players out of the gate this season, batting .328 in April to lead the club and posting an .836 OPS. But the club's glut of left-handed hitting outfielders and Pie's superlative performance led to his being used as a full-time starter rather than as a platoon player in May, and his numbers plummeted, with Pie batting a mere .151 with equally terrible peripherals. Worse still, Pie's average against right-handers was what fell precipitously. His collapse coincided with the increased success of fellow left-handed outfielder Fred Lewis, but Orioles management perceived Pie as having greater market value than Lewis. With the Orioles offense in dire need of improvement (only two regular players batting over .250), and payroll space to burn, Feldman felt that Swisher was a great fit for the club.

"Nick may not solve our batting average problems, but he has many attributes which our club sorely needs, such as on-base skills, versatility in the field, and power. Nick's ability to play both first and the corners in the outfield allows us the ability to sit rookies like Chris Davis and Colby Rasmus against tough lefty starters until their skills develop to their full potential." Sources within the Orioles organization pointed out that Swisher's versatility in the field also gives the club the freedom to continue to pursue another impact bat, which Feldman is said to covet. However, with top prospect Matt Wieters being promoted to the big leagues this week, and Elvis Andrus not far behind, some wondered where another addition would find playing time.

The Orioles also clearly need help in the bullpen, currently the American League's worst. However, the return this week of closer Pete Moylan has the potential to help solidify the Orioles' pen, with substitute closer Edward Mujica returning to a setup role. However, Mujica, who was dominant in the closer's role in Moylan's absence, may reclaim the job should Moylan's early season troubles continue. Closer prospect Chris Perez has seen his stock fall in triple A, and the club is said to be hoping for a midseason return to form from left-hander Justin Hampson, but the club is not known to be in trade talks for bullpen arms at this time.

Ultimately, it is unclear what this move means for the Orioles. Swisher represents a significant addition in salary for the next three seasons, although this move may forshadow that outfielder Marlon Byrd will not see his option for the 2010 season exercised, if he even remains on the club after he returns from the DL in a couple weeks. But the Orioles had payroll room nearly equal to their present budget for this season, and hope that this move will not prevent them from pursuing top free agents like Chase Utley, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Reyes and Severna Park, MD native Mark Tiexiera in the offseason. And while Pie, a superb defensive outfielder with five-tool potential has a lot of ability, it was diminished with the Orioles because Colby Rasmus is entrenched in center for the next half decade at least. And the Orioles continued to add outfield depth in the minors, bringing on the speedy Lin to add to Jamie Romak, acquired in the Ben Zobrist deal. GM Feldman was quoted as saying, "You have to give value to get value in this league." The question will be whether the Orioles are getting value equal to what they are giving. In the short term, however, the move ought to bring a smile to the faces of Orioles' starters, who have seen several superlative efforts wasted by the O's anemic offense.
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