Tag: Derrek Lee

Chicago Cubs, Jim Hendry Finally Part Ways

In a move that was no surprise to most Chicago Cubs fans, the Cubs and general manager Jim Hendry parted ways on Friday.  Hendry’s initial track record—the only general manager to take to the Cubs to three playoff appearances—does not seem all that bad, but during his tenure, Hendry overspent on many players that never lived up to their contracts.

I look at the departure of Hendry in two different ways.  I can appreciate his effort, at times, to make the organization better.  He was able to pry away guys like Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for virtually nothing, but he also gave an aging Alfonso Soriano a $136 million contract.  In Hendry’s defense, someone else was going to give Soriano that money, and it is hard to know whether or not he could live up to that contract. 

Soriano’s first two years in Chicago made it appear as though that contract was worth the money, but ever since, his play has declined.  I supported the decision to sign him then, and I still think it was the right move.  The Cubs at that time had not been to the playoffs since 2003 and needed something to get them over that hump.  Soriano provide some pop at the top of the lineup, which in turn allowed the Cubs to win two straight central division titles, but ultimately their 136 million dollar man never showed up.

On the other sign of the coin, Hendry’s biggest blunder was the signing of Milton Bradley. In no way did Bradley seem like a good fit with the Cubs, or any team in general.  He was a problem from day one, never contributed on the field, and was suspended at the end of the season. 

Hendry was able to trade Bradley during that offseason for Carlos Silva, who at first seemed to be a nice return, but during a spat with the manager and Hendry this Spring Training, Silva too was sent packing.

When I look back at Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs, I will remember the three playoff teams he put in place and the great deals he made.  However, like all other Cubs general managers in the past 100-plus years, he just couldn’t get it done.  There’s always next year…

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Waiver-Wire Gems: American League

Derrek Lee, 1B Baltimore Orioles (26 percent owned in Yahoo, 28.8 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .247 AVG/26 R/5 HR/19 RBI/2 SB

Lee has certainly not lived up to expectations so far in 2011, but his bat seems to be coming alive. In the past seven games, Lee has hit .438 with five XBH and six runs.

He has been shuffled between the fourth and sixth spot in the lineup, so if he can stay healthy, he should help your team in AVG and RBI.

Projection (rest of season): .283 AVG/39 R/11 HR/44 RBI/2 SB


Alexi Casilla, 2B/SS Minnesota Twins (28 percent owned in Yahoo, 55.6 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .260 AVG/32 R/2 HR/15 RBI/11 SB

Casilla has been on fire for the past month. Since May 24th he has hit .327 AVG/9 R/2 HR/11 RBI/8 SB. Casilla is currently batting second for the Twins and he should stay there. I don’t expect him to hit .327 for the rest of the year, but he should be a solid contributor in AVG, R, SB. 

Projection (rest of season): .280 AVG/36 R/4 HR/23 RBI/11 SB


Jemile Weeks, 2B Oakland Athletics (20 percent owned in Yahoo, 35 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .305 AVG/11 R/0 HR/6 RBI/6 SB

Weeks started out with a .400 BABIP and one walk in 44 AB. Since then he has shown more patience at the plate with four walks in 19 at bats and he is batting leadoff for the Athletics.

The stolen bases is a huge plus, but it will only be a matter of time before pitchers start adjusting to him. Pick him up while he is hot but don’t expect a long-term fix.

Projection (rest of season): .260 AVG/26 R/2 HR/19 RBI/10 SB


Alcides Escobar, SS Kansas City Royals (29 percent owned in Yahoo, 73.5 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: .246 AVG/34 R/1 HR/21 RBI/12 SB

In the minors, Escobar was an annual three category producer in AVG, R and SB. When called up by the Brewers, he was planted in the eight hole where he was unable to showcase his true potential.

Now that he is batting ninth for an AL team, he will have more opportunity to steal bases and score runs. Since June 7th he has hit, .411 AVG/13 R/8 RBI/6 SB. I would rather roster Escobar than Chone Figgins, Gordon Beckham, Darwin Barney and Omar Infante.

Projection (rest of season): .265 AVG/40 R/2 HR/27 RBI/15 SB

Carlos Carrasco, SP Cleveland Indians (39 percent owned in Yahoo, 47.1 percent in ESPN)

Current Stat Line: 7 W/4 L/53 K/3.62 ERA/1.21 WHIP

Carlos Carrasco, a regular on “Spot Starting,” has been untouchable on the mound in his last four starts. During that time he has thrown 29.2 IP/2 ER/21 K/5 BB. His current K/9 sits at 5.48, but last year it was at 7.66 even though his current SwStr% of 8.4 is nearly identical to his 8.7 mark in 2010.

Expect a slight uptick in strikeouts. 

Projection (rest of season): 6 W/4 L/78 K/3.5 ERA/1.20 WHIP


For other entries in our waiver-wire gems series, click here!

Brian “Killboy” Kilpatrick is a Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com, where this, and other work, can be found. Additionally, he is co-host of The 4th and Home Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball: Why Derrek Lee Will Be a Sleeper

Derrek Lee had a down year in 2010. Lee’s 19 home runs marked his lowest total since 1998 (min. 250 PA). His 80 runs were his lowest total since 2000. His 80 RBI were his lowest total since 2001.

I suppose saying he had a “down year” is a bit of an understatement. From 2007-2009 Lee averaged 26 home runs, 92 runs, 94 RBI, .304 AVG and a .340 BABIP. So what gives?

A closer look at Derrek Lee’s peripherals suggests serious unluckiness. Lee’s 2010 BABIP of .309 is his lowest since 2004 and doesn’t match his .322 career mark. The huge dip in his BABIP doesn’t jive with his 22.5 percent line-drive rate and career-low 1.3 percent infield fly-ball rate. All of Lee’s other peripherals are fairly similar to his career.

The Orioles offense looks very strong for 2011. Lee will be batting third behind Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis who get on base at a decent clip. Vladimir Guerrero, Luke Scott and Mark Reynolds will be batting behind him. Lee is hitting in a much-improved lineup and looks to have the perfect setup. Derrek Lee will have boatloads of opportunities to score and drive in runs.

Camden Yards has a 126 home run index for right-handed hitters. Compare that to Turner Field (92) and Wrigley Field (102).

Derrek Lee’s current ADP is 273. He is being taken after Adam Lind (182.1), Adam LaRoche (182.6), Carlos Pena (197.3), Gabby Sanchez (210.9) and Ike Davis (228.9). Adam LaRoche put up the best line of the five listed with .261/75/25/100. Those numbers are certainly obtainable.

It’s no guarantee that Lee will outperform all these guys but, the value is certainly there. Why even waste a pick on Paul Konerko (70.8), Billy Butler (84.1) or Aubrey Huff (107.2) when you can draft Derrek Lee 140-185 picks later?

2011 Projection: .291 AVG, 85 R, 27 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB

Our Next Sleeper will be: Gordon Beckham

Previous Sleeper: Luke Scott

Brian “Killboy” Kilpatrick is a Senior Writer for 4thandHome.com where this, and other work, can be found. Additionally, he is co-host of The 4th and Home Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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Chicago Cubs: The ‘New Big Z’ Should Be Himself Without Restraint

Carlos Zambrano has been to the mountaintop and back.

He has braved the treacherous climb, studied with the celebrated Dharma bums in the Himalayas, found inner peace with the spirit of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and even spent a few months in the swamps of Dagobah under Jedi master Yoda.

He is ready.

Of course, Luke Skywalker also thought he was ready and then hurried off only to have his hand cut off by his asthma-bound father Darth Vader at Cloud City. While I’m pretty sure Zambrano’s appendages are safe, he still controls much of the Chicago Cubs’ density—I mean, destiny—this season.

Sure, he may do as much damage to the dynamic of the Chicago Cubs this season as Anakin Skywalker did when he basically killed all the Jedi Knights once he joined the “Dark Side,” but he could also do as much good as the Skywalker family eventually did for the freedom of the galaxy. You see, the problem with Zambrano is that too much can be a bad thing but—and hear me out on this—too little may also.

Zambrano was the only semblance of passion in last year’s lifeless, heartless and pathetic Cubs campaign. Derrek “6-4-3 inning-ending double play” Lee deserved plenty of guff for his lack of obvious concern. Aramis Ramirez couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat at the time, Alfonso Soriano looked like Wyle E. Coyote in left field and Kosuke Fukudome did more spinning in the batter’s box than the late DJ AM ever did in the booth.

The whole season lacked anything special, and the entire roster looked as if it was joining manager Lou Piniella in his impending retirement.

Heck, even the hot dog vendor deserved a little bit of the fury. It was THAT bad. Honestly, Zambrano’s outburst in late June was not the worst thing to happen and, as usual, Jim Hendry blindly threw him under the bus to maintain appearances and the status quo. The same GM who hired Piniella—a manager that had thrown more temper tantrums than all of the ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ put together—now was condemning a MUCH younger man for doing the same thing.

While I don’t condone showing your teammates up, I do support players calling a spade a spade when calling out an entire team that hadn’t shown positive life since their brilliant general manager thought adding clubhouse great Milton Bradley was a good idea. Zambrano hit the boiling point many Cubs fans had been at all season, yet he was entirely at fault according to Cubs brass and the Chicago media machine, but they all failed to see that he was calling himself out as well.

Hendry, as usual, missed a real opportunity to call out his cast of wayward (and overpriced) toys, but—just like he did when he failed to handle the Ryne Sandberg managerial situation professionally—he showed he lacked the stones to lead. Having the guts to gamble is not the same as having the intestinal fortitude to be a leader. Hendry unfortunately lacks this, which is why he couldn’t bring himself to hire a manager who just might challenge him on how he ran the ballclub.

Mike Quade is a good man, and a solid coach, but make no mistakes about it: He is a “yes” man from head to toe. Zambrano, on the other hand, is not. He speaks from the gut, which can be misinterpreted in the sound bite world we live in these days, especially in Chicago, where the media calls fall and winter “QB Hunting Season” and the summer becomes a hot mess of pessimism.

The awfully negative Chicago media loves to give stupid nicknames like “Old Z” and “New Z,” or “Good Rex (Grossman)” and “Bad Rex,” but here’s a little secret for you: He’s the same guy no matter if you change his name to “Good Z,” “New Z,” or even Pee-Wee Herman. The Cubs have spent four years trying to reign in a wild horse and it obviously isn’t working.

If memory serves, the last major blowup Zambrano had was in 2007 when he gave catcher Michael Barrett a judo chop to the grill. The result? Piniella blew his fuse a few games later and the Cubs went on a magical run to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Don’t let the media fool you: Emotion and getting in a teammate’s face can work magic when the gauge is on empty. It’s the “crawling into a hole and quietly fading” that gets me worked up, and Zambrano’s emotion doesn’t tolerate that. He wants to win that bad, and if you don’t want it at the same level, then you better take some self-defense classes because you deserve anything Zambrano brings to you.

After 102 years without a World Series, I’m sure plenty of Cubs fans would agree that enough is enough. You’ve got to want it as bad as he does, or this isn’t going to work.

I’d love, for once, to see the Cubs and their management give Zambrano all the slack he needs to be himself. It’s not a coincidence that his performance has gone down since they began worrying about his psyche. The minute you tell someone to not be themselves, you’ll also see their performance resemble someone else as well.

You can’t have both.

In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker had the greatest potential as a Jedi Knight but he gave into his anger and emotion too much, which led to his destructive nature and him becoming Darth Vader. But when given unconditional love regardless thanks to his son, who believed in him, it was Anakin (as Darth Vader) who eventually defeated the Emperor by throwing him down the reactor shaft.

Unconditional love and support throughout the early part of his career fostered in the golden age of Carlos Zambrano. Perhaps a little freedom, some support and some emotional space might bring him back to the days when he mowed down opponents like defenseless Ewoks and gave a team in contention the emotional boost it needed down the stretch.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, and that goes for restraint as well.

Me, personally, I’d rather not see “New Z” or “Old Z.” I just want to see Carlos Zambrano, the pitcher who has shown electric brilliance more than a few times and still has plenty left to showcase. If you bottle that up with the right mix, you’ve got something sweeter than Yoo-Hoo and more potent than any ginger root west of the Great Wall of China.

If you don’t, all you’ll have is a regretful son of a Jedi staring at a two-starred sunset, wondering what might have been had he left Tatooine with the old hermit, Ben Kenobi.

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Baltimore Orioles Predictions: Derrek Lee

Derrek Lee, 1B

The Baltimore Orioles entered the 2011 offseason with first base in their sights as a position that needed to be addressed for the upcoming season. After failing to lure Victor Martinez to Baltimore, the Orioles quickly took no chances and locked up first base by signing veteran first baseman Derrek Lee.

The Orioles failure to sign Martinez could pay great dividends as Baltimore avoided being tied down to a ridiculous contract with an aging Martinez. Also, with Baltimore’s new first baseman, the Orioles can still look to upgrade at first whether before the trading deadline in July or when next year’s free agency rolls around and potential free agents Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols hit the market.

But with the 2011 season in focus, Derrek Lee gives Baltimore its first complete first baseman since Rafael Palmeiro during the ’90s.

Lee, 35 year-old, the long-time Florida Marlin and Chicago Cub’s will help bring a winning mentality to the Orioles lineup and help secure the “3” spot in the Orioles lineup, which has been almost as much of a mystery for the Orioles as the cleanup spot has been.

In 2010, Derrek Lee was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves. The trade never panned out for Lee or the Braves, as Derrek Lee was unable to produce at the plate for power.

Although, Derrek Lee only hit three home runs with the Braves before hitting 16 with the Cubs in 109 games, Lee did hit .287/.384/.465 in 39 games with the Braves compared to 251/.335/ .416 with the Cubs in 2010.

Lee has hit .282/.367/.498 with 312 home runs and 1,019 RBI.

Although Lee has shown that he can produce consistent numbers in the National League, Lee has yet to play in the American League East and will have to deal with some of the American League’s top-tier pitchers. 

However, with that said Lee will most likely not be pitched around as much as he was while in the NL.  Playing in the American League, Lee will benefit from having an extra bat and with a more balanced lineup in 2011; Baltimore will not have to worry about its best players being pitched around as much.

Pin-pointing Lee’s exact statistics could become tough because of what is noted above, but with a more balanced  top-to-bottom lineup, Lee will not be relied upon to carry the load as he has in past. With all that said my predictions for Derrek Lee in 2011 are:

Prediction: .279 AVG/ 25 HR/ 88 RBI

On Deck: Vladimir Guerrero

In the Hole: Luke Scott

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Watch Out: Baltimore’s Nick Markakis Is Due For Bounce Back Season

Baltimore Orioles’ right fielder Nick Markakis has become the face of the franchise in Charm City. He was the first of the team’s “young guns” to make it to the big leagues back in 2006, and after a fantastic rookie season and even better sophomore campaign, he put up solid number in ’08 and ’09, only to regress considerably in 2010.

The regression, however, was more than likely not his fault.

Last year, the right fielder put up a batting average of .297, which is very solid anyway you look at it, and consistent with what he has done throughout the rest of his career. His OBP was .370, a great number. But he only hit 12 bombs and drove in a measly 60 runs, while generally being the No. 3 bat in the lineup.

I’m telling you, it wasn’t his fault.

Consider, if you will, who was batting in front of him much of the season—Julio Lugo, Corey Patterson and occasionally, Cesar Izturis. Second baseman Brian Roberts appeared in only 59 games last season, and being the Orioles’ leadoff man for the past six or eight years, it’s fairly obvious he’s something special atop the lineup.

Without Roberts getting on base in front of Markakis, the right fielder had no one to drive in almost every at-bat. And when someone in front of Markakis did manage to get on, they usually didn’t get extra bases, making it hard for Markakis to drive them in with the pitches he was being thrown.

Which takes us to the next part of the equation: How he was being pitched to.

Imagine, you’re a major league pitcher going up against the 2010 Baltimore Orioles. The middle of their lineup consisted of Markakis, Ty Wigginton, Luke Scott and Adam Jones. Who would you like to avoid out of the four of them? If you said Markakis, then your line of thinking is exactly what almost every other pitcher had last season.

Markakis was easily the most talented hitter in the Orioles’ lineup last year and is probably still in the top three-headed going into the 2011 season with the O’s revamped lineup. But last year, he had virtually no protection and pitchers gave him a healthy serving of fastballs down and away the whole season. How can one pull a fastball down and away over the right field wall? The opposing pitchers could afford to do this because if they hit the strike zone, great, but if they walked him, there were easier guys to get out hitting behind him.

Although he did hit 45 doubles last year (his fourth season in a row with 40+ doubles), he was limited to a lot of singles due to those outside pitches. Even though his batting average with runners in scoring position was somewhere in the .330 range, it was hard for him to drive in a guy from second when all he could do with what he was being pitched was to slap it to left field for a single.

This season, expect all that to change.

A healthy Roberts will do wonders for this team’s run scoring potential, and though that is no guarantee, so far this offseason the O’s offensive catalyst has proclaimed he is as healthy as ever. If the most important hitter in the O’s lineup can stay on the field, he will give the rest of the guys plenty of opportunities to drive in some runs.

As far as the rest of the guys, Markakis has some new lineup protections and it’s pretty stacked. Markakis will be pushed up to the second hole in the batting order, where he has historically hit better at anyway, due to the talent the Orioles have brought in to fill out the order. First baseman Derrek Lee will most likely be hitting third, and after having an injured, down year last season (a down year in which he still drove in 80 men), his thumb is all healed and he’s ready to show he’s still a big hitter on his one-year deal.

After Lee, DH Vladimir Guerrero will probably be hitting fourth, and we all know what Vlad is capable of. The next three bats will most likely be left fielder Luke Scott, third baseman Mark Reynolds and center fielder Adam Jones. Scott and Reynold could be flipped depending on how the opposing pitching matchup looks. How’s that for lineup protection?

With less pressure and better pitches to hit, I expect Markakis’ numbers to go back up to at least what he did in 2009, when he had a line of .293/18/101. For a No. 2 hitter, that is phenomenal, but he is capable of so much more.

All O’s fans should hope for Markakis to return to form, but at the same time, they shouldn’t be to worried about him. He’s a great talent with an awesome bunch of guys hitting behind him, so he should see his share of fastballs inside that he can yank onto Eutaw Street out over the big scoreboard in right. But even if he can’t drive in runs like he used to, he’ll still be a great contributor to the team, hitting around .300 with 40+ doubles and working plenty of walks, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense.

Anyway you cut it, he’s a valuable player to the team. Expect him to return to the value he had shown prior to this past baseball season.

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AL East Positional Analysis and Ranking: First Base

Over the next two weeks, I’ll examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the AL East, on a position-by-position basis.

The players at each position will be ranked in relation to their peers within the division, with each team being assigned points based on where their player ranks in comparison to the other players.

Today, the series continues with a look at the first basemen.

Begin Slideshow

Baltimore Orioles 2011 Preview: How Good Can They Be?

Since the hiring of manager Buck Showalter in late July, the Orioles had an incredible end to the season. Finishing at 34-23 under Showalter, the Orioles had a better last two months than the Yankees, who finished a mediocre 29-30 in the same time frame.

Showalter made an immediate impact for a team that was thought to be lost. Can last year’s late success translate into a possible postseason run in 2011? 

The O’s made a splash early this offseason by acquiring Mark Reynolds for next to nothing. They also signed Derrek Lee to a no-risk one-year deal. The Orioles front office has taken advantage of a hitters ballpark this offseason. They now have a very deep lineup, adding Reynolds and Lee to what they already had with Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Nick Markakis.

Orioles Projected Lineup

1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Adam Jones CF
3. Derrek Lee 1B
4. Mark Reynolds 3B
5. Nick Markakis RF
6. Luke Scott DH
7. Matt Wieters C
8. J.J. Hardy SS
9. Felix Pie LF

If you look at this lineup, one through seven it is arguably the best in the division. If it is not the best it is definitely the deepest, compared to the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays. The only team that is comparable the Red Sox.

In my opinion, Baltimore has about seven solid hitters compared to about five or six on the Sox. The Orioles lineup is definitely deeper; however, the Red Sox have two legitimate stars in Crawford and Gonzo, while the O’s have two good hitters and no real stars.

While the Orioles have one of the better lineups in the league, their pitching rotation is among the worst in the league. When you see Jeremy Guthrie listed as the ace of the rotation, you should be concerned. They do have some young arms that have potential, but they are not ready to make a positive impact this season.

Orioles Projected Rotation

1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Brian Matusz
3. Jake Arrieta
4. Justin Duchscherer
5. Chris Tillman

The Orioles have four very good pitchers in the bullpen, three with closing experience. Mike Gonzalez was the closer to start last season, but saw limited action after going down to an injury. Gonzalez, along with Jim Johnson, will likely set up for recently acquired closer Kevin Gregg. Alfredo Simon was 17 of 21 in saves last year replacing Gonzalez. If Kevin Gregg is unable to close, look for Simon to be replacement.

Right now the Orioles look like a fourth place team, unless the Blue Jays go cold. But right now the Rays don’t have enough talent to pass the O’s. Don’t expect anything better from them this year, but if Derrek Lee works out and the pitching develops the Orioles have real potential for years to come. 

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Derrek Lee, JJ Hardy, Kevin Gregg and Mark Reynolds: All Signs of Improving O’S

Going into the 2010 off season, the Baltimore Orioles had seemingly the same needs as they do every off season: first base, shortstop, third base, closer, and starting pitching.

They tried to get by, like they do every year, with the cheap patch-work signing of Cesar Isturis, who failed miserably, hitting just .230 in the process. Thankfully, this year he will be in a more suitable role of back-up utility infielder, where he still could hold some value off the bench.

Comparing the starting lineups per position of most games played, which would you rather have?

2010 Orioles                                            2011 Orioles

1B Ty Wigginton                                      Derrek Lee

2B Brian Roberts                                     Roberts

SS Cesar Izturis                                      JJ Hardy

3B Miguel Tejada                                     Mark Reynolds

LF Felix Pie                                            Pie ??

RF Nick Markakis                                   Markakis

CF Adam Jones                                      Jones

C Matt Wieters                                       Wieters

DH Luke Scott                                        Scott

Improvements all across the board (and I really mean it this year!)

Across the board Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds are upgrades over their predecessors. Overall, the team ranked 27th in MLB in runs last year with just 613. The three players that left, Tejada, (15HR 71 RBI), Wigginton, (22HR, 76RBI) and Izturis (1HR 28 RBI) (demoted) combined for 38HRs and 175RBI respectively.

Their replacement-upgrades on the other hand, Mark Reynolds (32HRS, 85RBI), Derrek Lee (19HRS, 80RBI), and JJ Hardy (6HR 38RBI) combined for 57HRS and 203 RBI. Heck, Reynolds and Hardy alone hit as many homers as the previous trio and that doesn’t even factor in Derrek Lee’s 19 bombs.

In addition, Reynolds (27), Lee (35) and Hardy (28) average 30 years of age compared to 33 for Tejada (36 allegedly), Wigginton (33), and Izturis (30). For those thinking that experience and veteran leadership will surely be lost, consider that they didn’t exactly win with that wisdom last year, so getting younger can’t hurt and the players they brought in are hardly washed up in any sense like in years past with the Orioles.

In fact, I see Derrek Lee having a Bobby Bonilla or Eddie Murray type veteran impact and influence on this team like in the mid-90s, when the team was making annual playoff pushes. Its a move more typical of Pat Gillick’s deadline deals, so look at it as they got him a few months early.

For those thinking they did okay on offense but they forgot to address defense, each player is also known for his defense. In Lee and Hardy’s case, it could be argued their defense is actually better than their offensive game, which in Lee’s case is particularily complementary since he’s such a solid hitter.

What about the pitching?

For those thinking Andy McPhail addressed only offense and defense but neglected the pitching, the team not only kept middle reliever Koji Uehara, who improved once he found his niche in the bullpen, but also added closer Kevin Gregg from divisional rival Toronto, thus directly hurting them and forcing them to downgrade to Octavio Dotel.

While Gregg had a high (3.51) ERA last year for a closer with the Blue Jays, he did amass 37 saves, which would rank almost three times as many as saves leader Uehara’s 13. Besides, if someone else had signed him, say the Boston Red Sox, they’d be praised for strengthening an already solid bullpen and for giving themselves options should Jonathan Papelbon get himself into trouble.

So the Orioles did what they had to do, and in Lee and Gregg’s cases, overpaid for free agents who normally don’t want to come there for obvious reasons. In each case, minus Hardy, who I think will have the least impact of the quartet but remains a mild upgrade nonetheless, ask yourself this, “If not him. than who?”

We know in Lee’s case it would have been Adam LaRoche and while he too would have been an upgrade, we now have the next year to evaluate how he does in Washington. We can wonder what he may have done in Baltimore as his stats will be compared nightly to Lee’s and see who came out better on the deal.

For me personally, I was pulling for LaRoche initially because of his consistency (20+ hrs in six of seven big-league seasons including three straight 25) but I was swayed by the fans’ desire from message boards to blogs for the more professional veteran perceived to be the more complete hitter in Lee. We’ll see who won out.

So what does it all mean for 2011?

With the Rays‘ inevitable demise (although I think their starting pitching will keep them in more games than people think) and likely falling to the cellar, logic would suggest the Orioles would simply ascend to 4th, but not so fast, my friends.

Look at the New York Yankees who didn’t make a single upgrade to their current roster, having only kept icons Derek Jeter, who had the worst season of his career, and Rivera, who contrary to reports, wasn’t going anywhere. I refuse to give them credit for keeping their guys.

They failed to upgrade a bat in Carl Crawford and with it, youth and speed. They failed to land Cliff Lee to go with a weakened, aging, and thin starting rotation. At this point it’s Sabathia, Burnett and pray-to-God that Andy Pettite comes back.

With him, I think they finish no higher than 3rd, due to their continued lack of starting pitching and adding no impact free agents or youth. Yes they got Russell Martin, but that’s it.

Without Pettite I think there is a very serious battle for 3rd with Baltimore right behind Boston (1st) and Toronto (2nd) who lost only Gregg among its impact free agents. (I love their Rajai Davis move by the way.)

Long story short, I was going to have the O’s finish some five games or so behind the Yankee$ for third anyway, just to show the gap has been closing, and because of the O’s lack of starting pitching.

I still think they need to add a 15 game winner (Garza would have been perfect) and I have no idea how manager Buck Showalter got that staff to go 34-23 to finish the season (the team’s record).

Still, if they can get a lead with their hitting and hold it for five innings, qualifying that starter for the win before they go to their bullpen, as of today, I’m going to go bold and say they finish 3rd, something around 83 wins. But my projections will come out in mid February or early March when all the moves are done.

In a perfect world (outside of winning the division), they could finish 2nd and vie for the Wild Card, but that’s simply too optimistic with that lack of starting pitching. They also have to be careful not to succumb to too many changes too quickly in fitting in the new guys.

Still, a hot start (April and May) mixed with a solid finish (August and September like last year) would allow for some back-to-reality falling, which I predict, in the summer months of June and July, will get them their 3rd place finish.

The hot start would infuse optimism like in 2004 when Tejada, Lopez, and Palmeiro came to town, giving me memories of 1996-97, the last time the team made the post-season only to see that dashed. The strong finish would give people hope for next year and have them end on a positive note instead of the Blue Jay-esque hot finish last year that no one knows what to make of.

That Wild card push could come next year if they expand the playoffs to include two Wild Cards. Many people including FoxSports.com’s John Paul Morosi are so quick to just hand to Toronto. Next year is not our year, but for the first time since the 2003 offseason, it could be closer than it’s been for a long time. If you are sensing the parallels to the 90’s and the references I am making, you are not alone.

They say it’s not how you start but how you finish, but in the Orioles’ case, why can’t it be both?

Information and statistics from ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.

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Washington Nationals: Offseason Considered a Dissapointment Thus Far

The Washington Nationals do not only face challenges from other teams in the MLB, but apparently they are facing challenges from other players as well. 

Washington showed great interest in many free agents this offseason.  Names such as Cliff Lee, Jorge De La Rosa, Zack Grienke and Derek Lee were all on the list of targets for the Nationals.  Each player however turned down general manager Mike Rizzo when talks arose. 

Rizzo explains the challenges in the same respect as the old which comes first analogy.

“It shows the difficulty of trying to build something,” Rizzo said. “The only thing that convinces players to come is winning. It’s the chicken and the egg. Which comes first? Do you win and then the players come, or do the players come and then you win?”

So which really does come first? 

This week, Derek Lee agreed to sign with the Baltimore Orioles and turned down the Nationals. The Nationals had a slightly better record than Baltimore last year, which leaves Rizzo puzzled.  The Nationals showed a clear interest in landing the powerful first baseman, but were again unsuccessful. 

While the Nat’s have landed free agents Jayson Werth, Adam Laroche, and Rick Ankiel, they are hardly what was expected in Washington. 

The Nationals are clearly building up a team of the future with prospects such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper signing long term contracts to begin their career in Washington.  However Rizzo had a goal this offseason to land big names which could help the team make a push for the playoffs this season. 

Washington has one big target left on the radar.  Reports show that the team is still very interested in Carl Pavano to add more depth to their pitching rotation.  However, another report yesterday conflicted this belief, and Washington looks to be missing out on another top free agent. 

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