While it seems to be the minority opinion, I actually believe in quite a bit of the Orioles 2012 team, and I think there will be some natural additions assuming health, that they didn't have last year which should make them a little better in 2013. As has been beaten to death around here, I am a believer that Nate McLouth isn't a couple month fluke, that he is back to being healthy and you will see closer to his normal lines than the 2010-2011 lines that people want to assume are just part of his game. A healthy Nick Markakis will have a big impact on this team which won't have to trot guys like Lew Ford out on a nightly basis. Nolan Reimold might have the most productive bat on the team, if he can only stay healthy enough to prove it. Second base should be greatly improved, either through Alexi Casilla's speed and defensive contribution, or just from the assumption that it can't be as bad as it was last season. Third base solidified by Manny Machado for a full season should have a major impact defensively, which during the sub-par play of 2012, was a major reason for poor results in the first half. Hammel being healthy for the full season would have a stabilizing influence on the young rotation.
Of course all of these things are assuming best cases and hoping that everything aligns just like 2012 did as well. While there were a ton of things that went right last season, there were still a good number of things that went wrong as I noted above, that in a normal year should have an improvement on the team as a whole. That being said, this would be a rather boring post if I said they shouldn't change a thing and hope for the best, so with that in mind, I think they should:
1. Sign 1B/DH Lance Berkman. I know it's a long shot, as he's thinking about retiring and spending more time at home, but could be a great insurance policy for Chris Davis at a low commitment level. A one year deal splitting time at 1B/DH for $6-8m could be a boom or bust signing with him coming off an injury, but the upside of a guy that can still put up an .800+ OPS and give you great OBP is probably worth it at this point. Won't take the commitment LaRoche would, but could give similar production if he's healthy. I would give him 2 years if that is what it took, but wouldn't go more than that as it ties up your DH spot.While I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the O's approach of adding cheap depth and hoping, but if they are going to do it anyway, this isn't a bad way to go.
2. Play the game.
Yes, I know a lot of people will laugh and say there is no way this team competes this year taking last year's team and swapping Berkman for Mark Reynolds, but I don't know that I can clearly say that, and I think they should be given a chance to prove they can't do it instead of making them prove that they can. I think in a down year in the division, with two WC spots, that this team could contend in 2013. There are a lot of question marks, but there are question marks with all the contenders right now. Toronto looks great on paper, but has had a major overhaul and has some injury concerns in the rotation. TB has some of the best pitching in the game, but the offense is lagging behind. NYY is old and is tightening the purse strings, and BOS is trying to retool. BAL has questions more along the lines of can players repeat last season and are these young players truly developing or was last year a fluke?
1. Markakis- RF
2. McLouth/Reimold- LF
3. Jones- CF
4. Berkman- DH
6. Davis- 1B
7. Machado- 3B
8. Hardy- SS
9. Casilla- 2B
That's a slightly more balanced lineup from last year, assuming health.
The pitching staff is more fluid
With guys like Hunter/Arrieta/Matusz/S.Johnson and Bundy waiting their turn or working out of the pen. With an average player age around 27.5, there is still room for development in a lot of these players, so I can see this seeing going really well or really poorly based on development of key young players. Gonzalez, Tillman, Wieters, Machado Britton, Bundy and Reimold are very important to the team this year, and health and development needs to be on track for them to compete.
As for the basis of this series, I think they can compete in 2013 by adding one more solid veteran bat to the middle of the lineup and by staying healthy. I also happen to feel like the sexy move, to build a package around Bundy, Schoop and the rest of the farm system for Stanton would help the team of course, but I expect Bundy to make a significant contribution to the rotation this year and the trade of what we would gain in Stanton over a healthy Reimold in the OF is less than what we would lose from Bundy after he makes it up in May or June. I also feel that Britton back and healthy will produce more than a veteran pending FA stop gap and is better use of money than spending for a Saunders or Lohse, since I don't think either would do very well in the AL East over a full season. This approach will also leave payroll space to make a move during the season if injury or poor performance warrants one.