One thing is for certain: the Orioles spent a lot of money this offseason. That money, however, was primarily spent on retaining players--Chris Davis in particular--while other additions such as Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez and Yovani Gallardo don't really make the team that much better.
Baltimore was a team that regressed pretty significantly last season, going from 96-66 in 2014 to 81-81 in 2015. There's certainly some interesting talent on this squad, but with the intrigue comes a lot of questions.
This team certainly has a lot of pop, highlighted by Davis' big bat alongside Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters and Pedro Alvarez. The 217 home runs the Orioles hit last year ranked third in all of baseball, trailing just the Blue Jays and the Astros. And while there were a bunch of players who hit career highs in terms of home runs last season and that pace is not entirely sustainable, there's reason to fear the O's lineup.
The issue with the lineup here is that there isn't much the team can do other than hit home runs. Beyond Machado, the Orioles don't have many guys who can get on base consistently, and as a result, it wouldn't be surprising to see lots of players in this lineup with high home runs totals and surprisingly low RBI numbers because of just how many are likely to come with the bases empty.
The additions of Alvarez and Trumbo only further dig the Orioles down this rabbit hole, and when the team is facing pitchers who induce a lot of grounders, they're gonna have a hard time creating runs. But of course, there are gonna be plenty of days where this team is gonna hit rocket after rocket over fences and be one of the most exciting offenses in all of baseball.
This staff was a real black eye for the Orioles last season and ultimately played a major role in their regression. Only two teams in the American League had fewer innings pitched from the starters than the Orioles (915.2 innings pitched, or about 5.2 per game). Wei-Yin Chen was the only Baltimore starter last season that qualified for the ERA title and had a mark below 4.00, and he's now pitching in Miami for the Marlins.
To replace Chen, the Orioles went out and signed Yovani Gallardo, who posted a 3.42 ERA and 1.42 WHIP last year. That's not far off the mark left by the man he's replacing (3.34 ERA, 1.22 WHIP). Chris Tillman was straight up bad last year, posting a 4.99 ERA, 4.45 FIP and 1.39 WHIP, and has regressed since posting 4.4 bWAR in 2013. His success (or lack thereof) could really swing the overall ability of this rotation to compete in the AL East.
Ubaldo Jimenez continues his Oscar-worthy performance as the human soap opera, posting incredibly high highs and unfathomably low lows. He's alternated posting positive and negative bWARs ever season 2011, and given that he managed a 2.6 bWAR last season, well, you might want to close your eyes.
How many starts to the Red Sox need from Clay Buchholz?
Buchholz will get hurt at some point. How long does he need to stay on the mound to be a real factor in 2016?
Kevin Gausman is the really interesting guy here. He's a former top prospect and is still only 25 years old. He hasn't been very good as a starter -- to the tune of 4.27 ERA and 1.31 WHIP -- but he's got good stuff and has shown some promise in spurts at the big league level.
Oft-injured top prospect Dylan Bundy could be an x-factor in this spot, but he's only thrown 65.1 innings over the past three seasons and may well start the year in the bullpen. He could find his way into the group at some point this season and make an impact.
But yeah, not many sure bets here.
This team has a killer bullpen, like many of the teams in the AL East. Baltimore re-signed Darren O'Day, teaming him up the submariner with Zach Britton and Brian Matusz. The numbers are pretty eye-opening.
Britton: 1.92 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 79 K, 65. 2 IP
O'Day: 1.52 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 82 K, 65.1 IP
Matusz: 2.94 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 56 K, 49 IP
Without question, this is the strength of this team. With Brad Brach, Mychal Givens and the potential additions of Vance Worley and Odrisamer Despaigne (if they don't make the rotation), this will certainly compete to be the best bullpen crew in the majors, let alone the division.
This is a team of both really great and really terrible defenders. Machado, Jones, Jonathan Schoop, Matt Wieters and JJ Hardy are all among the best defenders at their respective positions, but then you have Chris Davis. And Mark Trumbo. And in desperate situations, Pedro Alvarez. The positives will definitely outweigh the negatives, but those who don't excel with the glove for the Orioles are gonna be pretty, pretty bad.
This team has a ton of question marks. While the lineup can hit a ball a country mile, they can't do much else as a group. The Orioles don't really have a top-flight ace and the rotation question marks are much bigger questions than even those facing Boston this year. While the bullpen as a unit has a good chance of besting the Red Sox, that gap has certainly closed dramatically this season.
If everything goes right for the Orioles this season, they ostensibly could be a playoff contender. But more realistically, this Orioles team repeats its performance from last year, which is definitely not the desired outcome given the considerably higher amount of money invested in the team compared to last season.