The Baltimore Orioles enter the 2012 offseason with an improved outlook following their first postseason appearance since 1997.
While Baltimore has a solid core of young players like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and Chris Davis, the team has a gaping hole at second base. The Orioles will most likely look to fill the void with internal options in 2013.
Former All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts has missed much of the past three seasons due to injury. Roberts battled through post-concussion issues to return to the field in 2012. Unfortunately, he played in just 17 games before suffering a season-ending hip injury. While the 35-year-old Roberts may be healthy for spring training, he can no longer be counted on to be a regular contributor. Anything Baltimore gets from Roberts and his $10 million salary next season must be considered a bonus.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter juggled a number of second base options throughout the 2012 season. Showalter ultimately settled on a platoon of Robert Andino and Ryan Flaherty late in the season. Andino is a solid utility player whose flaws become more apparent with overuse. Andino is the better defender and runner of the two, but he struggled offensively throughout the 2012 season. Andino posted a woeful .588 OPS in 127 games. The Orioles will be best served moving Andino back into a utility role going forward or finding a more productive player at a reduced cost.
Flaherty came to Baltimore from the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft. There were times during the season when Flaherty struggled at the plate and it looked as if his roster spot was in jeopardy. Showalter stuck with the youngster and was ultimately rewarded when Flaherty delivered several big hits in the playoffs. The 26-year-old Flaherty finished the season with a .216 batting average in 153 at-bats for the Orioles in 2012. Flaherty figures to get extended playing time in spring training but may be best served by a full season of at-bats at Triple-A in 2013.
The August promotion of Manny Machado to Baltimore left infielder Jonathan Schoop as the Orioles' best hitting prospect. Schoop played much of this season at second base for Double-A Bowie. The 21-year-old Schoop struggled out of the gate but ultimately finished the season with 24 doubles, 14 home runs, 56 RBIs, and a .245 batting average. Schoop is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League where he's hitting .375 with three doubles, a home run, and four RBIs in nine games. Schoop is the future at second base in Baltimore, but that future likely won't start on opening say 2013.
The free-agent market offers little in the way of second base help. Marco Scutaro would be the perfect No. 2 hitter behind Nick Markakis In the Orioles' lineup, but he's currently having a red-hot postseason and could be retained by the Giants. Kelly Johnson offers power at second base but is prone to strikeouts and lacks plate discipline. Jeff Keppinger would be a nice platoon partner for Flaherty, but the Rays are certainly interested in retaining the veteran infielder. The Orioles' best solution at second base in 2013 may be a short-term platoon of Flaherty and Andino, or a low-priced free agent like Ryan Theriot until Schoop is ready to take over the position.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com.