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December 11, 2010

Is there enough room for both Izturis and Harris?

About five days ago, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail was fielding questions about the organization's alarming lack of infield depth. Yesterday, I was asking him about the Orioles' infield logjam.

On Monday, the Orioles acquired third baseman Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks. On Thursday, they acquired shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility infielder Brendan Harris from the Minnesota Twins. On Friday, they agreed to terms on a one-year $1.5 million deal with Cesar Izturis, their starting shortstop the past two seasons.

Reynolds and Hardy will obviously be regulars, but then it gets a little fuzzy. MacPhail said yesterday that Izturis will be on the club and serve as the utility man. Where does that leave Harris or even Robert Andino, who made a real good impression on manager Buck Showalter late in the 2010 season?

MacPhail cited Harris' ability to play third base in saying that there is still room for Harris and Izturis on the 25-man Opening Day roster. But he added that Harris, who is not on the Orioles' 40-man so he could play all season at Triple-A Norfolk if that's what the organization chooses, will compete with Andino and others for a big league spot.

If the Orioles take another utility type in addition to Izturis, that would mean that Craig Tatum and Jake Fox are likely competing for one roster spot. Fox's right-handed power bat and ability to play the corner infield spots should help, but ultimately Showalter will likely take the guy that he - and the Orioles' pitching staff for that matter - feel the most comfortable with behind the plate on days where Matt Wieters is off.

It would also mean that the Orioles would likely go with 13 position players and a 12-man pitching staff.

At this point and things could change quickly, those 13 position players will be: 1B/DH acquired either via trade or free agency, Brian Roberts, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Cesar Izturis, Brendan Harris or Robert Andino, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Felix Pie, a 4th outfielder (likely Nolan Reimold), Luke Scott, Matt Wieters and backup catcher (Tatum or Fox).

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Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 10:15 AM | | Comments (32)


Signing izzy for depth makes some sense, seeing as we've not had much infield depth recently. However, its my hope that somehow this is a prelude to a trade with Pittsburgh for Doumit, like a Fox and izzy for Doumit and a reliever type trade.

Harris is on the Tides' roster, not the O's. He was waived by the Twins mid-year and outrighted to their AAA team. I think he'll start the year in Norfolk and stay there unless needed due to injury. On the other hand, Andino is on the major league roster and is out of options. He either makes the team or probably is gone.

The Orioles going after Izturis gives me pause. We all know Roberts was playing hurt at the end of the season. Are there any rumblings in the organization that he may not be reliable to start the season?

Jeff Z's reply: Well, a herniated disk in his back isn't an injury that is just going to go away. There's no question Brian is a significant health risk going forward and the Orioles need to collect as much infield depth as they can get.

Andino would make a good backup to Brignac for the Rays... in the Garza deal.

Who is the Yankees utility infielder? They need someone to back up Jeter, and I think Izturis would be perfect - maybe we can work a deal for a minor league prospect.

No superstars on that 13 man roster like the big 2 in the east have but a huge improvement over last year's team.

Like Doumit, a trade for Napoli of the Angels to replace Fox and Tatum would be another upgrade to increase the offense. Same money for either. Doumit has a better OBP while Napoli has more power. But, as you said Jeff, can they handle a staff like Tatum can?

Actually, Napoli could be a 1st base otpion if LaRoche doesn't sign. As good as, if not better than, Lee's #s except for BA given the # of ABs. May not be as good a glove though, if that is important to Buck too.

I try to remain optimistic, but unfortunately I've arrived at a place where none of this really matters.

Just when we thought the O's had perhaps made some progress, the Red Sox swoop in and show us what progress really is.

Don't get me wrong, the addition of Mark Reynolds is different than most of our recent additions as he is closer to 25 than he is to 30. So he's no retread. Hopefully he continues to develop as a hitter. As for J.J. Hardy... If it was 2007/2008, I'd be more excited. This could be Atkins all over again, or he might rebound as he's certainly young enough.

But unfortunately, while I was hoping that the decline of Manny and Ortiz in Boston would lead to some kind of gap-closing, Boston's additions of Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez brings their tally of all-around offensive players that are better than our single best player to at least four. There's really no denying that Pedroia, A-Gonz, Crawford, and Youkilis are way better than anyone we have. Ortiz, Drew and Ellsbury are no slouches either. I won't even get into our comparing our pitching rotations, except to say that Jon Lester is 13-0 vs. us in 16 career starts (ERA, 2.33).

So while we are progressing towards hopeful, positive consistency, Boston has the meat of their lineup locked up and Youkilis, at 31, is the elder statesman.

While the loss of Pena and Crawford likely brings the Rays back to earth a bit, they certainly have the organizational pitching depth to make a move to replace the lost power. The Yanks are still stacked and will perpetually be the favorite to sign every big-time free agent on which they set their sights.

So I guess we'll just have to see. I think the recent moves are positive, but Boston just showed us what moves really are.

DonM: unless the Orioles are putting together an Adam Jones/Matt Wieters package, why on earth would the Rays trade us Matt Garza?

Remember that the Rays gave *up* Delmon Young to get Garza. The Brewers gave up Brett Lawrie (a top 25 prospect) to get Shaun Marcum. There is simply no way to get Garza here without giving up a ton of talent in return.

at this point in time, yes i would say there is room for both izturis and harris. b rob's disk could go out any time. then the orioles have somone to fill in without having to go on a hunting trip for a replacement.

There's a lot of noise amongst O's fans... that's what years of frustration will do. Wasn't it just a few months ago when the Yankees go bounced and the press announced they were too old? Have they done anything to address that?

Look, the Red Sox made to solid moves. Everyone should wait until the END of the season to judge them. IT's way too early.

The offseason isn't over yet, either. Let the O's fill out, then we can start to talk.

I think it's too early to speculate too much about the roster. There's time for all sorts of deals to happen between now and spring training. So far the O's seem to have improved themselves, and I'm not as afraid of the Sox and Yanks as many seem to be.
I'll wait until we see what the team looks like when it gets to Florida before making any predictions about the season.

I think that Tatum has the best chance to stay and us trading Fox and Harris for an established starter on a salary dump like how we got Millwood.

No, there is NOT room for Harris on this team.
Izturis and Andino provide the best infield defense, and Andino is beginning to find his batting stroke. He batted in 70+ runs at Norfolk last year. There is no way Harris is going to make the 25-man roster.
I see the team as follows:
1B LaRoche
2B Roberts
3B Reynolds
SS Hardy
LF Pie
CF Jones
RF Markakis
C Weiters
DH Scott

SS 2B 3B Izturis
3B SS 2B OF Andino
3B 1B OF C Fox
C Tatum

I love Reimold. Unfortunately, I don't think he'll hit his way onto a roster spot coming out of spring training.

Who is the PTBNL in the Reynolds deal?

Jeff Z's reply: Don't think that's settled yet, but in most cases, it's a cash transation not a player one. Last two or three trades involving Os and PTBNL have been finalized with cash changing hands.

question: does Harris have any options left.

Jeff Z's reply: He's not on roster so that's moot point.

Just as a few have the right to say it's too early to say how our O's will do next year I also have the right to inject reality. I don't think anyone will argue that the O's got better. I also don't think anyone will argue that the Redsox got much better. I think, at this point, we may have closed the gap on the Yankees and that is a good thing. Even if they do get Cliff Lee I don't think that necessarily widens the gap. One, we hit him pretty good last year and secondly, while Lee is a great pitcher the O's got better in the offensive department and I think (really hope) that we will surprise some people at times. We might still be the doormat of the A.L. East but you can bet your bottom dollar Buck Showalter will make the other teams bring their "A" game every inning of every game, or else!

Why am I having flashbacks to a month or two ago, when the Ravens secondary coach said something about how it was so tough to manage the problem of having so many starter-caliber CBs?

The truth is that not one of our starting infielders would start on the Yankees or Red Sox, so worrying about having too much depth seems a little beside the point.

Besides, this is nothing new under MacPhail. He's always been more than proficient at building "inventory" of lackluster players- it is acquiring a true difference-maker that he's proven to be incompetent at. I suggest our time would be better spent focusing on that, rather than in getting distracted by meaningless "depth" problems.

At the end of the day, it won't matter one bit how many utility players we have on the bench, if the players MacPhail is putting on the field have us 30 games back...

I'm tired of people making excuses for AM and PA and why we can't compete with Boston and NY. One guy yesterday was ready to give AM an extension when his contract is up at the end of the 2011 season Really??? Based on what? I like the Reynolds and Hardy signings but we haven't accomplished anything yet. And Patrick sounds like he's on staff with the O's he was going on so much about how little the fanbase knows and why we should all just be satisfied and shut up about it. Patrick you made some good pts about what we have done but when it comes to why we can't spend some of that MASN money your probably correct that AM has been hamstrung by PA somewhat but you left last years signings of Atkins and Gonzales(who still might pan out) who were certainly AM's call. The money would have been better spent elsewhere. And don't tell me it can't be done the Twins compete, last year's champs won it all with a guy at first base we used to have at first base and no superstar at any position on the field. Their team is built on pitching. And let me remind you all that the Giants would not have won that division with out the help of Zito(who had a great first half) and his bloated contract. I'm not saying that was a good signing but even the Giants spend money from time to time. This winter the O's have made some good moves but eventually he's got to start writing some checks. You say you'd settle. Why? The Giants didn't. Lofty and reasonable expectations might be one wininng season in the last 13.

Get Perspective


I have been perplexed by the lack of detailed information regarding the injury to Brian Roberts. What I would like to know is, with a herniated disk in his back, what is his prognosis and what are all the possible treatment options? Clearly one approach is rest and rehabilitation, strengthen it and play with it. Is there not a better long term surgical option? I think it would be great if someone would really delve into what's going on there and what all the possible options are for treatment. I'm a huge Roberts fan and was really disappointed at how much time he missed last year with setbacks. Thanks for the blog.

Jeff Z's reply: Would love to help you Scott, but that type of story is easier said than done. Team doctors and trainers do not comment on the condition of the players. They just don't regardless of how severe or minor the injury is. That leaves us relying on MacPhail and Showalter, or Roberts himself. MacPhail and Showalter have expanded very little on the issue. Showalter said at the winter meetings that Roberts is doing fine but he didn't expand, probably out of respect to his player. As for Roberts, he's not the type of guy you can just pick up the phone and get often in the offseason. He's a private and busy guy who prefers not to be bothered. All he has said repeatedly is that he's been told that surgery is not an option for him and his conditioning, and it's something that will gradually get better and he'll learn to manage better.

why they dont give andino a chance is a wonder , watched him in minore last year ,great attitude and you never know if hes just hitting his stride. still need firstbaseman , are they thinking about trying reimold at first?

Jeff Z's reply: That's an option, but don't think they are sold on that one yet.

Over the past couple of weeks I've read all the doomsayers. First let me remind everyone that pitching (like the Giants) and defense wins championships, and the O's are building a pitching staff that will get better and better over the next couple of years. Second the Yanks and Red Sox have not improved that much.The Yankees have possibly lost Pettite (retirement) and are older. The Red Sox lost Martinez and Beltre and, like the Yankees, their bullpen is not that good. I pick the O's for 3rd or 4th with 83 wins.

True about the Yankees infield except I'd take Hardy over Jeter next year, but I would take our outfield and catcher over theirs.
I'd also take our YOUNG pitching staff next year.
Yankees finish 3rd this year.

Progress up to this point has been encouraging. But, if they don't sign LaRoche and a quality veteran starter, and I don't mean somebody in Kevin Millwood's league either, then the offseason hasn't been good enough. If O's management is serious about giving the fans the first winning season in 14 years, it's time to start spending some serious money.

smitty -- The Yankees finishing third this year? You mean 2011, right?

In any case, just who do you think New York's going to finish behind. Boston. Okay, I give you that, unless the Yanks get Cliff Lee, because then it will be a dog fight.

After the Red Sox, though, I don't know. Certainly not Toronto, unless they come out of nowhere to make a big splash this off-season.

Ditto the Orioles, but it would take a much bigger splash that isn't happening. (I don't see a trade for Zach Greinke on the horizon for the Birds, do you?)

That leaves the other team I presume you meant should finish ahead of the Yankees, and that's Tampa Bay. One problem, however, and that's the tremendous hit taken on their lineup with the loss of Carl Crawford. The Rays aren't nearly the team without Crawford and I don't see them plugging in anyone to replace him who'll be nearly as good.

Given that, unless Tampa can do something to minimize the loss (which won't be easy), it is much more likely to finish third than New York, and if the Yanks get Lee, that should just about finish knocking the Rays out of contention.

I was reading that Reynolds is attempting to persuade LaRoche to sign here--Arizona East. Not a bad ide--just wished we would have offered Britton, Simon, Pie for AGon and see what would have happened...casara sara.

Now, if we sign LaRoche, it gives us a heavy sided LH lineup.

Do you think a Markakis, Simon, Britton could pry Upton from Arizona--Arizona East, remember?

I would pull the trigger on this faster than the Mayflower vans pulling out of Owings Mills--oops...Love our Ravens but miss the name that TRULY BELONGS TO BALTIMORE>>COLTS!

Your thoughts

Thank you

Arizona wants to get cheaper. Nick's contract is hefty. And Simon has very little trade value. That deal wont happen.

No, it was a good move. Considering how pathetic Roberts has become in the last few years, I think it was a great move. But, if anything if the O's were extremely smart they'd trade Roberts to Texas for Young. And while they're at it (and I'm sure I'll get plenty of hassle for this) but they ought to trade Adam Jones and a starter for Prince Fielder and make that big boy sign a big fat extension.

It seems like Harris will have to have a hell of a ST to make the ream, but I see no harm with him starting in AAA. Last spring, Wiggy wasn't a lock to make the team and ended up being a savior at 2B for the 1st two months and the same with Corey in the OF so you never can have enough depth.

Andino is very athletic so I wouldn't be shocked to see him play the OF during ST. I like this guy and what he brings to the table so hopefully the O's can find a spot for him on the team.

LaRoche seems to want a 2 year deal and I don't see why the O's wouldn't give him one? Lets say the O's get Prince next winter (DREAM), you have Adam move to the DH role, play some 1B or trade him. I just don't like Lee as the alternative.

The way the team played when Buck took over was all because of the pitching so I find it shocking the O's aren't looking at Pavano? Twins players rave about this guy and his desire to compete plus he's pitched very well since his injured years in NY. I think this is a guy that will really help the team. Jeff Francis is another guy who could help. I just think the O's are counting too much on everyone else in the rotation to take positive steps forward.

Instead of signing LaRoche, maybe the Orioles should trade for Michael Young. He has the ability to play 3rd, short stop, and 2nd base in case someone gets injured. In the meantime, Baltimore could stick him at third base or first base. Young has a career .300 batting average, puts up about 20 homers a year, and hits well with runners on base or when leading off an inning. Having a more flexible starting players eems like a better option than picking up purely a first baseman, or carrying a second utility infielder.

Since Harris is on the Tides roster I'd expect that Andino makes the team out of Spring Training unless he lays an egg, or gets traded.

Defensively the O's have shored up the middle infield pretty well. But there is a serious lack of a leadoff hitter if Roberts goes down. Pie is the guy that should really be working on his leadoff/#2 hitter skills in ST. If Pie could really learn to work the count like Roberts he could be a dangerous hitter. It will be interesting to see if Pie can progress and grow into being a ML top of the order hitter.

If he can, Hardy maybe able to hit down in the lineup some and concentrate on re-establishing his power bat. Or maybe Pie and Hardy can platoon at the 2 hole.

I wander if all of baseball is waiting for Cliff Lee's decision, things have gotten really slow on the FA front the last couple of days. Would still love to see the O's make a run at Vlad Guerrerro's bat. He's the most dangerous hitter still on the market.

Install him in the lineup in the 4 hole and he'd be good for a 100+ RBI's and he's make Markakis an Allstar. He'd also take pressure off of Scott and Reynolds because they's be able to settle in as 5-6 hitters and set up favorable L-R combo's up and down the order.

The O's lineup wouldn't be Murderer's Row, but it could be a solid batting order with much improved power and RBI capacity.

How good the Yankees got this off season will rest a lot on Mr. Lee's decision. If they strike out on Lee, and Petitte would retire, they could end up pretty desperate with not a lot of moves that make sense left.

Boston blew the O's away with their moves, but they could end up being the only team in the division to really improve other then the O's. The O's have got to play their way out of the cellar before we start worrying too much about 1st place.

Hey Jeff,

I am back at it again LOL

Seriously, though....I was reading a MLB rumor site. That Scott Boras has more suggestions then I do....

How gutsy is Scott Boras? After the Red Sox traded for Adrian Gonzalez, he reminded them Adrian Beltre was still available to be re-signed, suggesting Kevin Youkilis could move to left field rather than third base. Beltre's best bet has to be with the Angels, doesn't it? There is a thought the Rangers could sign him and use Michael Young as a super utility man and DH.

All right lets say Beltre goes to Texas..
That would be quite a line up if Beltre keeps up the same effort in 2011 as he did in 2010! Which would mean Michael Young would be available for trade. If I were GM of the O's which I am not, but I admit I would love to be....realistically probable won't happen,but a squirrel can dream!

Anyway, we trade for Michal Young put him at thrid base. Put Mark Reynolds at first, hey we really don't need Reynolds to be Keith Hernandez at first with his glove. We just need him to hold his own down there, and crush the baseball when hitting, which I think he can do!

So this would be the starting infield in 2011.
1b Mark Reynolds
2b B Rob
SS JJ Hardy
3b Michael Young

That isn't too shabby!

In addition, I know I have been repeating myself. And your answer the other day probable was the best answer about it that I have read, but since I am relentless or nuts, take you pick! =)
Here we go again!

We really really need to trade for Greinke and Gordon. We don't need Butler now since we have reynolds sitting on 1st

If somehow we can get Greinke, which would be nothing short of a miracle! Like I said earlier a squirrel can dream can't I!

Our starting rotation could look like this and this is still possible as of today

#1. Greinke
#2 Pavano
#3 Guthrie
#4 Matusz
#5 whoever is left after the Greinke trade can vie for the spot

Once we do this we can get Balfour in here to be one of the middle relievers
which would cause Jim Thome to get excited and beg to be signed by the Orioles, because suddenly we would be contenders again. And if I were GM, I would be "Fired Up" to sign him.

A Squirrel Can Dream.....!

Andino certainly deserves a shot at the Opening Day roster over Harris & I'm sure his Spring Training numbers will bear that out. That kid busts his butt & I'm sure he'd play anywhere they'd want him...just like Brandon Fahey...only with talent.

Don't count Harris out! He won the starting spot easily with a great pre-season last year, but was really never given a chance by Gardinhire. Tough to get in a groove when you pinch hit infrequently. Also look at Harris' post season stats with the twins always came up big ofeensively and defensively in the post. He is a class guy with a great work ethic!

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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