Do you think the Orioles should hope Brian Roberts stays healthy and can man second base, or do we go ahead with a plan to find someone who can be relied on for 145 to 150 games there?
-- Michael M., Linthicum, Md.
The Orioles' plan to have depth behind Roberts has been pretty clear for a while, and the recent addition of 28-year-old Alexi Casilla gives them another option should the veteran Roberts not be able to stay on the field.
Casilla, claimed off waivers from the Minnesota Twins, joins Omar Quintanilla as a second-base option. The trade of Robert Andino to Seattle on Tuesday opens things up a bit. But the O's also have Ryan Flaherty, a Rule 5 Draft pick who stayed on the team's active roster all season, in the organization and currently playing winter ball to get some additional at-bats before the spring. Flaherty could make the team as a utility infielder and be called upon to help fill in at second base if the need arises, as it did this year.
The Orioles' plans for second base start with Roberts, and if he's healthy, he will be their guy. I don't see them adding another second-base option at this point, as the organization feels pretty good about its depth and is cautiously optimistic about Roberts, who hasn't played more than 60 games since 2009. Roberts has been working out and is expected to be healthy for Spring Training.
I know that's been said and written many times before, but I wouldn't count Roberts out just yet. He's in the final year of a four-year contract, and if he wants to keep playing beyond 2013 -- and there are people who believe he does -- the 35-year-old will have to prove he can stay healthy and be productive.
If we are unable to re-sign Mark Reynolds, will Chris Davis return to first base? Or do we try to acquire someone outside the organization?
-- Bob F., Parkersburg, W.Va.
Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette was pretty clear when asked earlier in the week about the team's needs, stating that Baltimore told opposing clubs it is interested in acquiring a bat at first base/designated hitter or left field. Does that rule out Reynolds, to whom the team is deciding whether to offer arbitration, making a return in 2013? Not necessarily. The O's biggest need right now is to get another bat, and while losing Reynolds would make that need even greater, it won't automatically move Davis to first base.
Davis is pretty versatile, as he showed this year, and if the Orioles opt to let Reynolds become a free agent, filling first base externally will continue to be at the forefront of their offseason to-do list. They could bring in another bat in trading for or signing a free-agent outfielder, a move that would probably take Davis out as an outfield option and put him at first base. But keep in mind, Davis showed he can handle being the DH, a role with which certain players struggle.
Manager Buck Showalter has long preferred to use the DH spot to rotate guys and keep them fresh, and, obviously, the fate of Reynolds is tied in to where Davis fits on the field in 2013. Regardless, the O's main focus remains on adding a middle-of-the-order bat, a hole that was on full display in this year's playoffs and one that has trumped adding a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. At least, for now.
Do you think No. 2 prospect Kevin Gausman will have a chance to pitch for the Orioles late in the season, the way Dylan Bundy was able to in 2012?
-- Tim L., Baltimore
Simply put: yes. The Orioles' top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Gausman is a college righty whom many in the organization believe ended the season ahead of Bundy in his development, although the 20-year-old Bundy -- who is on the 40-man roster -- was the one who spent some time in Baltimore.
Both young arms have considerable upside and will be carefully watched this spring, with a chance to help the O's at some point in 2013. At this point, I don't think either of them will break camp with the Orioles, but they are exciting options to have waiting in the wings. Duquette has stated that the organization needs an ace, and while he's not in favor of signing a free agent to get one -- a risky and expensive move -- the hope is Bundy and Gausman can eventually develop into in-house solutions.
How will the World Baseball Classic affect the Orioles in Spring Training?
-- Ken D., Baltimore
The 2013 Classic runs from March 2-19, and while there's no way around its interruption of baseball's Spring Training schedule with every team, the O's shouldn't have much to worry about. Obviously the biggest concern among Major League managers revolves around having their pitchers playing in Classic games, pitching extra innings early in camp, that don't have an effect on their own standings.
Left-handed pitcher and Taiwan native Wei-Yin Chen, who was signed out of Japan, has already stated he will not pitch in the Classic, a decision which caused some unhappiness abroad as Chen explained on his Facebook page that his focus will be on his second season of Major League Baseball. Tsuyoshi Wada will be rehabbing from Tommy John surgery that ended his season last spring.
The international competition, which began in 2006, includes a qualification round this year that expands participation in the tournament from 16 to 28 teams. Japan has won both of the previous Classic competitions in '06 and '09, and MLB.com and MLB Network will have live coverage throughout this tournament.
Looking ahead, do you know when FanFest will be? And when will the Orioles release their spring schedule?
-- Rob B., York, Pa.
This year's FanFest will be held on Jan. 19 at the Baltimore Convention Center, with the customary special early opening to season-ticket holders. As for the Spring Training schedule, the Orioles released last year's slate of Grapefruit League games at the end of November, and the plan remains the same for this spring. If you're extra motivated, you can piece together certain game dates based on opposing teams who have already released their schedules, and you can find all of those on MLB.com.