Let's play a little game called "Who the hell will be in the outfield in 2007?"
The outfield has dogged the Orioles for years now. In 1999, our outfield was Surhoff, Anderson and Belle, and while they were old (34, 35, 32), the least you can say about them is that they produced. Surhoff hit .308/.347/.492 with 28 homers and 107 RBI, Brady hit .282/.404/.477 with 24 homers and 81 RBI plus 36 steals, and Albert Belle was at .297/.400/.541 with 37 dingers and 117 driven in.
Since then, we haven't had a complete outfield. There have been some pretty good years out there, but as a whole it's been a debacle. We've tried everything, from Larry Bigbie and Chris Richard to Sammy Sosa and Marty Cordova.
This year, Nick Markakis emerged as our first serious prospect in a dog's age, and Corey Patterson had the kind of year in center field that you just kind of have to take the good parts from and accept that Corey is Corey, and he's going to swing at everything and the best you can do is hope that he hits it.
That said, Corey Patterson is still not an answer as a starting outfielder. He has more than enough range and a pretty good arm, and he hits a little and can run, but he doesn't hit enough. If you take Corey and really think he should be starting, given that 2006 is probably his ceiling, you wouldn't be out of place running the Orioles. I like Corey and I'm glad he did that well, but it was hardly a rip-roaring success. He's prone to awful slumps still, and the same old problems -- while they are what they are and they aren't gonna change -- still exist.
So you have Markakis. Nick can play center, though he's probably best in right. He could be Trot Nixon plus for a long time, and maybe better than that even. Corey will be available in center, and there might not be a better option for the time being, so let's just say that Nick and Corey are coming back and they'll be out there. Besides, after years of Luis Matos, Corey Patterson seems like a prize pig.
Left field is empty. Brandon Fahey is not a left fielder. David Newhan is not a major league player. Jeff Fiorentino probably isn't quite ready yet -- I know Markakis worked it out, but Fiorentino is not Markakis and never has been.
Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee are out there. Gary Sheffield and Trot Nixon probably are. Let's weigh these four options, just for fun.
Soriano: As I said in a previous comment, Soriano could go 50/50 in the right year. He's like Corey but, you know, way better. Soriano is less Corey plus than he is Vlad lite, which is surprisng to me, but Soriano has more than proven he's going to do what he does. The upside here is that he's a star player, the downside is he costs a lot of money, but if the plan is to pay for good players, then do it. He's my first choice, and I never thought I'd say that about Soriano. It'd also be a nice strike against the Nats.
Lee: Lee's a jerk, but he can kill the ball and will be more affordable than Soriano probably. He's a huge upgrade on what we had in left this year, although if we brought Brady Anderson back into the fold he wouldn't be much worse than Fahey or Newhan.
Nixon: I love Trot Nixon. He's a dirty-hat player and he's always been one of those guys that I root for even though he's on a team I hate. He's got injury problems and needs a platoon partner. Look, he's a good guy, but he's past his prime and it's only going to get worse. Even though I like him, I'd take a pass unless it gets to where he's super cheap and you're basically just saying, "Hey, let's give it a whirl." You know, like Frank Thomas last offseason.
Sheffield: Like him or not, and I don't, the man can hit and he's a competitor. Sheffield has long since shaken the tag of his days in Milwaukee as a total problem child. He's not the nicest guy in the world, but Sheffield knew the Yankees wanted his bat back in the lineup, so he moved to first base to accomodate Bobby Abreu and try to help his team win. He's a superstar player that really tried to do something to help, and while it may not have been the best move, he wasn't the one that had the final say on it either. He did his best. Sheffield still has great power and a superb eye. It would most likely never happen since Sheff is in the position that he can pick and choose which of the interested winners he wants to go to, but I wouldn't mind it on a two-year deal with an option for a third or something like that.
Barry Bonds: Hahahaha. Listen, I'd take Bonds DHing any day because he's still a good baseball player, but this is far less likely than even Sheffield.
Maybe you're thinking, "Scott, did you forget about Jay Gibbons?" My answer is, "I'd sure like to." Nah, I just figure Gibby is penciled in as the DH. Markakis is great in right field and that's the only position Gibbons plays except his adventurous and valiant attempts at playing first. You know, a Gibbons/Millar platoon at first wouldn't bother me at all. Then we get Soriano and Bonds! Yes, my plan is tremendous.
Realistically, who do you go after the hardest, and why?