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Hang in there, O's fans!

Let's put it all into perspective, OK?

The season is over. At 61-77 and now losing games by Adam Kennedy three-run dongs in extras, it's just plain old over. It has been for a while, but now you can officially back up the garbage truck and haul the majority of this team away, because it's time to look forward to the offseason.

There are few guarantees for the 2007 Orioles. Figure on these guys remaining, obviously:

RF Markakis
SS Tejada
3B Mora
2B Roberts
DH Gibbons
SP Bedard
SP Loewen
SP Cabrera
RP Ray

I would assume Britton will be on the team, and Benson will be unless he's dealt. It's a wide open team, though. Cabrera might not even make the cut if he can't come through next spring. Penn is still really young.

The Orioles are supposedly (yes, again) ready to spend some money. We actually have a farm system in place now, or at least something resembling one, and Markakis is the first O's prospect to cause any real excitement at the major league level since, I dunno, Moose? Chris Ray has proven he can anchor the bullpen. Tejada is having an outstanding season.

Obviously it would be beneficial to acquire an ace, but there probably won't really be one. The closest you come is Zito or Schmidt. Now, we HAVE the money to overpay a little for one of them, so overpaying wouldn't be the end of the world. It's just that I'm iffy about both. Schmidt is getting older and has never pitched in the American League, and Zito is not an ace in my opinion, though (again) I would not mind having him on my team at all. You know you'll get 200+ pretty quality innings out of the guy.

What if we got both? A lefty and a righty to work the top of the rotation, giving us a five-man unit of Zito, Schmidt, Bedard and two of Cabrera, Loewen, Penn and Benson. That makes Benson very expendable, which could net something useful probably, since major league "proven" arms are sometimes overvalued and always in demand. Of course, we won't get them both, but it can't hurt to dream, I don't guess.

First base has GOT to be upgraded. Gibbons could do it, but then you still need a DH. Frank Thomas will be back on the market unless he gives Beane a discount for having the faith in him that has allowed him to resurrect his career, but Frank is still a guy I'd want on an incentive-heavy deal for no more than one year. I love the guy and obviously he can still produce, but his health is always going to be a question. Plus, Frank came into this season pissed off at Chicago, with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. He's proven it, but I worry about letting him "get fat," so to speak, and watching him put less than 100% into a season.

The bullpen needs to be largely overhauled. Ray can stay, I want to see Britton back, but to hell with the rest of them. LaTroy hasn't burned us nearly as bad as I'd feared he might, but what's the point really? He's not any good, he's getting old, and you can find relievers as good as him or much better for a lot cheaper, if you actually take the time to look. A lot of Baltimore's bullpen problems the last two seasons have been centered on crappy veterans -- Reed, Kline, Hawkins, and though they were meant to start, Chen and Ortiz. And then the minor league guys we bring up tend to be never-weres like Manon or Byrdak, or a guy like Birkins who is 25 and still has a little ways to go to be of any real worth to a major league team. Even Winston Abreu is 30 next April.

Gomez will be gone, but Fahey could probably do his job. Part of me wants to see Brandon go back to the minors and work on his game, but I also think he'd be a fine utility infielder, and that that also might really be his ceiling. Backup catcher is kind of an issue, because it'd be nice to have one around that has a little pop or something, instead of Widger or Raul Chavez. Then again, it's still a guy that's playing once or twice a week.

What to do about CF? I like Corey, but I dunno, man. He is what he is, and if Corey gets in a slump, that's some bad news for your offense, because Corey slumps are gargantuan, bottomless holes. Markakis can play center. If Fiorentino were ready to go (and he's probably not), I'd say give a Markakis/Fiorentino/Gibby outfield a shot.

But first base, because that's a big one. Sean Casey will be out there, and I like Casey, but he's not really what we need. At all. Nomar will be available, but that's another Frank Thomas type of guy. Shea Hillenbrand is a chump and I don't like him at all.

Gary Sheffield has an option for 2007, and say what you will about Sheff, but he works hard, and he's said he'd be willing to move to first base for New York next season. Would he do that for anyone else? Beats me, but would you want to have Sheffield? Even if he stays in right, you're adding a dangerous bat and can move Gibby over to first. You need a DH still, but then you have...

Barry Bonds? Oh, I jest. Calm down. Bonds ain't coming to Baltimore.

John Smoltz might well be available too. He's ready to move on, it sounds like, and reuniting with Leo could (1) keep Smoltz happy and (2) teach our younger pitchers something.

Kerry Wood's got a mutual option or a $3 million buyout. Who knows with him? Low-risk, he might be more than worth it.

I don't know, this is all rambling BS. What I'm really asking is what would YOU do with the free agent market and the assumption that we're going to spend some money?