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Is it too early to start looking at next year?

I haven't watched much baseball over the past few days. I caught the last two innings of Sunday's loss and two batters in yesterday's game (the two outs after Markakis' double). I haven't sat down and watched a game since the loss in Detroit last Wendesday. This happens every year, my waning interest. It's natural of course, and happens to most us. Just look at the game threads from last September; they're ghost towns. Every year I think it'll be different, but it never is. I'm still excited to see a number of individual performances on the team, but that's about it.

So, on to next year. Offensively, the Orioles immediate needs for next year are first and third base. Wow, is that really it? Outfield? Check. Middle Infield? Check (for next year anyway). DH? Half a check. Catcher? Check check!

The only possible internal options for first and third are Josh Bell and Brandon Snyder, neither of which I believe will be ready for Opening Day 2010. I suppose if Brandon Snyder finishes his AAA season strongly and impresses in Spring Training he could be a candidate for first base. Upon being promoted to AAA on June 19th he struggled, but has since picked it up and was just named the International League's Player of the Week.

Josh Bell has been AA all year, most of it playing for the Chattanooga Lookouts, the AA affiliate for the Dodgers. In five games with the Bowie Baysox he has looked good with 4 hits and 4 walks in 17 plate appearances, but mid 2010 or 2011 is probably when Bell will see his first action in the big leagues (provided he doesn't tank).

If the Orioles are projecting Bell to be the 3B of the future, it's possible the everyday 3B job in '10 will go to Ty Wigginton. He's not ideal as an every day replacement but is an upgrade over Melvin Mora and will be adequate until Bell is ready.

Earlier in the year I was an advocate of offering Aubrey Huff arbitration after the season. I figured if he turned it down, draft picks. If he accepted it, he'd be ok over there for one year. I have since changed my mind on that in a big way. Aubrey Huff is awful. I've come around a lot on Huff in the past year or so based on his numbers last year and the fact that he's a big, goofy, fun dude. But he's just not good enough to stay with this team going forward. His WAR on the year so far is -0.4, good for dead last on the team. His OPS+ is 87, 2nd worst of his career and worst since 2001.  I like Huff and I know that he really wants to stay here, but it just cannot be justified.

The word on the street is that the Orioles want to add a big right handed bat for next year. Presumably this bat would fill in at one of the corner positions or DH and I'd imagine would come from free agency. That's the plan right? Buy the bats? Not to mention the only trade bait the Orioles currently have is pitching prospects and that's a hard thing to trade.

A list of upcoming free agents who fit the parameters and my thoughts on them below the jump.

Player A/B Status Position Age in 2010 Comments
Adrian Beltre B 3B 31 Might be cheap this year due to injury; very good defender; not a great on base guy, but has decent power
Joe Crede N/A 3B 32 Injured a lot; can't hit; pretty good fielder
Pedro Feliz B 3B 35 Old; good defense, can't really hit; Phillies have option
Chone Figgins A 3B/2B/OF 32 versatile; good defender, decent hitter; not much power
Jason Bay A OF 31 Will probably be re-signed by BOS; if not he'll have lots of teams after him; will require a huge contract.
Marlon Byrd B OF 32 Only hits well in Texas
Jermaine Dye A OF 36 Old; hits for power; could be DH candidate; White Sox have option
Vladimir Guerrero A OH/DH "35" Old and broken down
Matt Holliday A OF 30 Great hitter, good defender; Boras client; will be courted by all big market teams and will get a huge contract.
Magglio Ordonez A OF/DH 36 Old, having down year, could be toast. Tigers have option.
Andruw Jones N/A OF/DH 33 He's a mystery; looks good this year but is only playing part time; looked totally cooked in '07-'08; could be cheap; would really confuse Gary Thorne who already calls Adam Jones "Andruw" half the time.


Honestly the only guys above I'd have any interest in are Matt Holliday, Jason Bay, and Chone Figgins. Maybe Adrian Beltre if he's super cheap, and maybe Jermaine Dye if it were a few years ago. So much for buying the bats.

This certainly isn't a comprehensive list. I got my 2010 FA class from COTS and made a list of all right handed 1B/3B/OF/DH, then cut out the really horrible ones. It's pretty much all guys who used to be good and guys who were never good. The only prime hitters out there are Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. Other RH 1B/3B/OF/DH who will be FA that I didn't include above: Robb Quinlan, Mike Sweeney, Geoff Blum, Troy Glaus, Rocco Baldelli, Mike Cameron (I had no idea he'd gotten so old. It made me feel old), Coco Crisp, Reed Johnson, Austin Kearns, Jason Michaels, Manny  Ramirez (who I almost put on the list but why bother), Gary Sheffield, and Randy Winn.

A few players I wouldn't mind seeing in orange and black next year even though they are lefties: Carl Crawford (Rays have option), Nick Johnson.