As the reigning champions, the Orioles get to go first. Forget the debate whether the Orioles should have done more to re-sign Cruz and Markakis (for what it’s worth, my opinion is that Orioles management was very wise in not overpaying for either of these two), it is time to move on. The team needs to figure out who will be playing the corner outfield positions in 2015.
Cruz kept the Orioles offense afloat at times last season as Chris Davis struggled the entire season and Matt Wieters and Manny Machado watched from the bench. Cruz did hit 40 home runs last season, but those bemoaning his loss as a catalyst in the Orioles demise need to realize that he batted only .214 for June, July and August.
The Orioles record in that span? That would be 52-29.
The Orioles played at a .641 clip with Cruz barely playing above (and some would say below) replacement level. They did not do much to bring in replacements from outside the fold – mostly because they did not need to. The front office has done an outstanding job the past three seasons with assembling complimentary talent around its core players. Now, it is time for players like Steve Pearce, Travis Snider and Alejandro De Aza to get their turn and show that they are capable of being every day players in the Major Leagues. I expect Buck Showalter to shuffle these three around based on matchups and who is wielding a hot bat.
Ultimately, with the return of Wieters and Machado and the great depth the Orioles have at the corner outfield positions, do not expect the Orioles offense to miss a beat in 2015. If the Orioles are unseated at the top of the division, it will not be due to the loss of two aging outfielders.