Time for O’s to take risks, Gonzalez deal is done

Mets-BravesWhile the names haven’t fallen in their column the last two winters you have to give the Baltimore Orioles credit for at-least making strong efforts to bring quality players to their organization.

Today the club announced they had finalized a deal for reliever Mike Gonzalez worth $12 million over the next two seasons. With incentives the deal could be worth as much as $14 million.

While he began the season as the Atlanta Braves closer he eventually settled into an eighth inning role for the club and finished with a 2.42 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 90/33 K/BB  while converting 10 of 17 save chances. The Orioles will hope Gonzalez is ready to take on their closers role for a full season.

The risk with Gonzalez is that least season was his first full season of work since 2006 and of course he’s coming off a season of a career high 80 appearances. Gonzalez underwent Tommy John surgery during the 2007 season.

Thus far this winter the Orioles have addressed a need at the top of their rotation and at the back end of their bullpen. Kevin Millwood being acquired from the Texas Rangers and now signing Gonzalez both add players who had fine 2009 seasons but could either regress significantly or even miss a large part of the season with injury.

I wondered for a bit if the Orioles were better off taking their lumps again in 2010 or if perhaps acquiring these players made the team better. Considering the club was a disappointing 64-98 last season and the seats are becoming emptier and emptier by the year the Orioles owe it to their fans to at-least try to put a contending club on the field again.

Obviously the club can’t financially compete with New York or Boston, but then again few can. Baltimore isn’t too bad off economically and with a decent core of players and some positive things happening in 2010 they could find themselves back to being a contender as early as 2011.Contrary to belief you can’t keep losing games and get better, the Orioles finishing in the 65-70 win range again this coming season does little to create confidence in the players or the coaches. Another coaching change isn’t the answer here.

Millwood and Gonzalez could push the teams win total to 70 alone if nothing changed from last season. The earlier signing of Garret Atkins should improve the production at third base and of course adding another season of big league experience to their core of young position players and with some help from the back end of the rotation, a full season out of Brian Bergesen and you have to start to think that the Orioles aren’t too bad of a team.

I could be making a bold statement here but I don’t see any reason even in the AL East that this Oriole team could reach for 78-to-82 wins this season. Avoiding a late season meltdown will likely be the difference in this club being over or under .500 on the year. They probably won’t have enough to keep the fans excited about a Wild Card chance this season but they should do their best to give the rest of the AL East fits.

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