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An NRI scan

The Orioles' bleak midwinter continues. This week's signings of pitcher James Baldwin and infielder Chris Stynes to minor-league contracts with spring-training invites only serve to remind fans of how little new talent the club has added this offseason. Baldwin, Stynes, and fellow non-roster invitee Brandon Marsters fall under the category of "depth" acquisitions who stay ready in case something unforeseen happens to a member of the major-league roster.

If Baldwin pitches in a game for Baltimore this season, it probably would be bad news because it would mean that something went wrong with some of the team's younger pitchers. A 33-year-old starter, Baldwin had some success with the White Sox early in his career. But despite being named to the American League All-Star team in 2000, he's never been much better than a league-average starter, and his last decent season was 2001—i.e., eons ago. Last year, he was exiled from the pitching staff of the fourth-place Mets and clunked around in Triple-A for the rest of the season. Nowadays, Baldwin's primary asset appears to be his control, as his curveball no longer has the bite it once had. Sifting through Baldwin's most comparable pitchers on Baseball-Reference.com, one name pops out that should be familiar to Oriole fans: Rick Helling. Yes, that same Rick Helling who posted a 5.71 ERA for the Orioles in 2003 and did not pitch in the majors last year. So to sum it up, don't "go tell it on the mountain" that Baldwin is coming to the Orioles' camp. (But if you have the time, go read some of the writings by his namesake, who was a prose pro and an insightful thinker about American social issues.)

Stynes is another player who ideally should not see much playing time with the Orioles in 2005. If he makes the big-league roster, it will probably be because he beat out Chris Gómez to become the backup infielder or (horror of horrors) because of an injury to one of the Orioles' infield starters. Stynes, who turns 32 next week, is two years younger than Gómez, but similar to the other Chris in that he's bounced around as a mostly part-time player in the past few years. He's posted a batting line of .275/.335/.399 in his career, putting him a notch ahead of Gómez as a hitter, particularly in the power department. However, Stynes has played virtually nil at shortstop in the majors, while Gómez has logged over 1,000 games there. Since Miguel Tejada plays almost every inning of every game in the field, the Orioles might be able to make do without a true shortstop on the bench and thus keep Stynes instead of Gómez. Stynes' skill set (he has played second, third, and a bit of outfield in his major-league career) makes him a fine right-handed complement to David Newhan.

Another spring-training invitation went to 29-year-old catcher Marsters, who hit .210 in 60 games for the Rochester Red Wings (now the Twins' Triple-A affiliate) in 2004. Marsters, a defensive wizard behind the plate, might assist the big-league squad by warming up some of the Orioles' pitchers in February and March, but his anemic offense destines him to be a minor-league backup at best.

Less than six weeks before pitchers and catchers are to report to Fort Lauderdale for workouts, all that Baltimore's front office has to show for its efforts is left-handed reliever Steve Kline, along with a bunch of nondescripts signed to minor-league contracts. Yawn.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 14, 2005 9:54 PM.

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