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Work has just begun in Baltimore

11/10/2008 - Baltimore Orioles

The once-proud franchise recorded its 11th straight losing season in 2008, finishing dead last in the division. The trade last winter of Erik Bedard was a step in the right direction, as it signaled a willingness -- at last -- for the Orioles to bottom out and start a proper rebuilding program. More needs to be done.

Bright spots included the emergence of reliever George Sherrill -- one of the many pieces of the Bedard deal -- and a fine season by designated hitter Aubrey Huff, who is signed through the end of 2009.

Primary needs

Where to start? While the Orioles have seen the development of Nick Markakis and Adam Jones over the past few seasons, they have glaring holes in the starting rotation and the every-day lineup.

On the field, the most glaring need is at shortstop, where last year the Orioles mixed and matched journeymen like Alex Cintron and Juan Castro.

The Baltimore rotation includes some talented arms (Jeremy Guthrie), but four other starters finished the season with ERAs over 5.00.

Kevin Millar

Millar

Free agents

1B Kevin Millar, SS Alex Cintron, OF Jay Payton

Millar doesn't seem to fit anymore, especially if the Orioles are trying to get younger and develop their own players. Payton is a useful spare part, but may want to go to a National League team where his skills could translate into more playing time.

Ramon Hernandez

Hernandez

Trade bait

Veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez, under control for one more season with an option for 2010, could be a valuable trading chip. Daniel Cabrera possesses a live arm, but hasn't learned how to command (90 walks in 180 innings) and could benefit from a change of scenery. Huff could be moved -- either this winter, or next summer.

Farm aid

Catcher Matt Wieters enjoyed a standout run in the Arizona Fall League and may be ready to handle the catching chores less than two years after being a first-round pick from Georgia Tech. Outfield prospect Nolan Reimold might get a crack at left field.

Outlook

There's talk of owner Peter Angelos being ready to go after two big-name free agents with Maryland roots -- first baseman Mark Teixeira and pitcher A.J. Burnett. But given that the Orioles aren't close to being able to compete, they would have to overpay in a big way to lure two stars who are going to be pursued by winning clubs.

A better bet would be to continue rebuilding and hope that, in time, the Orioles can come close to duplicating what the Rays have done with scouting and development.

Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald covers baseball for ESPN.com.