The intriguing Baltimore Orioles lineup

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Or how bad can your team really be when your seven, eight and nine hitters all have a chance to reach 25 homers.

This is the Orioles lineup as I currently perceive it:

2B Brian Roberts
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Wilson Betemit
1B Mark Reynolds
3B Chris Davis
LF Nolan Reimold

Of course, there are some big question marks there, starting at the very top. Roberts overcoming his concussion problems is the real key to Baltimore’s offense this season. If he’s not ready to go, then not only does that put Robert Andino in the lineup, but it also likely means Endy Chavez would start over Reimold against righties, since that’s the only way the team would have a “true leadoff hitter.”

But let’s say Roberts is healthy. Markakis too. That’s an awfully intriguing lineup, isn’t it? Eight players there have a legitimate shot of getting to 20 homers. Markakis is one of the least likely, yet he could finish with 15 and still be one of the team’s best players.

Here’s my current projection for each player in that lineup:

Roberts: .269/.343/.389, 7 HR, 43 RBI in 453 AB
Hardy: .260/.315/.450, 25 HR, 75 RBI in 542 AB
Markakis: .301/.373/.461, 18 HR, 83 RBI in 612 AB
Jones: .287/.335/.473, 24 HR, 91 RBI in 571 AB
Wieters: .286/.360/.495, 25 HR, 80 RBI in 497 AB
Betemit: .269/.335/.456, 19 HR, 67 RBI in 447 AB
Reynolds: .240/.333/.490, 35 HR, 88 RBI in 526 AB
Davis: .247/.302/.434, 22 HR, 65 RBI in 511 AB
Reimold: .251/.333/.428, 18 HR, 54 RBI in 446 AB

Nothing there is too unrealistic, is it? Wieters’ projection is on the optimistic side, but then, I’m optimistic. Davis will need to keep his OBP respectible in order to get 500 at-bats, but given the alternatives, the Orioles might as well let him play full-time to see what he can do. Besides, Reynolds belongs at first base.

Of course, the Orioles aren’t at all likely to end up with eight 20-homer guys. No team in major league history has ever had more than seven (the 2009 Yankees and 2010 Rangers are two of the five teams to sport that many). But if things break right, it could be a surprisingly potent group one through nine.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.