Orioles Add Two, Sign Garrett Atkins and Mike Gonzalez

Just because the Orioles are in rebuilding mode, doesn’t mean they can’t add pieces to their team to make them competitive in 2010.

Earlier in this offseason, the Orioles added Kevin Millwood to bolster their starting rotation. Now they have added a batter and a closer.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the Orioles have signed LHP Mike Gonzalez to a two-year, $12 million contract to be their closer. Gonzalez can make an additional $4 million in incentives.

Gonzalez is the new closer in Baltimore

The Orioles also signed 1B/3B Garrett Atkins to a one-year deal. Atkins became a free agent after he was not tendered a contract by the Colorado Rockies last week. Terms of Atkins’ deal have not been disclosed yet.

Lets talk about Atkins first.

I was reading some sites around the web where some Orioles fans didn’t like this move? Why?

Has Atkins’ OPS dropped four years in a row? Yes it has. Is he the best defensive third baseman in the world? No, he is not.

But Atkins was not brought to Baltimore to be the savior. He was brought to Baltimore to be a stopgap until top third base prospect Josh Bell or until top first base prospect Brandon Snyder are ready.

Best case scenario for Atkins–he has a bounce back year and the Orioles can then trade him for prospects in July. Atkins could just need a change of scenery and Camden Yards is a good hitters park.

Worst case scenario–he continues his downward spiral and becomes a right-handed pinch hitter off the bench, who can occasionally fill in at first or third. In 2009, Atkins’ OPS was over 200 points higher versus left-handed pitching.

This is a good low-risk, high-reward signing by the Orioles.

Now on to the Gonzalez signing.

I am luke-warm on Gonzalez being a full-time, No. One closer, but for just $6 million a year–it’s a good deal by the Orioles.

Think about it like this. The Houston Astros paid Brandon Lyon $5 million a year for three years. The Orioles are paying Gonzalez $6 million for two years.

Who would you rather have?

I would rather have Gonzalez and it’s not even a debatable in my opinion. The Orioles are paying just $1 million more for clearly the better pitcher. Good move.

Gonzalez pitched a career high 74.1 innings last year and in those 74.1 innings struck out 90 batters. He was especially nasty on left-handed hitters.

Lefties against Gonzalez in 2009 hit only .194 and had a pedestrian .581 OPS. The Gonzalez-Curtis Granderson match up in 2010 should be fun to watch.

Is there some concern with Gonzalez after he pitched a career high in innings last year only a couple of years removed from Tommy John surgery? Maybe. But I don’t it’s that big of a concern.

As Gonzalez proved last year, most pitchers come back stronger from Tommy John surgery. For two years and just $12 million, it’s certainly worth it for the Orioles.

This move obviously adds some much needed depth to the Orioles’ bullpen and it allows them to put Jim Johnson back in the eighth inning set-up role, where he seemed more comfortable last year.

With Gonzalez, Johnson, and Koji Uehara the Orioles have the makings of a much better bullpen in 2010.

I like what the Orioles are doing this offseason. They are sticking to their rebuilding plan, but adding pieces with reasonable contracts here and there.

I like the direction of this team.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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