Do you think trading John Maine for Kris Benson was a good deal? I understand Benson is a reliable innings eater, but Maine seems to have much more potential to contribute to the Mets in the future.
-- Will R., Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Actually, when Baltimore acquired Benson from the Mets last winter, Maine wasn't even the main player in the exchange. Ex-closer Jorge Julio also went over to New York in the deal, but he was subsequently traded to the D-backs. Maine pitched well for the Mets -- both in the regular season and the playoffs -- but Benson is a far more accomplished pitcher and should be effective for years to come.
In hindsight, Maine may have proven to be a better starting option than Rodrigo Lopez or Bruce Chen, but the Orioles decided that they had some more important pitching prospects to protect. Benson didn't have his best year, but he provided a steady backbone to the rotation and bought more time for young arms like Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen to mature.
You have to give talent to get talent. The O's gave up a potentially good pitcher, but they got a league-average starter at a league-average salary. And now they're stuck waiting to hear from Benson if he'll be back next year. As a veteran traded in the middle of a multiyear contract, Benson has the option of requesting a trade, and Baltimore would be bound to honor that request.
It may come down to how badly the Orioles want to keep him in town. Benson is signed through 2007 with an option for the 2008 season, and he's said that he'd like Baltimore to guarantee the option. If the O's are willing to do that, he'll likely waive his right to request a trade. If not, Benson could tip some dominoes in the team's offseason plans.
With Nick Markakis taking over in right field and Jay Gibbons' stated desire to remain a player in the playing field, why hasn't there been much talk about moving Gibby to left field?
-- Allen H., La Plata, Md.
Gibbons, by his own admission, isn't the swiftest runner or the most graceful athlete on the team. It took him a long time to get comfortable in right field at Camden Yards, and it would likely take him even longer to get used to left field. Markakis is far more capable of switching corners, but the Orioles like his arm and range in right and will likely keep him there.
Defense has never really been Gibbons' specialty, but he may attempt to move back to first base. The left-handed hitter could also serve as the team's designated hitter, and that may very well be his long-term role. Gibbons has played in fewer than 100 games in three of his six seasons, and removing him from regular duty in the field could help keep him healthy.
Wherever he plays, the Orioles need his bat. Only three American League teams hit fewer home runs than the Orioles last year, and Baltimore only had two players with more than 20 homers -- Miguel Tejada and Ramon Hernandez. The O's will try to add a slugger via free agency, pushing Gibbons and Hernandez further down in the lineup, where they'll have less pressure to put up big numbers.
In his first year in Baltimore, righty Kris Benson was second on the club in wins with 11. (Gail Burton/AP)