Five questions on the 2012 Orioles
The big question swirling around the Orioles right now is what happens with the club's top executive post and, subsequently, its manager.

There was no more clarity on the situation Friday. The belief remains that president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail will step down, but that club owner Peter Angelos wants MacPhail to stay, at least in some capacity.

Since an official decision involving that spot has not been revealed, there's been no movement on the flip side: Whether manager Buck Showalter would assume president/general manager duties or remain in the dugout. Showalter is expected to meet with his family this weekend to discuss his options.

With all that uncertainty, it's easy to forget about the team itself, now that the season has ended with another losing campaign. The truth is there is plenty of work to do this offseason to try and improve the on-field product. Here's a look at five important questions concerning the 2012 Orioles, no matter who is in charge.

Who plays corner infield?

Once this is answered, we'll have a better idea as to the direction of the club. As it stands, Mark Reynolds starts at first and Chris Davis is the starting third baseman. Josh Bell, 24, who was once considered the third baseman of the future, hit just .164 with 25 strikeouts in 61 at-bats and doesn't seem to be in the club's big league plans.

The jury is also out on the 25-year-old Davis, who the Orioles acquired in the deal that sent Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers in July. He hit .276 in 31 games, but only homered twice in 123 at-bats. A prodigious slugger in the minors, the Orioles know he can play defense, but he has to hit consistently in the majors.

The Orioles may not want to leave that to chance — so one of their priorities is to buy a middle-of-the-order bat. And they'd be best served if that slugger played corner infield.

The sexy names are Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, both exceptional longshots to come here. Michael Cuddyer, who can play corner infield and outfield, and first baseman Carlos Pena could be on the radar. Besides the enigmatic Aramis Ramirez and the unheralded Wilson Betemit, the free-agent third base market looks to be exceptionally thin.

Signing a free-agent first baseman could mean a move back to third for Reynolds, who made 26 errors in 114 games there this season. He might be best suited as a designated hitter, but he's not eager to try it. It's possible he could be on the trade block after hitting 37 homers since he's signed only through 2012 (with a 2013 option).

Robert Andino is probably the club's best defensive third baseman, but he may be needed at second base and he doesn't have the power usually associated with a corner infielder.

Will Brian Roberts play in 2012?

He is hopeful that he will. So is his concussion specialist. But the reality is Roberts thought he'd play shortly after suffering his second concussion in eight months on May 16. And he never again suited up in 2011.

Roberts, who turns 34 in October, played only 98 games over the past two seasons. He has $20 million and two years remaining on his contract, so the Orioles will give him the chance to make a comeback.

The problem is that his limbo status affects what the Orioles can do in free agency. A second baseman or a leadoff hitter won't want to sign here if he thinks he'll be playing second fiddle to Roberts, who will assume those roles if healthy.

In a perfect world, Roberts starts at second and Andino becomes a super-sub and the ultimate insurance policy if Roberts or shortstop J.J. Hardy gets injured or the third base option falters. Instead, Andino has to be penciled in as the starting second baseman.

Really, the Orioles should go forward with offseason plans as if Roberts will not be available — and treat it as a pleasant dilemma if he can play.

Who closes in 2012?

There are two schools of thought here: One, a closer is a luxury on a bad team and the Orioles currently project that way in 2012 despite their strong finish; Two, nothing is more deflating than losing a game you should have won, and a good closer can instill confidence in an entire staff.