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Five Players The Orioles Should Sign Today

Cubs' Jon Jay finishes his swing.

As the slowest offseason in recent memory reaches mid-January, the Baltimore Orioles find themselves amongst six other MLB teams that have yet to spend a dime in free agency, joining the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays in a club that no fan base wants any parts of.

That lack of spending, combined with a rotation that currently has just two members—Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman—and the likely departure of their All-World third baseman Manny Machado has O’s fans throwing in the towel weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota. And that’s without mentioning Zach Britton’s torn Achilles that could keep him out until the All-Star break, making the free-agent-to-be all but un-tradeable.

On the one hand, the slow moving offseason for the Orioles can be attributed to the fact the division is already extremely top-heavy. The Yankees have added Giancarlo Stanton to a team that was a game away from the World Series, and the Red Sox return basically the same team that won the division a season ago and are looking to add the likes of slugger J.D. Martinez. Notice that the Rays and Blue Jays have also yet to make any additions, furthering the perception that the division is out of reach.

On the other hand, the Orioles are a year removed from an 89-win season that saw them capture the second AL Wild Card in 2016, and the recipe for success is staring them in the face: take an already solid bullpen and a potent lineup, mix in some decent starting pitching, and enjoy.

Of course, adding three pieces to a rotation that pitched to a franchise-worst 5.70 ERA in 2017 is easier said than done, especially when the team is also in the market for a left-handed hitting corner outfielder, a left-handed reliever (something the team was looking for before Britton’s injury), and a veteran backstop to allow Chance Sisco a little more time to catch his defense up to his bat.

Somebody has got to address this roster, and since the Orioles seem to be dragging their feet, I figure I’ll give it a shot. Might as well be me, right?

Let’s keep in mind that Baltimore’s payroll last season was, according to ESPN, $150,208,782. And each season a team’s payroll goes up for a number of reasons (i.e. free agency, contract extensions, arbitration, a raise in the league minimum, etc.). At the time of this article, the Orioles have a minimum of $119,655,000 in contractual obligations for 2018 (including $2.5M in buyouts for J.J. Hardy and Wade Miley), assuming the 25-man roster stays the same as it is right now, and the seven arbitration eligible players earn their projected salary bumps.

There are five players whom I believe the Orioles should sign prior to Spring Training that will bump the 25-man payroll up to around $159M, providing only a slight increase from 2017 (the Orioles increased their payroll roughly three times my projected 2018 amount from 2016 to 2017).

 

Starting Rotation

It has been well documented that the Orioles are unlikely to offer any free agent starting pitcher a four-year contract. We can thank Ubaldo Jimenez and his 5.22 ERA while with the Orioles for that. However, I think that is a huge mistake. It is certainly possible to learn from past mistakes and still offer the same type of deal, provided it is to the right player. Enter Lance Lynn.

Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn delivers.

Lynn has pitched five full seasons in the Major Leagues, missing the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. Despite the injury, Lynn bounced back in a big way in 2017, going 11-8 while pitching to a 3.43 ERA over 186.1 IP. In fact, Lynn’s career ERA is 3.38, and in each of his five full seasons, he has recorded at least 29 starts and 175.1 IP, never posting an ERA higher than 3.97.

While MLB Trade Rumors projects Lynn to receive four years at $56M, I’m inclined to believe the Orioles will need to start the bidding at four years, $60M. Still, $15/yr. for a pitcher who will immediately step in as your ace seems like pocket change considering what pitching goes for these days. The Orioles need to pull the trigger on a Lance Lynn signing.

Next we take a look at a familiar face, Chris Tillman. We all know the story with Tillman: he didn’t make his first start of 2017 until May 7 due to shoulder inflammation, and though he got the victory, it would be his only win in a season that saw him pitch to a 7.84 ERA and end up in the bullpen.

Chris Tillman, Orioles pitcher, wipes his brow with his arm.

Even knowing all of that, I still think it would be a smart move for the Orioles to re-sign Tillman to a one-year, $8M deal. The fact remains that from 2012-2016, Tillman was as consistent a pitcher as there was in the American League. I fully believe that Tillman was healthy last year, but had gotten so used to pitching with different mechanics to overcome his ailing shoulder that he had a difficult time regaining the methods that made him so valuable the previous five seasons. The Orioles would be betting on Tillman returning to form, motivated by the potential of a lengthy and lucrative contract next offseason. It is a bet the Orioles would be wise to place.

With Lynn and Tillman in tow, they can then allow Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes (7-4, 2.06 ERA at three different levels for the Yankees in 2017) and Miguel Castro (3-3, 3.53 ERA for Baltimore in 2017) to battle it out for the fifth and final rotation spot in Spring Training.

 

Veteran Catcher

Admittedly, this player was not my original idea, but I heard Chris Dickerson make a case for him signing with the Orioles on MLB Tonight, and the idea made a lot of sense to me. That player is Jonathan Lucroy.

Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy signals to the defense.

Lucroy was underwhelming to say the least in 2017. After slashing .292/.355/.500 with 24 HR and 81 RBI between the Brewers and Rangers during an All-Star 2016 campaign, Lucroy came back down to earth last year. The eight-year veteran backstop slashed .265/.345/.371 in 2017, and saw his home run total drop to just six. While that slash line is certainly solid for a catcher in today’s game, it is a far cry from what fans have become accustomed to from Lucroy.

The selling point here is that Lucroy is a gritty ballplayer that plays good defense and is not one to be intimidated by the likes of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. And if you look at last season, his drop-off was similar to that from his All-Star 2014 season to 2015. Which means that a bounce back year in likely for the 31-year-old.

A one-year, $12M deal should get the job done for the Orioles, and it works out well for both sides. A short pact allows Lucroy to rebound in 2018 and re-enter the free agent market next offseason with an opportunity to ink a long-term deal with another team.

For the Orioles, it allows Chance Sisco—despite his left-handed bat—the opportunity to play every day at Norfolk and improve his defense so that when he does get called up to Baltimore again, it’s for good. Also, I am aware than many people believe that Caleb Joseph is more than ready to be the everyday catcher in Baltimore. I am not in that boat.

 

Left-Handed Hitting OF

The Orioles would be very wise to sign Jon Jay to a deal in Baltimore. Though not flashy or powerful, Jay gives the Orioles a different look than the all-or-nothing lineup presence fans have become familiar with over the past six seasons. His career average is .288 with a .355 OBP, the latter of which would be the highest on the roster by a good margin. Add to that the fact that Jay has hit .290 or better in six of his eight seasons and owns a .288 career mark against left-handed pitching, and the Orioles would be downright foolish to not at least explore the possibility.

A Jay signing would insert him immediately into the leadoff position and slide Tim Beckham into the 9-hole, a slot that I personally think better suits the infielder. Jay can also backup for Adam Jones in centerfield to spell the veteran and keep him fresh during his 11th season in Baltimore.

There were some people (myself included) who clamored for Carlos Gonzalez, and rightfully so given his career accomplishments. But Jay’s defense, ability to play every outfield position, and his ability to stay healthy throughout his career make him, in my opinion, the better and more affordable option for Baltimore. MLB Trade Rumors projected Jay at two years, $14M. That sounds about right to me.

 

Left-Handed Reliever

The Orioles were already reportedly in the market for a left-handed reliever to compliment Richard Bleier before Zach Britton ruptured his Achilles in December. The injury only makes the necessity that much more prudent for a ball club that relies so heavily on a strong bullpen. With that in mind, I present to you Kevin Siegrist.

Though coming off a less-than-stellar 2017 season in which he made multiple trips to the disabled list, first because of a cervical spine strain, and then later due to left elbow tendinitis, Siegrist was one of the top relievers in the National League the previous two seasons.

From 2015 to 2016, Siegrist made 148 appearances out of the Cardinals bullpen, including a league-leading 81 in 2015. He pitched to a 2.52 ERA over those two seasons and has a career 10.5 K/9 mark. He also holds lefties to a .229 clip and his overall BAA for his career is just .206. Add to those solid numbers that he is controllable through the 2020 season, and Siegrist would seem to be the perfect fit for the Orioles (think Darren O’Day).

Of course, he would have to pass the ever-grueling Orioles physical, though pitchers with health questions have gotten around that in the past (see Gallardo, Yovani). Due to his poor 2017 season, I would suspect a one-year, $2M incentivized deal could get it done for the Orioles. That, however, is simply an educated guess based on his previous contracts and his injury history. MLB Trade Rumors did not have any projections for the 28-year-old southpaw.

So that’s it folks, the five free agents I would go after if I would were running the Baltimore Orioles. All told, if you add up those five contracts and subtract the five league-minimum players they would likely replace, the Orioles opening day payroll (25-man roster only) would be $158,930,000, only about an $8.7M increase from last season.

Of course, a team’s payroll also incorporates the entire 40-man roster, but the other 15 slots on that roster will not likely add up to a significant number. Still, the payroll will be a bit higher than the numbers reported above.

So what do you think? Do you agree with my choices? Disagree? Or do you agree with some, but not others? Let me know your thoughts and if you have a different opinion on how the club should address the roster, please feel free to share either here or with me on twitter @PaulValleIII.

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Thursday Thoughts: Doom & Gloom Edition

cartoon of sad orioles bird face

1. Remember that feeling about ten years ago when you entered a new year and knew there wasn’t much hope for the Orioles? Welcome back. We didn’t miss you, dark ages baseball.

When things get bad, they get worse for the O’s, who have lost Zach Britton for somewhere around the next six months as the closer ruptured his Achilles while working out in California this week. The chain reaction this injury sets off is monumental. It means the Orioles certainly aren’t going to be able to trade the left-hander, who turns 30 tomorrow.

It also means they likely aren’t going to trade Brad Brach, who was a candidate to be dealt if a swap for Britton couldn’t be found. There’s now a major question as to who will anchor this team’s bullpen entering 2018. It could be Brach, or it could be Mychal Givens.

This injury has simply taken away the ability for the Orioles to go get something of value for a player that is likely going to walk away from them after the 2018 season.

2. That brings us to Manny Machado, who as of this writing is still an Oriole. I have a feeling that I’ll be writing about him being an Oriole entering the 2018 season. The front office has been teasing the possibility of a trade now for more than a week, but nothing has happened.

Reports indicate they’ve received at least a dozen legitimate offers for Machado, but haven’t been blown away.

Newsflash: they won’t be blown away.

We are talking about a player who is entering a contract year and will likely command at least $300-million next offseason. Dan Duquette says he wants at least two pitchers that are major-league ready. He won’t get that for Machado. He should be aiming for prospects, and lots of them.

And in this scenario, best offer really does apply. One team is already off the table in the San Francisco Giants, who acquired Evan Longoria from the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday. Would’ve been nice to see Christian Arroyo and multiple other prospects coming to Baltimore.

The fact that they’ve teased trading Machado, and now likely won’t do so, is an embarrassment. Duquette even indicated to MASN’s Roch Kubatko that the team may not “focus on that much more” after today, in reference to the idea of a Machado trade.

Why would he put a time limit on this? Is he deciding to take the rest of the winter off? Because it appears he’s already taken much of it to himself.

3. Duquette entered the offseason putting a priority on pitching. He knows that entering the 2018 season, he has only two viable starters to fill out a rotation. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman aren’t going to be able to pitch every other day. He’s asked for two pitchers in any deal for Machado, but that was never all that realistic, or plausible.

There are, however, free agents out on the market. Or at least there were. Duquette insists he’s putting together a team that will be competitive in 2018 (even if he trades Machado), but he’s done nothing to show that he’ll be able to do that. Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are out there, and neither really make sense for the Birds. Those are the top two fish on the market, but no one expected the O’s to go after either.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb pitches.

The next wave, however, is completely plausible. Again, this is all under the assumption that the Orioles want to field a competitive team and not start a rebuild. I’ll use that “R-word” even if the team won’t. Every indication is that they want to try to win next season, even if I disagree that they can. Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn would be the targets the O’s should go after, and there’s no reason they couldn’t just go sign both to help fill out their rotation.

Even if they couldn’t go after both or either, there are lower cost options the team could sign, but they haven’t done it. Now there are dominoes in that realm starting to fall. Jhoulys Chacin agreed yesterday to a completely reasonable two-year deal with the Brewers worth $8-million a year.

The Orioles are asleep at the wheel when it comes to the most vulnerable part of their roster.

4. We all entered the 2012 season thinking the Orioles didn’t have much of a shot, and they made a magic run to the postseason. For the first time since then, O’s fans are going to enter 2018 with that same feeling. Truthfully, there aren’t many teams that will go into the year knowing they have no shot. The Orioles are joining the Marlins in that category.

That’s a sad state of affairs. Beyond knowing there isn’t much of a chance for the O’s in 2018, the more concerning factor is that there isn’t much direction going forward.

The Orioles have become a rudderless ship and we are all along for the long choppy ride. There’s no land in sight.

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Zach Britton Reportedly Ruptures Achilles

Zach Britton throws in spring training.

Feeling a bit down in the dumps this holiday season, Birdland? With all the talk of the team trying to trade Manny Machado, along with the usual lack of movement from the front office when it comes to signing ACTUAL major league pitchers who might be able to help the team win games, it’s been quite a glum offseason so far.

Well, this morning, Ken Rosenthal threw cold water acid all over our already frowning faces.

Another guy the O’s will have traded six months-to-a-year too late, and once again it turned out in pretty much the worst way imaginable.

There had been some reports that a couple of the teams interested in Machado were also hoping to perhaps package Britton in any deal. So much for that. And so much for what was likely to be one of the team’s top trade chips in July, should the first couple months go the way many of us fear they will.

On top of how awful this is for the team’s already bleak 2018 outlook, it really sucks for Zach Britton personally. The guy has been a pleasure to watch dominate hitters for the past couple seasons, and he looked set to cash in on that success in a big way over the next year or so. With the way relief pitchers have been getting paid (Tommy Hunter just signed an $18 Million contract), Britton, even at 80% or so of his 2016 peak, would have been in line to make some $50 million or so somewhere in the league.

If that six month figure is correct, he could start throwing again at the end of June. That won’t be nearly enough time for him to get back and establish any kind of value before the trade deadline.

But hey…maybe he could be a jolt of life for the contending Orioles at midseason?!

Ha. I’m sorry.

A terrible offseason just got a whole lot worse.

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Seeds of O’s Current Predicament Were Planted in 2014-15

cruz pointing at fans while running bases after homerun

This Orioles offseason has started like most others under Dan Duquette’s tenure: plenty of chatter and rumors, very little movement. The Manny Machado saga has continued to drag out, revealing an organization without direction or leadership.

How did we get here? I feel as though I blinked and the 1998-2011 Orioles returned. At what moment did this promising and exciting core fizzle out and usher in the return of the dark times?

After some research and Jedi-like meditation, I found it.

Travel back in time with me to 2014. If you need a reminder of how phenomenal this time was, take a moment and reminisce with me. I’ll wait:

That was great, wasn’t it? That postseason run, which saw the O’s drop four one-run games to the Royals in the ALCS, was accomplished largely without Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, or Chris Davis. Wieters and Machado missed extensive time due to injury, and Davis the final 25 games due to suspension.

As an O’s fan, 2014 appeared to symbolize the Baltimore Orioles’ return to prominence. A team with a great mix of veteran and young talent seemed poised to be a force in the AL East for years to come.

Alas, such hopefulness proved fleeting.

In fact, the O’s haven’t won a playoff game since 2014, and have appeared in only 1.

Why? Well, I believe it can be traced back to this particular offseason and the moves that followed it. The Orioles had something special in 2014, and should have made another run with that group. Instead, they elected to replace Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis with Travis Snider, Alejandro De Aza, and the Island of Misfit Toys.

The Orioles also elected to not re-sign Andrew Miller, whom they traded for at the deadline and who was an integral part of their playoff run.

It’s not necessarily that they didn’t bring these players back; it’s what they chose to do instead that defines their blunders.

Cruz signed a four-year $57 million deal, while Markakis inked a four-year $44 million contract (for those keeping tally at home, that’s $101 million). Miller received a four-year $36 million deal, bringing our grand total to $137 million. At the time, it didn’t seem realistic that the O’s would spend that kind of money on three players.

Oh ye of little faith.

Dan Duquette and the Orioles turned around after the 82-win 2015 campaign and signed Chris Davis to a seven-year $161 million deal and Darren O’Day to a four-year $31 million contract (I love O’Day, but give me Miller for $5 million more over the length of the deal every day of the week).

So, you could have kept the band together for 2015 and been a legitimate World Series contender plus locked up Markakis, Cruz, and Miller over Davis and O’Day AND saved $55 million (Manny money)?

Don’t worry, we’re not done yet.

During the 2015 campaign, a season which saw regressed starting pitching and an offense that couldn’t do enough to overcome this, Duquette made another deal at the trade deadline. This team’s flaws were obvious, and the savior for a “win now” philosophy was… Gerardo Parra.

Parra came in for 55 games and batted a gentleman’s .237, with an abysmal .268 OBP. But the Orioles didn’t part with much to get him, so I can… oh that’s right, they traded Zach Davies, who was 17-9 with a 3.91 ERA last year with the Brewers.

At least the O’s aren’t starved for pitching.

The 2014-2015 debacle was cemented with this move: Tommy Hunter for Junior Lake. This one still grinds my gears, because if a team is in an alleged “win now” mode, and you trade a young pitching prospect for a couple months of Parra, then on what planet did it make sense to trade Big Game? It didn’t. It was nothing more than a salary dump to account for the increased cost incurred from the Parra acquisition.

The Orioles were at a fork in the road in 2014-2015. They chose wrong, and have paid it for ever since. The O’s have been playing checkers, while division rivals have been playing chess.

It’s finally caught up to them, and as we watch this Machado trade fizzle and turn into a debacle, it’s difficult to see how they get back to the playoffs anytime soon

I’ll be in exile on Ahch-To.

Don’t try to find me.

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O’s Listening to Offers on Manny Machado

Manny Machado in front of sign at spring training 2015.

What had been quite the usual boring Winter Meetings for O’s fans got quite the jolt yesterday, as reports began to surface (first from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal) that the Orioles were suddenly open to trading star third baseman Manny Machado.

Many fans already assume that Machado, who is due to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2018 season, is as good as gone by roughly this time next year. However, there remain plenty of starry-eyed eternal O’ptimists who believe that Manny will join the likes of Brooks, Cal, and Jim as Orioles-for-life Hall of Famers.

Unfortunately for that latter group, that’s just not how things work these days. It takes two to tango, and even if ownership was willing to dole out the ~$400 million (unlikely, and arguably quite unwise), Machado would still need to agree to stay. Would locking up his buddy Jonathan Schoop help? Perhaps, but chances are the needle would barely budge.

So that said, the organization needs to treat Machado as they would any other asset. He has value to them on the field, to be sure, but he also has an unknown amount of untapped value on the trade market. Machado will, in all likelihood, not be helping the Birds on the field after 2018. If they can flip him for pieces that can in turn help the team win in 2019 and beyond, they would be wise to do so.

The worst-case scenario here, and one that those of us familiar with the way this organization does business fear is also the most likely scenario, would be for Machado to leave as a free agent after 2018, in which case the O’s would get absolutely nothing but a draft pick. This isn’t football, where that draft pick could come in and be an immediate franchise-changer – it’s baseball, where the draft is nothing but a crapshoot (and one in which the Orioles have crapped out more often than not).

There are other factors at play here as well.

One, do we actually trust Dan Duquette to get maximum value in a trade? For all the good he’s done in finding diamonds in the rough and valuable cast-offs, Duquette’s record in making trades certainly wouldn’t be confused with his predecessor Andy MacPhail’s.

Duquette is only under contract through 2018 as well, so how much stake does he really have in the long-term future of the Orioles? Any Machado trade should be done with an eye on 2019 and on, NOT on competing in 2018. Dan’s own (as well as Buck Showalter‘s) muddy future throws another wrench into things that teams wouldn’t usually have to deal with when debating trading a superstar.

Secondly:

This is a fair point from Sunglass Guy. However, in his suggested scenario, you run into Peter Angelos’s well-known aversion to selling at the deadline. If the Orioles are anywhere NEAR a playoff spot (which they could easily be while floating around or below .500, as we saw in 2017), he likely wouldn’t approve a trade in July. So if he is, in fact, willing to approve a Machado trade now, then we have to strike while the opportunity is there. There is no telling when Pete might change his mind and slam the window shut.

Later in the day, Duquette spoke to reporters and dropped this nugget:

What. The. H$(@(!

What do we make of this? After thinking about it for longer than I’d like to admit, my conclusion is this: Just like his comments about why the team didn’t go after Shohei Ohtani, to me this smacks of Dan subtly saying “look, this is above my pay grade. Out of my hands!” We know darn well that ownership realizes what it will take to re-sign Machado. They have either A) decided that they are NOT going to pay it; or B) have sent another of Peter’s minions (Brady Anderson, perhaps) to test the water with Machado’s agent.

Whichever of those cases it may be, the end result, in my mind, is that if Angelos is willing to approve a trade now, there is no long-term future for Manny in Birdland. Plenty will lose their minds with Duquette over this, but as always, my advice is to direct your ire further up the org chart (while also, again, recognizing that “it takes two to tango.)

Taking all of this into account, it would seem that trading Machado – now – would be the prudent route to take.

Of course, not all O’s fans agree on this most logical course of action. There are plenty who would write off the team, cancel their season tickets, and burn their gear (or, hopefully, donate it to charity) if the Orioles were to let a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Machado leave. While I disagree with that mentality, I recognize that being a fan is about a lot more (or less) than just being cold and logical. We love Manny. He’s ours, and we’ve defended him when, at times, his actions were less than defensible. I’ve said for years that, even when the Birds lose, it’s worth watching them because Machado likely did something that left our mouths agape.

So I get it. It would be Mike Mussina all over again (and some fans still haven’t gotten over that). At least in this case, the team would (hopefully) get something of value in return.

To reiterate: nobody is HAPPY that the Orioles might be trading Manny Machado. We all want him to continue to wow us with things we’ve never before seen on a baseball diamond. We all want his number retired at Oriole Park at Camden Yards one day. We all want his infectious smile brimming widely right in the middle of things when the O’s again hoist that elusive World Series Trophy.

Those things, sadly, might not be in the cards. Sometimes, being a fan sucks. But we remain. As fans of the name on the front of the jersey, not on the back.

This boring offseason just got a whole lot more interesting.

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Duffy Brings OPACY to Life with Words

Art - Oriole Park at Camden Yards drawn using player names.

The internet can be a weird and terrifying place, especially in this day and age. There is vitriol and venom spewed on the daily. Most of us are just here for videos of cats being scared by cucumbers or dogs seeing servicemembers return home from overseas and losing their mind. The internet, however, and specifically the wild world of Twitter, can also be a place to learn and discover. Obviously you are here for some form of Orioles content, much like I am regularly. Yesterday, I came across one of my favorite pieces of O’s content in some time. While haplessly scrolling my timeline, I came across a beautiful piece of art.

What’s unique about Daniel Duffy’s work is that it includes words to make up the image. In the case of the Oriole Park at Camden Yards piece, the name of every player in Orioles history is hidden within the work. It’s fascinating to slowly scroll your eyes across the work and find the names of Hall of Famers like Ripken, Murrary, Robinson and Palmer. Then, all of a sudden, you spot the names of today’s O’s stars like Jones, Davis and Mancini. Duffy’s decision to take on the project of Camden Yards was made in an effort to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the historic ballpark. It took him almost 70 hours to complete.

Duffy left his regular job in 2008 and started doing word art full time. He began by commemorating Philadelphia sports teams, athletes and landmarks, and has since expanded his work to other major cities and celebrities. You can find the likes of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. in word art. There’s also images of icons like Muhammad Ali, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Frank Sinatra to be discovered. If city skylines are your thing, you can even get a hold of those from New York City, Philadelphia and of course, Baltimore. Duffy’s entire collection can be found at ArtOfWords.com.

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Examining the O’s Asinine International Strategy

Roch Kubatko, Dan Duquette, and Jim Hunter at the O's radio show.

I attended my first “Hot Stove” show last night, with special guest Dan Duquette.  The food and drinks were great… but ask me if a single shred of interesting and informative conversation took place? Well if you were listening, you already know the answer. But as I was sitting enjoying a beverage at reduced cost at The Orioles Grille at the Sheraton, I couldn’t help but wonder why the conversation never meandered over to the Orioles and their presence in the international market.

I did some research, and I’m beside myself with what I found.

To be perfectly honest, I was unclear how the process for international signees worked. Major League Baseball overhauled the entire process for 2017, eliminating the International Draft and doing away with “the highest bidder” philosophy (theoretically this was to benefit smaller market teams, but obviously the owners are happy to spend less money – that’s a conversation for a different day).

So now, teams are slotted a specific amount of money to sign international players, ranging from approximately $4 million to $6 million. Teams may also trade their slotted money and amass an additional 75% of their initial pool. In theory, a team could acquire close to $10 million in total bonus money to sign international players. Another rule change was the age at which these players become exempt from this process. Under the new CBA, a foreign player must be at least 25 years of age, and have a minimum of 6 seasons in a foreign baseball league to be a true Free Agent not subject to these slotted signings.

So this is great news for the Orioles, right? Gone are the days of the young international superstars getting snatched up by the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers etc. by outrageously high contracts.

Wrong! The Orioles, who started with the highest pool at $5.75 million, have dwindled their money down to $160,000.

Since the signing period opened up on July 2nd, the O’s have made eight trades sending away their pool money; the other 29 MLB clubs have combined for 13. The most recent trade of their pool money was the acquisition of Konner Wade from the Rockies for $500k of bonus money. A minor league stud, Konner was sporting a 4.28 ERA in AA after 109.1 IP.  To put that into perspective, the O’s increased the Rockies pool money by 11.5% for a virtually useless acquisition.

This is truly an abomination. According to Baseball America, the Orioles are the only team in MLB to not make a single international singing since the period opened on July 2.

(Update: Apparently the BA link has not been updated. The O’s actually signed four players for $340K total – Oscar Olivares, Josue Cruz, Hector Vizcaino, and Ricardo Castro. h/t to @the_Luke_Siler.)

You’ll read statements from EVP Dan Duquette and MASN that the O’s don’t believe in spending money in the international amateur market.

My rebuttal would be, do they believe in winning? Any baseball fan can see that the league is dominated by international superstars from across the globe, who are now extremely affordable. But the Orioles refuse to get involved?

Despite the fact that this is an extremely detrimental organizational philosophy, let’s just assume there is no other way and the O’s continue to follow this path. THEN AQUIRE IMPACTFUL PLAYERS.

Teams (literally every other MLB organization) that realize the value in the international market, will gladly stack up their pool money (remember they can increase 75% of their initial pool via trade).

So if a team is interested in Shohei Otani, for instance, $500k is proportionally a lot money that could go a long way to landing him.

The O’s turn this bargaining chip into Konner Wade.

Give me a break.

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Thursday Thoughts: O’s Appear Directionless to Start Offseason

head shots of dan duquette with orioles manager

So long as you’re out of a turkey coma, I’m sure you’ve been thinking just as much about the baseball offseason as I have lately. After all, the pilot light on the hot stove has barely been lit. It’s time to start ramping up for what is perhaps the most important offseason for the Orioles in recent memory.

1. There are a few large-scale, national headlines grabbing the attention of the baseball world with just over a week to go before the Winter Meetings in Orlando. They are two stories the Orioles should be completely involved in, but aren’t in any way, shape or form.

Japanese player Shohei Ohtani is making his way to the U.S. this winter and will sign a contract with a MLB club. The two-way Ohtani has been touted as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” as he is both a pitcher and outfielder. He’s also going to come as one of the best bargains on the open market. It will only cost teams a $20-million posting fee and a contract maxing out at $3.5-million to acquire Ohtani. He’ll also only be allowed to sign a minor-league contract, meaning he’ll have options.

There’s no reason all 30 MLB teams shouldn’t be posting the $20-million and making their best pitch to sign Ohtani, but the Orioles won’t even bother. The reason Ohtani can only sign a contract for around $3.5-million is because the money used must come out of a team’s international signing bonus pool. As you know, the Orioles don’t give a rip about that money. They give it away like candy on Halloween. Baltimore is the only organization in baseball that simply ignores the international market in the same way you ignored your uncle as he spewed politics last week at dinner.

They don’t even invest in scouting internationally the way other teams do, especially in Latin America. When it comes to the Asian market, there have been a few players like Wei-Yin Chen and Hyun-Soo Kim that have come over to the O’s, but that won’t be in the case here.

It’s a shame, but there’s really only 29 teams vying for Ohtani’s services.

2. Another potential outfield solution is on the market right now, but it’s the trade market instead of the free agent one. The Miami Marlins are shopping slugger Giancarlo Stanton, and a number of teams are interested. There are many issues involved, but the largest is Stanton’s full no-trade clause. He can block any trade, and at this point there are rumors he’s even trying to force a deal to the Dodgers.

There’s no reason the Orioles couldn’t be in the market to make a deal for Stanton. The money isn’t an issue. They have money. The prospects or even potential major-league players also aren’t an issue. It’s not like the O’s are chock-full of promising corner outfielders.

Part of the reason the hot stove has been lukewarm at best is because of the market being held up by both Ohtani and Stanton. Once those pieces move (or in Stanton’s case, stay put), everything else will fall in line.

3. Just over a week away from the Winter Meetings, all we’ve heard in terms of rumors surrounding the Orioles is that they are “interested” in (insert mediocre starting pitcher name here). That’s all you’re going to hear. They’ll likely even sign one or two of these less-than-inspiring arms within the next few weeks.

The Birds DID actually make a signing this week involving a player with big league experience. Left-hander Josh Edgin was brought in on a minor-league deal. He’ll be 31 next year and has a 3.49 ERA in parts of five seasons, spending last year pitching middle relief with the Mets. The O’s also announced a slew of minor-league deals, which is why the hot stove has been so lukewarm.

Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Tyler Chatwood are among the pitchers the Orioles are linked to in rumors. It’s important to remember that these rumors are just that, however. There’s also speculation out there about the Orioles trying to improve the outfield by signing Carlos Gonzalez.

It’s all going to work itself out over the next few weeks. The biggest issue I have with these rumors, is that the Orioles enter this very crucial offseason without much direction. They are essentially a miner without a headlamp. They have no idea where they are going or what they are looking for. Dan Duquette is entering the final year of his contract, Buck Showalter is heading into his walk year, and perhaps most importantly, Manny Machado is gone after next season.

What happens next? Who is calling the shots? Fans are fearing the start of more “dark ages” baseball, and it’s all based on the lack of direction this team seems to have. Going “all-in” for one more year with this crew seems like a very risky proposition.

Does anyone really think the O’s can build a championship contending club? I know I sure don’t.

4. All of this will lead to a lot of acid reflux for fans over the next 12 months. The idea that we could be entering the final months of Machado as an Oriole is terrifying. The idea that we could be entering the final few months with Showalter at the helm is also unsettling.

The start of this chapter is now. What the Orioles do in the next few weeks and months can and will go a long way into defining what they can be over the next few years.

Hopefully 2017 wasn’t the start of another long string of last place finishes.

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Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop?

Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop jog in Spring Training.

The hot stove has been heating up the past couple of weeks with some minor O’s chatter about the likes of Jason Vargas, Tyler Chatwood and Andrew Cashner. Those acquisitions would do very little to help the O’s World Series odds at the best sports betting sites, and are mere peanuts compared to the pending expiring contracts that the Orioles are facing from within; Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Adam Jones are all set to be UFA at the conclusion of the 2018 season, with Jonathan Schoop following just behind at the conclusion of 2019. The popular opinion around town has been to lock up Schoop now, and let Manny walk due to the presumed outrageous numbers he would command.

So whom should the Orioles invest their money in, Machado or Schoop?

Jonathan Schoop vs Manny Machado

Both! They should invest in both.

The Orioles have a rare opportunity to build around two superstars – one established and one budding, and both set to enter the prime of their careers – and to let this chance pass them by would be criminal.

Consider what we have seen.  Schoop spent the majority of 2017 batting right in front of or behind Machado for the first time in his career. The result?  His best season by far, .293/.338/.503 slash line with 32 HR, 105 RBI, and 182 hits. Don’t think for a second that his position next to Machado in the lineup is not directly correlated to these MVP-ish (he finished 12th in the voting) numbers.

Further, those of us who drink the orange kool-aid have every reason to believe Schoop will sustain his improvement, all while Machado rebounds from a disappointing offensive 2017 in which his slash line dipped to career lows at .259/.310/.471. Despite that however, he still provided power with 33 HR and 95 RBI, and was much improved from the first half to the second.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and think about this logically. The Orioles have two players who have come up through their system together, are young, and happen to be the very best of friends. Could you ask for a better PR marketing scenario? OH and by the way, they’re both All Stars who bat in the middle of your lineup and you can build around for the next 5-7 years.

How can you pass this opportunity up?

YOU CAN’T.

Coming off the books this offseason is approximately $51 million from Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Seth Smith, Welington Castillo, Hyun Soo Kim and Ryan “The GOAT” Flaherty. $50 million split between them (say, ~$30M/yr for Machado and ~$20M/yr for Schoop) should be enough to get the job done.

Payroll will go up; that’s unavoidable. But it’s time for the Orioles, as an organization, to stop pretending they want to win a World Series and go out and do it. For the first time in recent memory, the O’s cracked the top 10 in 2017 MLB payroll, coming in at number 10 (largely due to arbitration numbers and a phenomenal contract for Chris Davis).

Guess what? That’s not good enough when the top 5 is made up of 3/5 of your own division (Yankees, Red Sox and Jays).  The whole point of player development and organizational success is to acquire guys like Machado and Schoop.

Now that we have them, we can’t let them go.

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Do Andrew Cashner and/or Eduardo Nunez Excite You?

We’re into mid-November now, and after one of the most exciting World Series in memory (maybe ever), we’ve been without baseball for what feels like eons. However, the Hot Stove season has yet to really get rolling, as baseball “news” since the Fall Classic ended has been confined to blockbuster trade speculation, and an award or two.

(Then, of course, there was the tragic Roy Halladay incident, and we’d like to add our heartfelt condolences to those already expressed throughout the sports world.)

As for our O’s, the only thing that’s really happened so far is Welington Castillo declining his player option for 2018. While “Beef” was a pleasant surprise at the dish in 2017 (almost single-handedly winning a series over the Toronto Blue Jays back in May – including a game on Maryland Flag Jersey Day – comes immediately to mind), I’m perfectly comfortable going into 2018 with Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco set to split reps behind the plate. O’s pitchers need all the help they can get from their backstop, though Castillo’s reputation as a sub-par framer (or “receiver” if you prefer) didn’t exactly show up in the results.

Baseball Prospectus data ranked Joseph fifth among all MLB catchers with 15 FRAA (Framing Runs Above Average). They had Beef ninth overall at 7.9. Just for fun, Matt Wieters came in 108th out of 110 catchers.

(I’ll be honest – I expected to have some anti-Castillo ammo in that section. Instead, I’m left saying that I hope Sisco can be even half the receiver that Beef was last season. Still, I’m not too torn up about him deciding to leave…just more than I was, say, five minutes ago.)

(P.S. You should probably read this, from FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, regarding Beef and pitch framing in general, if you’re into that sort of thing. h/t our friends at Bird’s Eye View.)

What will help the O’s pitching more than good pitch framers though? Good pitchers, for a start! Fans are counting on the team addressing the rotation after years of neglect, in hopes that they will sign at least one *real* number one or two starter, along with a solid #3-4 as well. We’re O’s fans, so we know that we can cross Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta – the only “Aces” available – off our lists immediately. That leaves guys like Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Tyler Chatwood, and Jason Vargas as pitchers who Birdland should be ready to accept (some, gladly!) as non-Ace options.

Well, how about Andrew Cashner?

That’s who Baseball Prospectus’s Bryan Grosnick has the O’s picking up.

Observations: A rate of 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings is a giant, flashing, neon sign saying, “STAY AWAY!” However, Cashner is capable of taking the ball every fifth day. Somehow, that allows him to qualify for this list. (Please don’t be fooled by his ERA last year!)

Prediction: His contract also should be proportional to a team’s desperation to acquire starting pitching innings. Welcome to the Orioles, Andrew.

Quite a ringing endorsement, huh?

I want no parts of Cashner. One, he’d be forced to shave his awesome beard if he came to Baltimore, which at this point in his career, is quite literally the only thing he has going for him.

Since striking out 8.04 batters per nine innings in 2015, Cashner has seen his K/9 dip to 7.64 in 2016, and then, as pointed out by Grosnick, to a dismal 4.64 in 2017 with the Texas Rangers. That was with a career-low swinging strike % of 6.1 (career 8.0). The Birds need more guys who can miss bats, period. Could Cashner rebound? Perhaps, but at this point in his career, he strikes me as nothing more than another low-ceiling innings-eater – basically a right-handed Wade Miley, O’s lame/outdated facial hair violations and all.

Excited yet? No?

Hang on, let me try again.

Earlier in that same article, Grosnick offers up something that might actually raise an eyebrow or two – in a good way – in Birdland.

Observations: Hello. It’s me. The high guy on Eduardo Nunez. I don’t even know what I’ve become. Over the past two seasons, Nunez has taken his combination of contact hitting and versatility to the next level. I think almost any team would benefit from a player who can fill in at multiple positions, hit at or above the league average, and provide his offense in the way many field staffs love to see it: through good at-bats and loads of hard contact. His injury issues may scare some teams away, but he should be carrying the reputation as a legit first-division starter.

Prediction: Staying with the Red Sox would be perfect for Nunez, as he can spell Dustin Pedroia during his early-season injury absence and be a backup in case Rafael Devers slumps or needs a break come the end of the season. But I think Boston’s priorities might lay elsewhere this offseason, so Nunez takes a compelling offer from the Orioles.

Many Orioles fans have a (silly, in my estimation, but that’s not the point) seething hatred of Ryan Flaherty. This year, they’re very likely getting their wish, as Flash is finally a free agent, and will by all indications be flying the coop. That leaves the Birds with a utility infielder need, and Nunez would be a definite step up.

He still won’t turn 31 until June, has been a 2+ fWAR player in consecutive seasons, and can provide some competition for Tim Beckham at shortstop, should the Birds not want to simply hand him the job after his blistering August. He also played 163 innings in the outfield last season, proving that he can offer more versatility than even our dearly departed Ryan could.

Nunez would be a nice addition. He has AL East experience, having played with the Yankees from 2010-13, then again with Boston in the second half last season, can hit, and offers the versatility that Buck loves.

Sports betting at SportsBetting.ag currently lists the O’s as +3300 to win the 2018 World Series. That’s tied for lowest odds in the AL East with Tampa.

Would either of these moves push those odds higher? Doubtful.

Of course the Birds need pitching – REAL pitching – AND they need guys who can get on base.

For now though, how would you feel about Andrew Cashner and/or Eduardo Nunez? Let me know below – I’m curious to hear everybody’s thoughts.

 

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Trey Mancini Named Rookie of the Year Finalist

Trey Mancini in his O's batting helmet.

O’s rookie Trey Mancini got some good news tonight, as he was named a finalist for the BBWAA Rookie of the Year award.

Mancini was a revelation at the dish for the Birds in 2017, putting up a .293/.338/.488 line with 24 home runs and 78 runs batted in. That was good for a .349 wOBA and 117 wRC+ (both second to only Jonathan Schoop among players who played the entire season in Baltimore), and 1.8 fWAR (2.2 bWAR).

Even in a normal season, Mancini likely wouldn’t have a particularly strong case to win the award. Let’s take a look at how his numbers compare to the previous five non-pitchers to win the AL ROY:

Of the above players, Mancini’s stats really only compare favorably to Wil Myers in 2013. As far as his WAR goes, of course, Trey is hurt a bit by the fact that he plays left field – corner outfielders are SUPPOSED to put up big offensive numbers, especially in Oriole Park at Camden Yards (which, we should note, also drags down his wRC+ a bit).

But how about his competition here in 2017? The other finalist for the award is Boston’s Andrew Benintendi. Ben Nintendo, as I call him, hit .271/.352/.424, with 20 homers and 90 driven in, good for a .332 wOBA and 103 wRC+. Ben racked up 2.2 fWAR and 2.6 bWAR, and added 20 stolen bases for good measure.

Since he plays in Boston, his slight edge in OBP and better defense than Mancini will very likely be enough to get him more first-place votes.

Hm? What’s that?

There are THREE finalists for the award?

Oh. Right.

Whatever.

Congrats on being named a finalist, Trey!

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In Addition to Pitching, O’s Must Address OBP Woes

The Orioles’ ongoing goal of finding a high-On Base Percentage corner outfielder continues as we officially enter the 2017-2018 offseason – as they said on Independence Day, “Target Remains.”

Want to make the playoffs? Get on base. Seems like a simple enough idea, but it’s one to which the 2017 Baltimore Orioles did not subscribe.

Every single member of the 2017 playoffs had a team OBP in the top 12 of Major League Baseball.

The NL Wild Card Arizona Diamondbacks were the lowest ranked playoff team coming in at number 12, with a team OBP of .329. Meanwhile, the World Champion Houston Astros not surprisingly lead the charge at the top spot with a .346 OBP.

Where did our beloved Orioles rank? 27th, with a team OBP of .312.

Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini led the Orioles with an OBP of .338 – which, to lead a team in that category with such a low number, is hardly worth celebrating.  In fact, only one other organization had a team-high OBP that was lower, and that was the San Diego Padres and Will Myers, with a .328 mark.

It simply isn’t good enough, and as recent history has shown us, when you couple sub-par starting pitching with a one dimensional offense, the results are going to be less than ideal.

So who should the O’s target this offseason to address this repeated need that comes up over and over and over and over?

I would LOVE them to go out and sign Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates are most likely not going to be pick up his $14.75 million option, and he would bring a .279/.363/.486 line with him from 2017. Not only that, he would slot perfectly into the leadoff spot, as he only struck out 116 times in 650 PA last year (or as Chris Davis calls it, June). He also plays serviceable defense (1.4 UZR/150 as a RF last season – to compare, Mark Trumbo? -18.9). This would allow the O’s to move Tim Beckham down to the 7 or 8 slot, and instantly create a more balanced 1-9.

(There’s also this other lesser known guy, with a career .351 OBP, I think his last name is Kim… nah, he probably wouldn’t help).

With pending free agents and a core that is most likely about to be broken up, the 2017-2018 offseason may be the most important one for the Orioles in recent memory. They are unquestionably at a fork in the road, and face numerous decisions that will impact the franchise both short and long term.

It seems unlikely that they are going to deal any of the high profile free agents, so I really hope they make a go at this thing in ’18. Unless they can get on base more often, any efforts to address the pitching will probably be for naught.

Fingers crossed.

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O’s Primed for a Playoff Run in 2018?

empty baseball field with postseason 2014 written on field

What if I told you… that the 2018 Baltimore Orioles are primed for a playoff run?

If you haven’t already clicked off this article in disgust, thanks for staying.

After one of the most disappointing seasons of Orioles baseball in my lifetime, and their first losing record since 2011, it may seem a bit facetious to feel confident about a bounce back year in 2018. However, when you delve into the numbers, it all becomes a bit clearer.

The 2017 squad had a historically (embarrassingly) bad starting rotation. Buckle up your chinstraps because it is about to get ugly. The combination of Wade Miley, Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeremy Hellickson started 53% (86 games) for the O’s. This band of brothers amassed a combined 17-39 record, with a 6.80 ERA.

How can a team win with a near 7 ERA put up by their starters in over half of the games played? Well, 2017 taught us that it can’t. Truthfully though, it’s even worse than the 17-39 record would indicate.

Ubaldo and Miley combined for 14 wins, meaning that 29 starts from “ace” Tillman and playoff push acquisition Hellickson combined for 3 wins and an ERA near 7.50.

It’s honestly a bit laughable how bad the rotation was in 2017.

Okay, I’ve taken a shower to wash the stench of those numbers off.  Let’s try to be positive for a moment.

Despite one of the most disgusting pitching staffs ever assembled, the O’s did win 75 games, as the makeup of this lineup and bullpen has remained largely unchanged since 2012. There were stretches where they made us believe, if only for a moment, that they were playoff bound.

So how do we eclipse 85 wins next year and make a playoff push? Thankfully, none of the aforementioned starters are under contract for 2018.  nd, a quick glance at the available free agent pitchers produces hope: Alex Cobb, Jhoulys Chacin, Andrew Cashner, and Lance Lynn would all look good in black and orange, and although they would obviously have other suitors besides the O’s, wouldn’t be outrageously expensive as will Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvish.

Could the Orioles take a look at a vet like CC Sabathia or R.A. Dickey? “Why not?” would be my answer, because we aren’t talking about signing aces here, just improving upon the unsightly 6.80 ERA that was produced in 53% of games by starting pitchers (if you scoffed at the mention of Sabathia or Dickey, Sabathia would have had the best ERA on the O’s by almost a full run, and Dickey would have been second just behind Dylan Bundy).

Regardless of who they sign (which presumably will be 2-3 guys), if they can just move the 17-39 mark to 28-28, which is not being outrageous in expectation, it immediately puts them in the playoff picture.

Add a high OBP corner OFer that can lead off, and I’ll see you at the yard in October. First round on me.

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Embracing My First Losing Season as an O’s Fan

Buck Showalter scowls from the dugout.

On Saturday, August 25th, 2012, I went to see the Orioles for the first time while on holiday from the UK. They won. I should have known then that it was too good to last.

There was a lot to admire about the Orioles. Camden Yards was everything I’d imagined a baseball stadium would be, filled with countless touches to give it a warmth and a sense of history while also incorporating the trappings of modernity so often lacking in the soccer stadiums I’d grown up frequenting in the UK. The sounds, the smells, the sights; it was everything I’d dreamed of, made flesh.

On the field, the team I saw romp to an 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays seemed entirely befitting of such a wonderful stadium: slick, powerful, confident. Keeping an eye out for updates on the team throughout the rest of my trip, it was of little surprise to learn they were one of baseball’s best organizations that year.

It wasn’t until I went away and learned more about the Orioles, however, that I truly fell in love. I am a lifelong Bolton Wanderers fan. For those of you not acquainted with middling-to-average English soccer teams, Bolton hold the distinction of having spent the longest time in the top division without ever winning the league championship. In fact, in 73 attempts, they’ve never even finished second. To be so consistently mediocre is a statistically remarkable achievement, one that is as endearing and part of the club’s identity as it is crushingly frustrating.

That’s why I first really connected with the Orioles when I learned that their 2012 season, which ended in glorious defeat in the ALDS, was an exception, not the rule. As sad as it sounds, I felt a much greater affinity with the Orioles of the 14 consecutive years of almost unanimously terrible baseball, the Orioles who contrived to lose 30-3 to the Rangers, the Orioles who haven’t reached a World Series for 34 years.

That isn’t to say I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed the last few years of relative success. I’ve stayed up beyond midnight many dozens of times to see a first inning blowout from one of our venerated starting pitchers, who have done their level best to keep up the proud Birds tradition of being aggravatingly bad, even if our position players apparently didn’t get the memo. Many a night has ended with me doing my best Buck impression, staring with a look of indignance mixed with resignation towards the mound, chewing furiously. I’ve also celebrated walk-offs wildly, breathed sighs of relief at the sight of Zach Britton collecting another improbable save, and have consistently annexed Sunday evenings as prime baseball watching time, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend.

I’m not suggesting that I’m glad of how this season has gone. Nor am I suggesting that the Orioles are returning to their ‘rightful status’ by losing this year. Besides, if we’ve learned anything from the last five years, it’s that being bad – sometimes deliberately so – can reap great rewards; just ask the Cubs. As sad as it has been to watch a potentially promising season flounder, the emotional rollercoaster that can soar one night and plunge the next is what makes baseball so fantastic, and it’s certainly what makes the O’s the O’s.

submitted by Matt Clough

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Thursday Thoughts: Why Keep Pushing it With Dylan Bundy?

Dylan Bundy looks in for a sign.

This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. This year, I’ll be cutting it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. Count me among those who are puzzled by the way the Orioles have handled Dylan Bundy this season. Entering the campaign, there was no real plan for Bundy’s workload. That’s been proven throughout the long, hot summer. Bundy is up to 169.2 IP after Monday’s outing against the Red Sox, and there are apparently no plans for him to stop pitching down the stretch.

I have no clue as to why the O’s would continue to throw the 24-year-old out there with nothing to play for. Throughout the season, I’ve been one of the most vocal in questioning Buck Showalter leaving Bundy in games with a high pitch count. It’s not that I think he can’t handle it, but more a question of why they would push him.

Bundy is still a young arm coming off Tommy John surgery, so there always has to be a consideration for his health going forward. Bundy knows his body best, and I’m sure he wouldn’t put himself in harm’s way intentionally.

But the team has some responsibility here to be cautious, especially when the games mean nothing.

2. I’m brainstorming ways to have Kevin Gausman start his 2018 season after the All-Star break. That appears to be when he figures it out. Or perhaps if he starts pitching in December, by the time April rolls around he’ll be good to go.

Either way, second-half Kevin Gausman is the pitcher the Orioles want to see going forward. He has been a joy to watch, just as he was in the second half of 2016. As it stands, Gausman and Bundy are the only stone-cold locks for the rotation next season. Having those two as the anchors is something O’s fans likely dreamed of just a few short years ago, but now they have to prove it.

Both showed great promise this year, but both also showed a propensity to struggle mightily. They’ll both be crucial to any hopes the Birds will have to compete next season.

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GulfBird Sports/Craig Landefeld

3. We very well may be seeing the swan song for J.J. Hardy in Baltimore. Hardy got his second start last night as Tim Beckham was out following a dental procedure. All signs point to Beckham taking over for Hardy as this team’s shortstop going forward.

While there were a lot of questions about the Beckham trade at the deadline, it appears on the surface to have been a bit of a savvy move for the future. The Orioles will be able to pretty easily transition from the aging Hardy. While Beckham is no blue-chipper, he is a former first-overall pick with tons of talent.

His career certainly hasn’t gone perfectly as planned, but he could be in line for a nice re-birth in Baltimore.

4. The biggest question for the Orioles entering the winter has nothing to do with the roster. It remains the future of Dan Duquette, and what exactly this team’s plans are going forward. The organization needs to quickly figure out if Duquette is sticking around, and for that matter, if manager Buck Showalter is as well.

It’s been fairly well-documented through numerous unconfirmed reports (mostly from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal) that Duquette and Showalter don’t see eye-to-eye very often. There needs to be some hugs and hand-pounds between the two if there is to be any productivity.

Part of the larger issue for the Orioles and their roster construction is that there never seems to be a direction. The Beckham trade is perhaps the most obvious answer of fixing a roster issue entering next season, but there are still many questions.

If Duquette is making the decisions for the direction of this franchise, it’d be nice to know he’s doing it with a purpose.

5. Tragedy struck the Orioles organization once again this past weekend with the sudden death of minor leaguer Miguel Gonzalez. The 21-year-old pitcher was killed in an automobile accident in his native Dominican Republic. Sadly, he joins a growing list of baseball players killed in the same manor. Promising Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Tavares both lost their lives in crashes in the DR. In January of last year, Orioles’ infielder Ramon Ramirez was killed in a motorcycle accident there.

I’m not smart enough to have answers for how to fix this problem, which appears to be growing. I just know that it’s tragic to be losing any life so regularly in this way.

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O’s Getting Little Bang for Their Buck

As the season comes to a disappointing end, I decided to take a look back at the production we got for our buck. Here is a glorious reminder of what we are paying some of our talent in 2017:

Chris Davis                         $21,118,782

Adam Jones                        16,333,333

J.J. Hardy                           14,000,000

Ubaldo Jimenez                13,500,000

Manny Machado               11,500,000

Zach Britton                       11,400,000

Mark Trumbo                    11,000,000

Chris Tillman                     10,050,000

Wade Miley                        8,916,668

Darren O’Day                     7,000,000

Just in case you are scoring at home, these 10 Orioles make up 68.42% of the 2017 Payroll…I’ll wait while you pick your phone or your body back up from the floor. Coming into Wednesday evening’s action, here are some interesting numbers that will help you bury this season into the books as we can’t wait to wake up in Sarasota.

 

CRUSH

If you are at the top of the money train, you deservedly are going to take – pitches right down the middle…I mean – heat, I mean…you get it… Look, we almost HAD to pay the guy to keep the fan base happy a few years ago after whiffing on any other significant moves that offseason. I think Crush is very underrated defensively, and a great teammate…however this may end up being our Ryan Howard deal.

Crush has racked up over $117,326 per strike out, or a whopping $879,949 for each long ball.

 

Jones

He’s our Cap10, and honestly he’s had a pretty nice season this year. The guy plays the game the way it should be here in Baltimore and is a constant in the community. The # that I think stands out the most with Jonesy are pies. I’m not 100% on this stat, but I think we only had about six pies this season. I saw numerous tweets from O’s faithful in disgust for the organization’s decision to get rid of what kind of became a tradition with this group.

At six pies this season, the cream and crust tallies a little over 2.72 MILLION DOLLARS per pie…SIMPLYunacceptable. Whoever is to blame!

 

Hardy

We only saw #2 for 65 games so far this season, and he will most likely give way to Mr. Beckham at shortstop. I’m not sure what A-Rod was making in his prime, but a little over $2.33 Mil per game will pay some bills.

 

Ubaldo

When your ERA (6.57) is higher than your wins (6) for the season, it will lead to a very frustrated fan base. $2.25 Million per WIN. It is not all bad, of course, as we heard throughout most of the year in the post-game interviews that Ubaldo “felt pretty good out there, thought my stuff was there.”

I’m glad he’s a great guy and all, but he just needs to go!

 

Manny

Pay the MAN…

 

Britton

Tough year with injuries and setbacks for Zach. He’s been as valuable as anyone on this team the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see what happens with him moving forward, as the game has placed such an emphasis on late-inning specialists. Even if we look at the $760k per save in 2017, it’s hard not to give him a pass. His record-breaking year last year had him accumulate $143,617 per save…so we owe him.

 

Trumbo

I wish I was writing the name Nelson Cruz above, and Orioles management must be thinking the same. My belief is the Trumbo signing happened because of the swing and miss with the Boom Stick. $500k per HR, and not even having to play in the field…where do I sign?!?!?!

 

Tillman

Ohhhh Tilly, maybe the most disappointing on this list. Overall we have benefited such a great deal from the Tilly/Jonesy trade. It’s obvious he’s not healthy and there is probably plenty here that we will never know as outsiders.

The ERA is 7x the amount of wins…7! Our “ace” was only able to get out there on the bump 18 times, which comes out to $558,333 per start.

 

Miley

As bad as these numbers may turn out, one thing I like about Miley…he owns up to it. I have a feeling we are going to see the soft throwing lefty back in orange and black as well.

Let’s hope he produces a little better than the $1.11 Mil we shelled out per W this year.

 

O’Day

Another guy who just wasn’t right from the get go. We got so spoiled with the outer space like maneuvers his sidewinder style produced.

Darren has a pass in my book, let’s hope he gets back into form and is healthy going into 2018.

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No, the Orioles Shouldn’t Fire Dan Duquette

head shots of dan duquette with orioles manager

So here we are at the end of another disappointing season in Birdland, and fans are starting to call for the firing of Orioles’ Executive VP of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette once again, just like they did back in 2015 after the Orioles missed the playoffs and narrowly avoided a losing season finishing 81-81.  This season, it would take a small miracle for the Orioles to avoid their first losing season under Dan Duquette’s tenure but  I defended keeping Duquette after 2015 so I’ll defend him here again.

Why?

As I’ll discuss, the problems the Orioles have are largely due to ownership and the management structure that exists within the Warehouse between Duquette, Buck Showalter and Brady Anderson.  That relationship clearly needs to end, but firing Duquette isn’t the way to do it.

Let’s go through some things that fans are blaming Duquette for and we’ll see how he is not at fault as much as some people think:

 

The pitching is terrible

Yes the pitching is terrible, yes Dan Duquette is the GM but there’s more to it.   Let’s talk about three reasons why the pitching continues to be problem:

Time to home plate

This is something Buck Showalter has an obsession about and he’s gone so far as to convince ownership to allow him as a major league manager to dictate to all the Orioles’ pitching coaches that every Orioles minor league pitcher must have their deliveries altered or quickened to make sure they can get the ball to home plate within an acceptable timeFor pitchers with timing problems in their delivery already like Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey (check the side note), this can be potentially harmful and I don’t think it’s a coincidence we’ve seen these pitchers along with others like Cody Sedlock go down with injuries and/or be ineffective after joining the Orioles’ system and forced to throw more quickly to the plate.

Interestingly enough, a pitcher that the Orioles (and likely Buck) had no use for in Parker Bridwell suddenly became a major league starter when he slowed down his time to the plate.

Supposedly there’s a term called “de-Oriole” for Orioles pitchers when they are acquired by other clubs and time to home plate is surely a factor.

The worst part about the whole scenario is that base stealing, statistically, is at its lowest point since the 1970s, therefore there is no need to potentially screw up a young arm purely to satisfy a manager’s fetish of watching would-be base stealers get thrown out.

If the runner steals second or third but never advances to home plate before three outs, the pitcher has still done his job regardless if he takes 1.7 seconds to get the ball to home plate or not.

I’m thoroughly convinced Buck Showalter is now a major part of the problem the Orioles have developing pitchers in the organization because of this obsession.

If the Orioles can’t develop pitchers because of Buck’s meddling, then they have to acquire them elsewhere and free agency is one avenue.

There’s a problem there though…

Nobody wants to pitch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

OPACY is the best park in baseball to watch a ballgame; unfortunately, it isn’t the best park to pitch in because it’s is much less forgiving for mistakes.  The telling comment was when Jeremy Hellickson, who wasn’t exactly some prize acquisition, made these comments:

“’I never liked coming here. I think that had to do more with the offense I was going to have to face than the park, but it’s definitely not a pitchers park. I definitely agree that a lot of guys don’t like pitching here,’ said the newcomer.”

It’s needless to say if somebody like Hellickson doesn’t want to pitch at OPACY if they had a choice, then your top free agent pitchers aren’t going to want to pitch for the Orioles either unless you significantly overpay, which Peter Angelos does not believe in, historically.

Thus, the Orioles are left with the mid-tier free agent pitchers, which as we’ve seen, they must – and have – overpay to sign. And with those mid-tier pitchers, there are going to be ups and downs, and unfortunately for the Orioles, it’s mostly been downs with pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Yovani Gallardo. Ervin Santana was another option the Orioles were pursuing after 2013, but Ubaldo signed first out of the two. Gallardo was the only mid-tier pitcher willing to pitch for the Orioles after 2015, as the other free agent arms on the market preferred other locations and even then, signed for more than Gallardo did.

Free agency just seems less likely as an option for quality starters for the Orioles. The only starting pitchers to have a season’s worth of success as Duquette acquisitions with the Orioles were cast-offs such as Miguel Gonzalez, low-key international signing in Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris, who was crucial to the Orioles’ AL East title run in 2014.  Kevin Gausman, the Orioles’ 2012 first round pick, has shown promise but he has yet to put a full season together.

Duquette does not have an easy job acquiring pitching to begin with given a ballpark that has a poor reputation with pitchers, and yet he’s done a pretty phenomenal job of acquiring bullpen talent for cheap, with Brad Brach and now Miguel Castro as major bullpen arms.

Do people remember the days when the Orioles spent $32 million on bullpen arms in one offseason, or the time when they spent $12 million just to get Kevin Gregg to pitch for the team for 2 years?  You don’t really see those types of signings under Duquette unless ownership intervenes, which leads to the third and final point.

Ownership

It is well-documented that Peter Angelos doesn’t believe in paying huge prices for good pitching because those contracts rarely work out. To be fair, it’s really hard to argue with him in that aspect, however that doesn’t exactly help when the Orioles are desperate for quality arms.

It also doesn’t help when ownership steps in to sign players that should have been allowed to walk like Darren O’Day. Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson represented ownership when he struck a four-year $31 million deal with O’Day, which has a been largely a disappointment as O’Day has struggled with injuries and is performing worse than he did before he reached free agency.

Anderson – again acting for ownership – negotiated another deal for Mark Trumbo this past offseason. Though not a pitcher, the contract took away valuable payroll room for the Orioles to sign a pitcher for the rotation or bullpen.  Trumbo’s contract also looks like an albatross compared to what the Orioles could have spent for a platoon of Pedro Alvarez and Trey Mancini.

Likewise, ownership locked up a lot of money in Chris Davis, but at the time given his good health, defense and power potential, it seemed like an OK move. That one isn’t as indefensible, but it still ties up payroll that could be used to improve pitching.

In addition, there are still several front office members and player development staff that Duquette can’t replace because of their ties to Angelos. He can re-assign duties, but like with every GM under Angelos, a true housecleaning isn’t a reality and that’s what is going to need to happen for the Orioles to truly fix their player development.

So that answers the pitching complaints, now let’s talk about position players.

 

The hitters are too impatient

Yes, the Orioles constantly acquire hitters that swing for the fences, but once again it’s important to know who has the major input on that decision.

Duquette built his teams in Montreal and Boston around hitters that worked the count and got on base. It’s a staple of his. Every offseason, you always hear he wants to improve the team’s on base percentage and every season it never happens to the extent that it needs to.

Why?

The important thing to notice is in spite of his supposed attention to detail, who isn’t saying a peep about improving the ability of his team to get on base?

That’s right, Buck Showalter. I challenge any reader to find a quote of Buck saying the team needs to work the count and get on base more.

It’s pretty much a unicorn.

He’ll never say it directly, but it’s pretty obvious from the hitters he champions and the hitters he benches, Showalter wants hitters to be aggressive in the box and try to hit the ball out of the ballpark.

That’s also why I believe Duquette continues to acquire mainly free-swingers because it’s been proven that’s all Showalter will play. If you are a patient hitter, much like his obsession with times to home plate, you are going to be benched if you don’t adapt and start swinging more often.

For example, Seth Smith, known for his patient approach, had a 22.7% O-Swing% in Seattle last season.  This season he’s at 27.0%, the highest he’s had since he played for Oakland back in 2012.

However, the only hitter to have 100+ PAs that had a better O-Swing% than Smith this season is Hyun-Soo Kim with 21.0% – and Buck benched him! He made sure Duquette had no other choice but to jettison Kim as soon as he could line up a deal for somebody to take him.

Speaking of international players…

 

International Players? No Thanks!

Once again, you’ve got to look at ownership.

Duquette even threw ownership under the bus a little when he talked about why the Orioles weren’t signing international amateur free agents to large bonuses like almost all the other clubs and trading the money instead.  You can tell it’s something he struggles with because it’s how he built his previous teams. Using every avenue of talent out there was a staple of the Duquette playbook – until he came to work for the Orioles and Angelos and had to adapt.

But Duquette, smartly, is at least spending the money to try to acquire talent from other clubs. Chris Lee is an intriguing arm that might pay off as a dominant reliever or a back end starter and he was acquired for international bonus slots from the Astros’ deep farm system.

It’s certainly better for Duquette to buy a lottery ticket from another club with that money than to not spend it at all.

That’s something he should be praised for instead of being criticized.

So let’s go back to that pitching problem again to deal with the final complaint:

 

Duquette has traded away good pitchers

Hi there, Zach Davies and your league-leading 17 wins.

Do we really honestly think he would have reached that level with the Orioles though?

Fans also want to critique Duquette for trading away other arms that have already seen the majors like Josh Hader and Steven Brault. Well who were those pitchers drafted under in the first place? It seems they had plenty of talent compared to picks around them that didn’t make the majors, so scouting director Gary Rajsich should be praised for picking those pitchers in the first place.

Remember when the Orioles drafted arms like Richard Stahl, Beau Hale and Chris Smith? How about Matt Hobgood?

Duquette’s scouting staff is also hitting on these guys after the first round. Again, this is an improvement in scouting that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Also, as I asked, with Showalter’s time to home plate insistence, how many of these arms like Davies would have truly reached the level they did if they stayed in the Orioles organization and weren’t “de-Orioled” by their new teams?

I look at these trades as Duquette trading these arms for players to help the major league team before they have a chance to get screwed up in the Orioles’ system and lose value – unlike previous GMs before him who relied on these arms in the past to develop and become part of the rotation.

Remember “The Cavalry?”

They didn’t exactly live up to the hype.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to point out that Duquette is being blamed for a lot of things out of his control yet fans still believe this ultimate myth:

 

Replacing Duquette will help the Orioles

Let’s take a look at the scenario.

The first question that needs to be asked:  who are the Orioles going to replace him with?

I’ve seen some fans suggest it should be Showalter.

I don’t want to even imagine what would happen if Buck was in charge of the entire baseball operations department.  I’ve talked about what a disaster that would be elsewhere but all you have to do is look at the mess he made in Texas and the fact he was fired with several years left to go on his contract just so the Rangers could be rid of him.

Turning Alex Rodriguez plus millions of dollars into Brad Wilkerson is not something the Orioles need to see happen, especially not with Manny Machado.

Considering we’ve seen how personal he can get with players, imagine him making trades and signings of the same players. Can he really keep his personal feelings out of it like a GM has to do for the better of the team? I highly doubt it.

So then there’s Brady Anderson.

I give you the O’Day and Trumbo contracts as Exhibit A and B as to why that would be a bad idea. Trumbo has a no-trade clause. That itself should be a fireable offense. Also, for all the praise he gets for taking players to work out in California, who has actually come back better from that training? How exactly has Brady made the Orioles better?

Let’s not forget he was also a big reason the team held onto Nolan Reimold forever.

It seems he can’t keep personal feelings about the players out of his deals either.

So if it is not Brady or Buck, then who will replace Duquette?

Well if you look at how the last round of interviews went before Duquette was hired, we’ve reached the end of the list.

You can forget about any up and coming names because Showalter and Angelos via Anderson are both going to want control and no top GM candidate is going to cede that when they have opportunity for total control elsewhere, just as no GM candidate other than Duquette wanted to be part of that arrangement with Showalter and Angelos in 2011.  Showalter was part of the interview team that hired Duquette and likely would be again for the next GM if he remained as manager. It’s not usually an attractive situation for a GM candidate when your manager has significant input on hiring the person who is supposed to be his boss.

 

Breaking up “The Band”

It’s also important to realize the Orioles also owe a large part of their success to the scouting team and advisors that Duquette has had with him. They have been the reason for his success in both Montreal and Boston, the latter which won a World Series with building blocks he acquired.

If he goes they also go, and “The Band” is really something the Orioles can’t afford to lose.

On the other hand, Showalter has no World Series ring, and the Orioles’ 2014 run to the ALCS is the farthest he’s been in the playoffs. There’s really nothing you lose by jettisoning Buck other than nostalgia. The team already knows it can win and that is credit to Buck, but now the team needs to take that next step and Buck’s never taken it with any team.

So it’s Buck that needs to be shown the door, and Anderson as well, though that’s much less likely because of his close ties to Peter Angelos.

Instead of firing Duquette, the Orioles would be wise to try to lock him and “The Band” up for several more years so they can continue to find players like Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle, Chance Sisco, and the Orioles can continue to find bargains like Miguel Castro as cast-offs that make a major contribution to the team as well as talent in areas like Australia and Korea.

Duquette can then hopefully hire an assistant GM other than Anderson to succeed him just as former Orioles GM Harry Dalton groomed him with the Milwaukee Brewers. He can also hire a manager that will be on the same page as him with talent acquisition, especially the need for players to have a patient approach and get on base.

Duquette isn’t the problem; he’s the solution. As unlikely and as questionable a match it seemed when he was first hired after the 2011 season, he’s been the most successful GM in the Angelos era.

Considering all the losing that happened before Duquette arrived and the success he has had at every stop in his career, that is something for Orioles fans to think twice about before wanting to show him the door.

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The Rundown – Time to Shut Dylan Bundy Down

Dylan Bundy pitches with the White Sox 1B coach in the background.

The disappointing end to the season continued on Monday night for the Orioles, with Dylan Bundy being the latest pitcher to struggle. At this point, the organization should seriously consider shutting Bundy down for the remainder of the season. The 24-year-old has proven that he can be counted on to be a rock steady starter for the 2018 season and has stayed healthy this year. These were two important question marks heading into this season.

The future is bright for the right-hander, but his fastball velocity was the lowest it has been since June 19th according to FanGraphs.com, and he has almost pitched as many innings this season as the last three years combined. If the team was still fighting for October it would make sense to push it, but at this point, let Bundy shut it down and get ready to lead the rotation when spring training begins.

 

Future of the Rotation

When the last out is recorded until the start of spring training, the top storyline for the Orioles will be the starting rotation. The pitching this season was unacceptable and it cannot be status quo heading into 2018. The organization has been able to get away with below average starting pitching the last few seasons due to a shutdown bullpen, but it backfired in a big way this year.

As of now, Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the only locks – a lot of teams would sign up for to have those two talents lead a rotation. Miguel Castro appears to be a favorite to win a spot, and despite tiring late in the season, he has the pitching repertoire to be a starter. However, he has never thrown 100 innings in a season in his professional career. If he is getting tired now as a reliever, how will he feel as a starter in September after pitching over 150 innings?

A wild card would be top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, but again, he will be working under a strict innings limit.

The answer is clearly through free agency, but as history suggests, the O’s will be reluctant to do that. That needs to change. They will free up a lot of money this off-season with Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, Chris Tillman, J.J. Hardy, Welington Castillo and Seth Smith all hitting free agency. If we add in the fact that there will be many players still on rookie contracts, the money will be there to address the starting staff.

Even if the return won’t be great – and the chances of eating some of the contract is close to a lock – the Orioles should seriously consider trading Mark Trumbo. The roster flexibility and the potential of salary relief would go a long way in shaping a better team in 2018.

Next season is the last ride of what we have grown accustomed to over the last handful of years and Dan Duquette and company need to do everything they can to ensure they are not a team with a losing record in late September yet again.

 

Hays Is a Breath of Fresh Air

The one characteristic that I have always admired about Adam Jones is that no matter how banged up he is, no matter what the score is and no matter how many years he has been in the league with all of his accomplishments, he will still run hard on every ground ball.

We know Manny Machado does not do that. Even Chris Davis with all of his issues at the plate will run out ground balls. Austin Hays‘ reputation in the minors was being like Jones and Davis, and so far that’s exactly what we have seen in his short time in the big leagues.

On their recent trip to Toronto, there were a number of instances where the Blue Jays put pressure on the Orioles and it paid off with them being able to get an extra base. That has never been the case with this team, but hopefully that will change next season with Hays in the lineup.

The offense for next year is pretty much set already with the expectation of Hays playing right field and Chance Sisco taking over at catcher. The added speed of Tim Beckham at the trade deadline at the top of the lineup and now Hays at the bottom of the lineup should give this team a different dynamic in 2018.

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Week in Review: Down and Out

Wade Miley holds up the baseball.

After scrapping away all season long to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Orioles’ October ambitions were dealt a fatal blow over their latest ten-game road trip as they finished the stretch with a 2-8 record. The positives? Austin Hays and Chance Sisco both hit their first career home runs in the Bronx. That’s about it.

The fact that it was the Yankees that served the proverbial ”Knockout blow” to the Orioles’ playoff hopes over the weekend doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. At 73-77 with twelve games remaining on the calendar, the Orioles can officially start planning their golf outings and cruises.

One sole culprit is not at fault, either. The Orioles starters have posted a 6.39 ERA over their last twenty games, the bullpen’s sparkling form faded down the stretch, and the bats pulled a Houdini act.

That’s putting it lightly. After boasting the league’s best offense for most of the second half, the Orioles have hit a dreadful .225 as a unit over the past seventeen games while barely scoring three runs a game (3.2 per game). They’re hitting a woeful .176 (19-for-108) with runners in scoring position during that span as well.

One sole individual is not at fault, either. Over the past two weeks, only four hitters are batting above .200. Trey Mancini, Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop, and Welington Castillo. I’d share some of the stats with you all, but I’d rather not since it was a group failure. You win as a team, you lose as a team. That never changes.

But in reality, these Orioles were unable to improve upon (or hide) their flaws this season, mainly their lack of quality of starting pitching, sporadic offensive performances, and their inability to win against quality ballclubs or on the road. The O’s also never seemed to fully recover from their early-season free fall back in May/June.

Add it all up, and the result is a postseason-less campaign. While the Birds will look to end the year on a high note, the real focus will be on the several tough decisions that will have to be made in the off-season.

Long story short, the 2018 Orioles squad might be missing a few familiar faces on Opening Day. Cherish these next twelve games.

And for those that are now screaming for a total overhaul: be careful what you wish for.

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