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Offseason Review, Spring Battles to Watch, & ’18 Predictions

Colby Rasmus swings and watches the ball fly.

Hello again, Orioles fans!  It’s been a long offseason but once again hope springs eternal as the Birds are back in Sarasota getting ready to begin the 2018 season. There’s a cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the team though, as it looks like the end of an era is here as there will be a mass exodus of players, coaches and front office executives after the season ends. For now though the team is still together and has one last shot at ending the World Series drought in Baltimore before they go their separate ways (That one’s for you, Roch).

This was the first time in a few seasons where I haven’t posted my offseason plan for the Orioles, then spent the next few months wondering if they would finally make some moves after I posted it. Lo and behold, they did make some moves before I posted my plan this time, so let’s instead take a look at what they have assembled this offseason and I’ll make some camp battle predictions and predictions for the 2018 season.

 

Position Players

Arrivals:  Jaycob Brugman, Alex Presley, Craig Gentry, Colby Rasmus, Pedro Alvarez, Engelb Vielma, Andrew Susac

Departures:  Welington Castillo, J.J. Hardy, Seth Smith, Ryan Flaherty

 

Shortstop and Third Base

Manny Machado touches the brim of his helmet as he prepares to hit.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

The J.J. Hardy era ends in Baltimore, with a slight surprise as his replacement is none other than Manny Machado who will be playing SS full time in his final year under contract and likely his final year with the team. Hardy had his worst year as an Oriole suffering through injury, with only a .217 AVG and wRC+ of only 50 and his fielding slipped as well as he had 0 DRS at the positon.

It won’t be hard for Machado to improve on those numbers, even though his numbers also slipped as he only managed a 102 wRC+ and had 6 DRS at the hot corner. Manny’s last time playing SS, he had 3 DRS in 380 innings so there’s good reason to believe he’ll be an upgrade defensively there, while his old position of 3B will be manned by Tim Beckham who has a career -1 DRS but in only 52.0 innings at the position. Beckham offensively had a 109 wRC+ last season including a slight reverse split of 110 vs. RHP compared to 105 against LHP, so if he can replicate those numbers he would actually be an upgrade offensively over Machado’s 2017 performance at the position.

 

Catcher

Caleb Joseph catches in front of the umpire.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Welington Castillo’s role will be taken over by Caleb Joseph with a yet to be determined backup (more on that later).  Joseph will likely be an improvement defensively over Castillo, who in spite of throwing out a league-leading percentage of baserunners (49%), was terrible behind the plate as evidenced by his CERA of 5.62 and his -98 extra strike calls according to StatCorner.

Joseph had a CERA of 4.23 and got 36 extra strike calls in comparison, so that alone should help improve the Orioles’ starting pitching now that he’ll be the primary catcher, even though his caught stealing percentage (CS%) fell to 18%. Offensively though, Joseph will be a major downgrade as Castillo hit .282 and had a combined wRC+ of 113 which included a wRC+ of 147 against LHP. Joseph hit .256 with a wRC+ of 82 and only a wRC+ of 105 against LHP.

What will really hurt the offense though (until Chance Sisco takes over the job) is Joseph only managed a wRC+ of 75 against RHP, and he’s likely going to be seeing the majority of his plate appearances against RHP.

 

Right Fielder

Colby Rasmus plays catch.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Seth Smith leaves after having a decent season offensively (105 wRC+) as a platoon LH bat. His defense however was pretty poor at -6 DRS. To replace him, the Orioles have brought in three players that bat left-handed  – Jaycob Brugman, Alex Presley and Colby Rasmus. To fill the right-handed hitting side of the platoon, in addition to Joey Rickard, the Orioles have brought back Craig Gentry.

Rasmus is the most promising addition of the group as he had a wRC+ of 135 in just 37 games with the Rays against RHP with a .375 wOBA. But another big benefit would be his defense as he had 4 DRS in the OF over the three positions, and when he last played a full season in 2016 with the Astros, he had a combined 20 DRS in the outfield. He quit the Rays and baseball in 2017 apparently due to the same sore hip he’d been dealing with since 2016. Now he wants to give his career one more shot with the Orioles and Buck Showalter likes him.

Brugman had a .280 AVG and 102 WRC+ against RHP last season, his first with the A’s, and defensively had -9 DRS with the bulk of his time in centerfield. He was already DFA’d and outrighted to AAA so he’ll serve as depth. Presley on the other hand had a .321 AVG against RHP with a 113 wRC+ and a .350 AVG and 134 wRC+ on the road against RHP. One would think he could excel with the short right field porch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Yankee Stadium. However, like Brugman, Presley’s defense was poor as he had -11 DRS split across the various outfield positions.

Craig Gentry is back because Buck Showalter loves Craig Gentry. Gentry may have some speed, but his 107 wRC+ against LHP and 2 DRS in the OF is hardly anything to get excited about. Still, if he can stay healthy, Gentry serves as an upgrade over fellow Buck-crush Joey Rickard offensively (81 wRC+ vs. RHP). Still, Rickard’s 8 DRS in right field will likely make it a tough choice for Buck (more on that later).

 

Utility Infielder/Outfielder

Eric Salcedeo prepares to hit.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

Fans may have made fun of Ryan “Flash” Flaherty, and the guy got next to nothing for playing time, but the Orioles knew he could play just about every position decently which gave them flexibility. He wasn’t an offensive juggernaut but he had good plate discipline (26.1% O-Swing%) and could take a walk (11.1 BB%).  Now they have Engelb Vielma as well as Luis Sardinas, Garabez Rosa and Erick Salcedo to compete for the utility position, which will be an infield utility position only. I wish the Orioles could have brought back Flash or somebody better like Nick Goins but apparently the divide in the front office caused the Orioles to be stuck with this group, according to a recent article in the Baltimore Sun.

Oh, and Pedro Alvarez is back to serve as the emergency 1B/DH if needed, but will likely stay in Norfolk or opt-out.  I’d love to see the Orioles figure out a way to jettison Trumbo and give Alvarez his PAs against RHP because he is very valuable in that DH vs. RHP role.

 

Spring Training Battles to Watch

While most of the positions are set, there are a few camp battles to watch this spring besides in the rotation. It seems you may want to cover your eyes for that one and focus on these anyway.

Backup Catcher:  Austin Wynns vs. Chance Sisco vs. Andrew Susac

Chance Sisco prepares to hit in the batter's box.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

This battle seems like the annual Buck Showalter man crush vs. dog house contest. First it was Delmon Young against Steve Pearce, then Joey Rickard against Hyun Soo Kim, then Trey Mancini against Kim, and now we have Wynns vs. Sisco. Sisco at only age 22 had a tremendous offensive debut (wRC+ 220) with the Orioles in September 2017. In fact he likely had the best offensive debut for any catcher in the history of the franchise, but was 0-5 in throwing out runners and only threw out 23% of runners in AAA. Meanwhile as a 26-year-old in AA, Wynns had a pretty good offensive season with a 124 wRC+ and threw out 38% of runners attempting to steal. As I’ve pointed out many times, the focus on base-stealing is a big one for Showalter and John Russell so Sisco automatically starts out behind Wynns in this battle in spite of his more advanced bat.

In my view, Showalter has already set the stage by saying strikingly little about Sisco’s performance early this spring even though he hit a 3-run HR in the opening game, and caught multiple innings. When Wynns hit a game-tying solo HR, Buck couldn’t wait to gush about him. You may say I’m reading too much into things here, but this is a pattern about Showalter I’ve been noticing for years. We’ll see if my intuitions prove correct.

Andrew Susac is a bit of an unknown, so he’ll be the wild card in this race, but he was a former top prospect with the Giants who just never put it all together and has been bitten by the injury bug. Case in point, Susac is currently recovering from a staph infection sufered early in camp.

Even if whichever player we are talking about that year is eventually replaced, I’d always bet on Buck Showalter’s man crush to be on the team Opening Day.

Predicted Winner: Wynns

Right Field vs. RHP:  Colby Rasmus vs. Alex Presley vs. Jaycob Brugman vs. Austin Hays vs. Anthony Santander

Rasmus has the edge here among all the LH bats because of his defensive prowess while Presley and Brugman can go to AAA to serve as depth. Brugman cleared waivers a few days ago and was outrighted to AAA.

Buck obviously didn’t think Hays was ready when he was called up last September, as he barely played him, and Hays hit poorly when he did get PAs against RHP (.217 AVG, 30 wRC+). Hays has always performed better against LHP in the minors, so it makes sense for him to go down to play in AAA to get more PAs against RHP and a little more plate discipline.

It would be an upset if Santander didn’t make the club considering he only has to be on the roster for 44 days to be kept and sent down, but he’s going to be used sparingly and will spend most of his time on the bench as he’s only average defensively.

Predicted Winner:  Rasmus

Right Field vs. LHP:  Craig Gentry vs.  Joey Rickard vs. Austin Hays vs. Anthony Santander

Man crush vs. Man crush? Oh what will Buck Showalter do? Last season he inexplicably kept both Gentry and Rickard as the Orioles had a 5-man bench to start the season. Now he’s going to have to cut one of them if the Orioles want to keep Santander on the roster because they can’t go with a 5-man bench when there are so many questions with the starting rotation.

Now the Orioles could give Santander back to the Indians and keep both, but that would be incredibly short-sighted and foolish so I don’t see it happening. You never know with Buck though…

Gentry’s speed and better offense compared to Rickard, plus the fact Rickard has an option, I think gives Gentry the edge here between the two, even with his current hamstring injury.

As noted above, Hays is likely going to AAA and Santander will warm the bench until he’s sent down in late May.

It’s going to be another man crush that grabs the roster spot, and I don’t think the injury will change the results of the competition.

Predicted winner:  Gentry

Utility Infielder:  Engelb Vielma vs. Luis Sardinas vs. Ruben Tejada vs. Garabez Rosa vs. Erick Salcedo

Not much to say here other than the prediction. They all are about the same and defense will be the separator I believe.

Predicted winner:  The best defender

Now let’s take a look at the arms the Orioles have brought into camp:

Nestor Cortes Jr. pitches from the mound.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

 

Pitchers

Arrivals:  Nestor Cortes Jr., Jose Mesa Jr., Pedro Araujo, Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman, Michael Kelly

Departures:  Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, Jeremy Hellickson, Tyler Wilson

 

Starting Rotation

Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy were the only locks in the rotation until late February when they were joined by Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman. It’s hard to do much worse than what Ubaldo, Miley and Hellickson produced for the Orioles in their rotation last season. Wilson could also never put it together as a starter and will now be pitching in the KBO to try to revive his career like Miles Mikolas did. The loss of these former Orioles looks like a case of addition by subtraction at the very least.

Cashner’s declining K/9 – which is more extreme than Yovani Gallardo’s – and Tillman’s past shoulder injury and performance are big red flags though and it would only take one injury to completely expose the Orioles’ lack of depth.

Cortes, Mesa and Araujo were all added via the Rule 5 draft and all have a chance to break with the Orioles. Cortes Jr. doesn’t throw hard, but he still had a K/9 of 9.0 last season in three levels of the Yankees system by being deceptive and using multiple arm slots. Jose Mesa Jr., the son of the former MLB closer, will work in camp as a starter and like his father has a lively fastball and piles up the strikeouts (10.8 K/9) but has some control issues (3.4 BB/9).

Bullpen: Rule 5 pick Araujo is the only relief addition the team made from outside the system, with the other spots likely being filled internally or from the other two Rule 5 picks. Araujo comes from the Cubs system and although he hasn’t pitched above AA, he’s been impressive with a 10.4 K/9 and only a 2.7 BB/9.

Brad Brach, Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens are locks and I’d probably add Richard Bleier to that list after his 2017 performance. Zach Britton is likely to come back in June at the earliest so there are 3 spots open for Opening Day but only two will stick during the season.

Mike Wright of the Orioles prepares to pitch from the mound.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

 

Spring Training Pitching Battles to Watch

No. 5 Starting Pitcher:  Mike Wright vs. Nestor Cortes Jr. vs. Jose Mesa Jr. vs. Gabriel Ynoa vs. Alec Asher vs. Miguel Castro vs. Michael Kelly

Mike Wright is the Nolan Reimold of the pitching staff.  He’s getting his fourth opportunity to make the starting rotation in spite of a career ERA of 5.86, and as I posted elsewhere, he’s got Brady Anderson in his corner and he’s out of options. Usually this would make him the favorite to make the roster in spite of past performance. Dan Connolly of BaltimoreBaseball.com said in a recent post that the Orioles don’t want him to be the next Arrieta if they were to trade or release him.

However, Nestor Cortes Jr. has not only caught Dan Duquette’s eye as a LHP, but Buck Showalter has been impressed by the way he has thrown as well and he also has to make the roster or be offered back to the Yankees, where he could certainly face the Orioles in the coming years. Mesa just suffered through a poor outing in his first start, so we’ll have to see what his next one looks like, but I see him in the bullpen if he makes the team at all.

Ynoa and Asher were called upon in 2017 because the Orioles literally had no one else and Asher will likely serve as depth in AAA Norfolk. He will probably see some time with the team in 2018, just hopefully not for an extended period of time. Ynoa is out of options and will probably be traded or claimed off waivers at the end of Spring Training – if not sooner.

Castro could head to AAA to be stretched out as a SP for depth considering the Orioles don’t have a lot of quality depth and he has one option remaining, but his future likely lies in the bullpen. Kelly will also likely be sent to AAA – whether as a starter or reliever.

This one is going to come down to Wright vs. Cortes Jr. Which one will the Orioles cut or put in the bullpen?  Nobody in the organization likes giving the Yankees anything that can hurt the Orioles – just look at Machado – and Cortes gives Duquette the LHP he wants in the rotation. Anderson will also be a factor though.

Predicted Winner:  Cortes

Now, the Orioles could always surprise with a late signing or trade and change this all around, but Wright is still out of options, so he’ll be in consideration for a bullpen spot as well.

Bullpen:  Mike Wright vs. Jose Mesa Jr. vs. Pedro Araujo vs. Miguel Castro vs. Donnie Hart vs. Tanner Scott vs. Chris Lee vs. Jimmy Yacabonis vs. Stefan Crichton vs. Jayson Aquino vs. Joely Rodriguez vs. Asher Wojciechowski vs. Yefri Rameriz vs. Jesus Lirizano

I think Wright’s a lock because he’s out of options, but the Orioles also like the other two Rule 5 picks, Mesa Jr. and Araujo. Of course it will depend on how they pitch in Grapefruit League play, but I think the Orioles will try to keep them both.

Castro may wind up in the bullpen, but if the Orioles want to keep the Rule 5 picks, they can send him down to be stretched out as a starter as mentioned earlier.

Donnie Hart was the LOOGY in 2016, but he’s been replaced by Richard Bleier so he’ll likely head to AAA.

Scott and Lee probably need some time in AAA to work as relievers before going to the bullpen, but you could see both in Baltimore this season. However, Lee’s recent oblique injury likely ends any shot he had of being on the roster on Opening Day.

Yacabonis, Crichton, Aquino, Rodriguez, Wojciechowski, Ramirez and Lirizano are likely headed to the minors as well and are just filling innings and getting their work in and aren’t a seen as real possibilities to make the bullpen.

Predicted Winners: Wright, Mesa, Araujo

Opening Day Roster

Now that roster spots have been determined, let’s see what this team looks like on Opening Day:

Lineup vs. RHP

3B Beckham

SS Machado

2B Schoop

CF Jones

1B Davis

LF Mancini

DH Trumbo

RF Rasmus

C Joseph

Bench:  OF/DH Santander, C Wynns, OF Gentry, INF

Lineup vs. LHP

3B Beckham

SS Machado

2B Schoop

CF Jones

1B Davis

LF Mancini

DH Trumbo

RF Gentry

C Joseph

Bench:  OF/DH Santander, C Wynns, OF Rasmus, INF

Unfortunately, the lineup against RHP is quite unbalanced with only two left-handed bats in the lineup. Sisco will help and Santander will also be there to balance the lineup when he gets some starts at DH.

Rotation:

SP Gausman

SP Bundy

SP Cashner

SP Tillman

SP Cortes Jr.

Bullpen:

LR Wright

MR Mesa

MR Araujo

MR Bleier

SU Givens

SU O’Day

CL Brach

The Orioles rotation has the potential to be average or awful, but the bullpen should be solid once again, especially when Zach Britton returns in late May or early June.

 

2018 Season Predictions

I think we’ll see Hays called up to MLB when it is time to send down Santander in late May, pushing Rasmus to a reserve role, and Gentry will likely be designated for assignment. Sisco will follow soon after, likely in June with Wynns being sent to AAA and Joseph becoming the backup catcher. Britton will join the team around the same time, so I would expect one of the Rule 5 picks or Wright to be cut from the team at that time.

Beckham will hit poorly in the leadoff spot and will be put near the bottom of the order where he belongs after a few months, but until then be prepared to be frustrated and for many tweets from my Twitter account expressing that frustration.

Mark Trumbo could be cut if he has another poor season with the team’s need of balance to their lineup and this being their last shot with the current core. Either way, Pedro Alvarez will once again see some time in Baltimore this season if he doesn’t opt out before July, and hit well if/when he does.

I expect rebound seasons from both Machado and Davis, and Schoop will pick up right where he left off.

If the Orioles are within striking distance of the Wild Card, they’ll keep Machado unless blown away by an offer. If they are well out of the race however, my guess is you will see a mini fire sale, with Britton, Machado and Jones on the trade block for sure. Depending on how they are pitching, Tillman and Cashner could wind up there too – perhaps even Gausman.

On the other hand if the Orioles are in the race, fans will likely see additions to the roster. Pitchers like Keegan Akin, Brenan Hanifee, Zac Lowther, Cody Sedlock and Alex Wells as well as position players like Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart and Jomar Reyes or possibly even Ryan Mountcastle are prospects that may go in trades for pitching or offense depending on what the Orioles need at the time and what is available.

Ultimately I think this team is in the race until August at least, and has a shot at a Wild Card berth just because there are so many teams in the American League with holes and flaws. That means nobody from the 25-man roster is likely traded, and the Orioles will make some upgrades in July and some more in August to take one final run.

Hays and Sisco will likely be big contributors when they come up but the pitching (surprise) will be the difference.

With that said, Cortescould be the best starting pitching addition the Orioles made this past offseason, but if both Bundy and Gausman falter or are injured, the rotation will be exposed quickly for lack of quality.

So that’s my analysis for now, but one major signing could change a lot, especially if it’s somebody like Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb, and injuries and other surprises can always occur. The best thing to do is wait and see how Spring Training unfolds before making final predictions for their place in the standings and if they’ll make the playoffs or not.

Overall I think we’ll see a competitive team this year that will be both fun and frustrating to watch.

They wouldn’t be the Baltimore Orioles otherwise.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links – Masahiro Gausman?

Kevin Gausman pitches in Sarasota.

The Birds got in the win column yesterday against Tampa, winning 2-1. So no more worrying that they would match 2016’s 0-10-2 start to Grapefruit League play, I suppose.

Here’s Hunter Harvey throwing some gas in the start:

Gimme dem links.

Hunter Harvey Stellar in Start, After Long Road to It

Britt’s recap of the game and Harvey’s outing. “Stellar” might be putting it a bit strongly, but the 3 K’s were nice. Here’s to those injury issues truly being behind Hunter.

Gausman is Finding His Inner Tanaka

As our own Phil Backert noted yesterday, Andrew Cashner has apparently been teaching Kevin Gausman (and Dylan Bundy) his two-seam sinker grip. Jon Shephard of Camden Depot goes through Gausman’s repertoire, notes the problems he’s had so far, and concludes that if he adds a sinker, he would be quite unique among American-born MLB starters.

Gausman on His Battle Scar and Start

Speaking of Gausman, the only thing he found in his first Grapefruit League start on Monday was a whole lotta trouble, followed by a Tigers hitter in his way as he went to back up home plate. He crashed into the guy, cut his forehead, and was removed from the game. Before that, he had given up three runs, and two more baserunners of his scored once he left. The good news is that he didn’t suffer a concussion. He also talked a lot about that aforementioned sinker.

Bird’s Eye View: Episode 226 – Draining Fluids

Jake drains wine from a box in this episode, but that’s not what the title is about (I don’t think?). Scott doesn’t buy the newly-released “economic impact” number that the O’s apparently bring to Sarasota.

Ed Smith Stadium Named “Most Liked” ST Venue

I missed this one last week, but wanted to atone for that now. According to a study conducted by ReviewTrackers and USA Today, the Orioles’ Spring Training venue, Ed Smith Stadium, is number one. I’ve only been to three (the others are numbers 2 and 3 on the list, interestingly enough), and I certainly can’t argue.

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The Rundown: Rasmus Could Be Part of Effective Platoon

Colby Rasmus plays catch.

Welcome to the 2018 edition of “The Rundown” where I will try to highlight some of the bigger storylines involving the Orioles throughout the season. Let’s get right into it.

 

Right Field Competition

The Orioles’ need for another left-handed hitter in their lineup led them to signing Colby Rasmus to a minor league contract. Barring a huge development, Rasmus will be in a platoon role and will help add more balance to the lineup against right-handed pitching. Rasmus may make his biggest impact defensively, as he is still considered a plus defender – which I know will make Adam Jones happy.

The question now becomes, who starts the right field when a lefty is on the hill? The early favorite is Craig Gentry, but he is dealing with a hamstring injury which could cause him to fall behind. Joey Rickard would be next in line. Both Gentry and Rickard are solid against lefties and are good defenders – with the edge going to Gentry – so I think this platoon could actually work.

Unfortunately, the team is trying to do everything to ensure Austin Hays starts the season in the minors. I hope the youngster makes it impossible for the team to send them him down. However, if he does make the team and it’s only in a platoon role, it would be a disastrous decision for his development. He needs to be playing every day somewhere, so it appears Hays is destined for Norfolk this April.

 

Cashner Already Making Impact 

I’m not a huge fan of Andrew Cashner as I think he was one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball last season. To expect him to have another season like he did would be foolish. If Cashner finishes with an ERA of 4.50 I would consider that a huge success, but my expectation is somewhere around 4.80.

However, it appears Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy are already picking his brain in hopes to become better pitchers in 2018. Cashner induces a lot of ground balls, which can be credited to his two-seam fastball/sinker.

Gausman struggles against right-handers and allows a lot of home runs, so he has began experimenting with that pitch to hopefully improve in both areas. Bundy is also hoping to learn the grip. He has commented throughout his career that he has never been able to perfect a two-seam pitch, which he needs as his four-seam fastball lacks much movement.

We’ll see if either Gausman or Bundy can get to the point that they are comfortable enough with the pitch to deploy it when the regular season starts, but it’s good to see them relying on a teammate to try and get better.

Who knows, maybe Cashner’s biggest impact will be helping Bundy and Gausman take their game to another level.

Hunter Harvey tosses from the mound.

GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld

 

Harvey Makes Spring Debut 

We all know the history of injury issues the former first-round draft pick has had, so it’s great to see him finally make a spring training start (which he does today). I don’t know when it will happen, but I strongly believe Harvey will make an impact with the big league team at some point in 2018.

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Monday’s O’s Links: The O’s Put the Funk in Dysfunctional

Pedro Alvarez of the Orioles prepares to hit.

The O’s went winless (though they managed a tie!) during the first weekend of Spring Training action. I think it was 2016 that they didn’t win a Grapefruit League game until like St. Patrick’s Day or something, right? Remember not to get caught up in these results, friends.

Here are some things to get caught up in instead.

With No Deal from O’s, Flaherty Starting Over with Phillies

Don’t focus on the fact that it’s Ryan Flaherty being discussed here; the lede is buried. In this piece by Eduardo Encina of The Sun, the dysfunction of the Baltimore Orioles organization is laid bare in a way we don’t usually see from our local beat writers. Also note that Flaherty wasn’t the only utility infielder the Orioles missed out on recently because apparently nobody has the autonomy to make a damn decision. Whether this is a Peter Angelos issue or a Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter head-knocking issue, the current situation is, as Camden Depot puts it, untenable.

Where is Dan Duquette? Or is This Brady, Year 1?

Speaking of Camden Depot & Jon (who, I believe wrote the above-linked Tweet), here he expands on his thoughts on the current O’s front office situation.

It’s Only Ryan Flaherty, but Still

Drew Forrester gives his thoughts on the Flaherty-Goins debacle, and floats a truly terrifying possibility at the end of his piece.

Orioles Agree to Terms with Pedro Alvarez

El Toro is back! Again! Cool, I guess? This is another minor-league deal. I suppose it makes sense to have Alvarez as insurance, but I don’t get why he would want to come back here, with so many 1B/DH types (as Rich Dubroff of Press Box notes, the Alvarez-as-Outfielder experiment was a total flop) blocking him. He’ll probably launch a dong or two this summer, so that’ll be…fun?

Jonathan Schoop Returns to Action

Schoop missed the Grapefruit League opener due to elbow bursitis, but he appears to be all good going forward. That’s a nice quick little high note on which to end today.

 

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The Curious Case of Colby Rasmus

Coby Rasmus with his bat & Rays batting helmet.

The rabbit hole that is the 2018 Orioles offseason got deeper this week, as the Orioles locked up Colby Rasmus to a one-year, $3 million minor-league deal (with up to $5million with incentives). Dan Duquette, in an interview with Roch Kubatko, stated about Rasmus, “Colby Rasmus is a proven veteran player in the AL East who is a versatile outfielder with power and speed to make a meaningful contribution to the 2018 team.”

I have only one issue with that comment, and I think Terry from Happy Gilmore can best sum up my feelings:

Seriously though, signing Rasmus is the ultimate head-scratcher, and I don’t find any of the words Duquette used to describe him particularly true. In his last full season as an everyday player (2012), he batted .223 with 149 strikeouts. “Oh well maybe he’s a high OBP guy,” you may say… nope. Career OBP of .311.

“Yeah, but he’s a defensive wizard.” Wrong again. Let’s look at Rasmus’ numbers vs. another player that was linked to the Orioles, Jarrod Dyson, who signed a two-year/$7.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks (so yes, virtually same cost as Rasmus). In his career, Colby has a UZR of 16.7 vs. Dyson with 68.8! How about DRS? Rasmus, a career number of 38 vs. Dyson’s 75.

Perhaps stolen bases is an area where Rasmus will be impactful? No, no, no. Rasmus stole 12 bases once, in 2010. Has 35 for his career (not very impressive for a guy with “speed”) Since 2012 Dyson has swiped no fewer than 26 bags, and has 204 for his career.

The Orioles were in the market for a left handed hitting corner outfielder that could also bat atop the lineup. Despite options such as Dyson and Jon Jay, they opted for Rasmus.

It’s truly nonsensical. This guy was mulling retirement, and doesn’t hit for average, high OBP, play stellar defense or steal bases. Oh, and also strikes out a lot. Now, he will compete with Alex Presley and Joey Rickard for a spot on the roster. And yes, I realize it was a minor league deal, but you can take it to the bank that he’s going to be running out on that orange carpet on March 29th.

For what? Why? The 2018 Baltimore Orioles are some $30 million under last year’s payroll, with the obvious financial surplus to have added Dyson or Jay, plus a pitcher like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn and still be under last year’s number! Instead we get Colby Rasmus and Chris Tillman.

Buckle up Birdland!

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Friday’s O’s Links: Spring Training Games Start Today!

Manny Machado trots around the bases.

I have great news and not-so-great news. The great news first – BASEBALL IS ON TODAY! You can watch the Birds start Grapefruit League play against the new-look Tampa Bay Rays at 1:05 on MASN, or listen on 105.7 The Fan.

The not-so-great news: Mike Wright will be on the bump to kick things off. Not exactly setting the tone for a great season, huh? Here’s to Mike getting through his scheduled two innings without having a complete meltdown.

In the meantime, whet your whistle with today’s O’s links:

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Broadcast Schedule

We already talked about the options to listen to/watch today’s game. Here are the details for the full slate of Grapefruit League O’s games, c/o Stacey @ Camden Chat.

Locked On Orioles Episode 2: Is Buck Showalter a Genius?

I linked to episode 1 of this the other day, but as I learned on Thursday, this will be a DAILY podcast – sweet! In Ep 2, Justin is joined by Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus to talk about how much difference a manager – specifically Buck Showalter – can make in baseball. He also weighs in on the big Colby Rasmus news.

The Orioles Aren’t Rebuilding, but they Aren’t Reloading Either

There are still players out there the O’s can sign, but so far this has been one of the most confusing & frustrating offseasons in memory. Matt Kremnitzer at Camden Depot tries his best to make sense of what we’ve seen (and what we all expect to continue to see). #ThatsSoOs

Luke’s Top 50 Orioles Prospects – #1-10

Luke Siler of Orioles Hangout has been counting down his Top 50 O’s prospects for weeks, both on Twitter and on the site. For a great breakdown of his top 10 (and links to the other 40), look no further!

The Home Run Record Could Be Broken Twice Over

According to FanGraphs’ Jeff Sullivan, both the Orioles look poised to break the Seattle Mariners’ 1997 MLB record for home runs in a season by a single team. That’s the good news (yep, we’re doing this again). The bad news is that the Yankees are also projected to break that record. The worse news, as Jeff details, is that the Yankees will likely have a great offense that ALSO hits home runs, while the Orioles will just have a “meh” offense that only scores runs when they hit home runs. Sounds like Baltimore baseball to me!

Enjoy today’s game, however you’re able to take it in, Birdland. We made it.

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Thursday Thoughts: Flurry of “Meh” Moves Don’t Move Needle

Colby Rasmus of the Rays.

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. As of last year, I’ve be cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl WeaverBrooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.

1. The Orioles have added to their rotation over the last week, signing Andrew Cashner to a two-year deal and bringing back Chris Tillman on a one-year contract. These two pacts, considering the money involved, are completely fine in a vacuum. Unfortunately, the O’s are relying on them to be considerable contributors to the rotation. Cashner is a viable 4th or 5th starting option and Tillman is the type you turn to as a 5th or even 6th starter, especially when you consider his injury history.

Entering the offseason, the Orioles had Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy in hand for the rotation, and many believed they needed to add three more starters. I was always of the mindset that they needed at least four more. Injuries and poor performance are to be expected during the course of a season.

Instead, the O’s are moving forward with Cashner and Tillman as their additions. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported this week that the Birds checked in on the likes of Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and even former Oriole Jake Arrieta, but that there isn’t a “financial match” and so they have moved along.

I’m not exactly sure where they are moving along to, but it sounds like the team’s fifth starter isn’t going to be Cashner or Tillman, but rather someone from in-house. Cashner and Tillman are going to be the third and fourth starters. That’s not good news.

2. The Orioles also made a pair of minor moves this week in the outfield. They signed Alex Presley, formerly of the Detroit Tigers, before coming to terms with Colby Rasmus in a minor-league deal yesterday. I call these “minor” moves because they don’t really “address” the issue of a lack of a left-handed hitter for the O’s. These guys are platoon players at best.

Aside from the rotation, the competition for playing time in the outfield is likely the thing to pay closest attention to this spring. Presley and Rasmus will be thrust into the mix along with Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry and Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander. I don’t think anyone really knows how the playing time will shake out, similarly to the past few seasons.

If someone can grab the bull by the horns in the way that Trey Mancini did last year, it’d be a real plus.

3. The “meh”-ness of the signings of Presley and Rasmus this week were compounded by the fact that the O’s did not land fellow left-handed outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who ended up in Arizona. What made matters worse in my mind, is that the Diamondbacks landed Dyson for a very reasonable two-year, $7.5-million deal. Dyson is the type of player that provides something different. He’s not an everyday player by any stretch, but he’s speedy and plays excellent defense. He’s the type of player that could’ve been used to spell Adam Jones in center while helping in the corners as well. The Orioles also don’t have any stolen base threats, and Dyson certainly could’ve been one.

It’s a shame that the Birds don’t seem to have any diversity in their lineup. They are all big sluggers who want to hit the ball over the wall.

That’s fine and dandy when it’s going well, but when there’s a dry spell, things get bleak – as we’ve seen far too often.

4. Major League Baseball announced a new initiative for speeding up the pace of play earlier this week, and all I could do was yawn. Perhaps the threats of a pitch clock from Commissioner Rob Manfred were just bluster, or perhaps he is saving them for down the road.

Limiting visits to the mound to six per nine innings, however, isn’t going to have much impact on the time of games. Many catchers have already come out and said they won’t pay any attention to it. This will simply lead to more confrontation between players and umpires, and will actually LENGTHEN the game.

Umpires will also have discretion to allow more visits. Just like they have discretion to allow replays on certain plays when the time is right. None of this has very much consequence or penalty.

Having seen my fair share of games involving the Red Sox and Yankees, I don’t think the average time of an AL East game is going to dip back under the three-hour mark.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: Rasmus? Really?

Colby Rasmus rounds the bases after a HR.

My 11-month old is napping, so I have a couple minutes to get you some links on this gorgeous Wednesday. Let’s get right to it.

Bird’s Eye View Episode 225: Pitching Staph

Are we back to weekly BEV episodes?! Or is it, like this 70-degree weather over the last couple days, just a tease? Either way, listen in to hear Jake & Scott give their thoughts on Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman, this year’s radio crew, and plenty more.

Locked On Orioles: Episode 1

Justin McGuire, who does the awesome Baseball by the Book podcast, has joined the Locked On podcast network to cover the O’s. His first episode features regular O’s Links linkee Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot. Check it out!

Chris Tillman is Back and I Feel Fine

Joe Wantz at Camden Depot looks at Chris Tillman’s decline and traces it back to even before last year’s disastrous string of outings (though to a lesser degree, of course). The good news is that he’s pretty cheap. The bad is that he might not be any good. Should be…fun? to watch.

O’s Continued Pursuit of LHH OF Leads Them to Colby Rasmus

Ugh. Why? Jarrod Dyson got $7.5 million for two years from Arizona, but he actually has some speed and plus defense, so naturally the Orioles weren’t interested. Instead, they are sniffing around a head case who spent the second half of 2017 on the restricted list because he “wanted to step away from baseball,” and whose % of swings at pitches outside the strike zone went from 28.2 in 2016 to 36.1 in 2017. Sounds like an Oriole to me.

Inside Cal Ripken Jr.’s Baltimore County Estate

Ever wanted to take a peek inside The Iron Man’s lair? Here’s your chance, c/o The Washington Post, Cal, and his real estate agent. Apparently he was unable to sell his place, and now it’s going up for auction. If you’ve got about $10 million sitting around, it could be yours!

The Orioles Should Still Have Money to Spend

Maybe they should just buy Cal’s house? That seems about as likely as them doing anything to significantly improve the 2018 team at this point, but as Camden Chat’s George Battersby details, their payroll at the moment is significantly lower than last year’s. Like…$40 million lower.

 

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Monday’s O’s Links: Chris Tillman is Back

Chris Tillman winds up to pitch.

In the least surprising move of the offseason, the Birds brought back Chris Tillman this morning. We all expected this, and it’s finally official.

Player Opt-Outs Could Have Really Helped the Orioles

Over at Camden Depot, Nate DeLong argues that, with the odd course this offseason has taken regarding free agent signings, along with the Birds’ seeming one-year window to potentially compete, offering player opt-outs after 2018 to free agents could have really benefited them.

Orioles Sign LH OF Alex Presley to MiLB Deal

The Sun’s Eduardo Encina (‘s editor) used a headline that suggests the O’s have “addressed” their left-handed hitting outfielder needs by signing Presley, which is downright ridiculous. They still need a Jarrod Dyson, Jon Jay, or Corey Dickerson, but that probably won’t happen now.

Chris Davis: I Have to Be a Better Player

“I feel like I’m back to my old self. I think, obviously, once the games start there’s still a lot of things that I want to implement, a lot of things I want to do, but I feel really good about this offseason. I really do.” – Chris Davis

Here’s hopin’, Big Fella.

Adam Jones: It’s Not About Money, It’s About Winning

I think most O’s fans would say that, if the Orioles aren’t going to seriously try to compete over the next few seasons, then we’d all like to see Adam Jones go somewhere that he has a chance to hoist a World Series Trophy some day. Still, a portion of his comments here rubbed me the wrong way (as they always seem to): “My personal feelings – this is my career. This is not the fans’ career, so I’m going to make the best decision for myself and going forward, I want to win. It’s not about money. It’s winning.”

Yes, A.J. we know it’s not OUR career. Thanks for clearing that up.

 

The full squad has reported to Sarasota. Spring Training is now in full…swing. Giddy up.

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Friday’s O’s Links: Straight Cashner, Homie

Andrew Cashner in an O's hat and Sunglasses.

You may have heard that the Orioles emerged from their winter hibernation yesterday and actually signed a pitcher. Let’s talk about that – and some other stuff – in today’s O’s Links. Here’s hopin’ Cashner negotiated an exemption from the Orioles’ stupid archaic facial hair policy that allows him to keep that sweet beard.

Happy first Friday of Spring Training, Birdland.

The Orioles are Paying Money to Andrew Cashner

Jeff Sullivan writing about the Orioles? Be still my heart. If you’re looking for fancy-stat reasons to be bullish on Cashner…look elsewhere! It’s not all bad though.

Andrew Cashner: The Typical Orioles Acquisition

Whereas Sullivan tore you down only to build you back up again at the end, Baltimore Sports and Life’s Rob Shields goes the other way, making you want to cry into your O’s hoodie by the end of his Cashner analysis. Happy Friday to you too, Rob!

Pod 256: Cashner Signs, Birdland Responds

In a special edition of Section 336, Josh had on a bunch of different O’s fans/bloggers to get reactions to the Cashner signing. He was nice enough to invite me, as well as other ESR writers such as Ryan Blake, Andrew Stetka, & Paul Valle, along with other voices from the Bird O’sphere. Give a listen to get you through this dreary Friday morning.

Thoughts on O’s Signing of Andrew Cashner

Sensing a trend here? Dan Connolly of Baltimore Baseball gives his thoughts on the Cashner signing as well.

Andrew Cashner is Pretty Pretty Pretty OK

Alright, last Cashner link for today, promise. According to Camden Depot’s proprietary BORAS contract projection system, the O’s may have gotten a pretty good deal with Andrew. Rejoice!

I’m assuming  you’re sufficiently Cashed out by now, amirite? Good, that means my job here is finished.

Hopefully on Monday we can round up five links for ANOTHER new O’s pitcher.

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Orioles Sign Andrew Cashner to Two-Year Deal

Andrew Cashner pitches for the Padres.

Hey, they finally did something!

Andrew Cashner, most recently of the Texas Rangers, joins the Orioles as a much-needed actual MLB starting pitcher. That’s fun!

Less fun are Cashner’s recent numbers and very concerning peripherals, of course.

He was 11-11 for the Rangers in 2017, pitching 166.2 innings, allowing 156 hits, striking out 86 and walking 64, while posting a 3.40 ERA and 4.61 FIP. On the bright side, his 4.6 bWAR was the best of his career, while on the other hand, in addition to his FIP outpacing his ERA by 1.2 runs, his 4.64 K/9 was well below his career average of 6.99, and his velocity continued a years-long trend of decline.

FanGraphs’ Steamer doesn’t like him much for 2018, projecting a 5.40 ERA.

Still, Cashner is just 31-years-old, and is much less of a question mark than any of the other “potential starters” the Birds had in camp up until this point. He added a cutter to his repertoire in recent years, and his fastball velocity, while not what it once was, hasn’t fallen off a cliff. Maybe the O’s will be the beneficiaries of a guy becoming a more savvy veteran hurler?

Hey, we can dream, right?

Many O’s fans have been quick to point out that Cashner looks a whole lot like another former Texas Ranger the O’s brought in a couple years back, Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo had a strong track record, but concerning peripherals, and it seemed like just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong every time he took the mound in orange and black.

Here’s to Cashner having a little better luck (and missing more than a few more bats).

We have another pitcher, O’s fans. Get pumped!

I’m pretty bummed that Cashner’s bitchin’ beard will be a victim of the Orioles’ archaic facial hair policy, that’s for damn sure.

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Thursday Thoughts: Dark Cloud Hangs Over O’s Spring Training

Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, darkened.

Spring training is technically underway. But it’s important to remember that as we ease into another season, that stretching and building up your strength is important. We are going to ease into Thursday Thoughts for this season right here after what has been a strange and puzzling winter.

It’s odd that Spring Training is underway even though it feels like the offseason has yet to start. That’s not just an Orioles thing, either, it’s that way throughout MLB. There are so many prominent free agents still on the market, you could nearly form a full 25-man roster capable of competing.

The biggest storylines coming into this season for the Orioles ironically do surround their roster construction, or lack thereof. There are a total of two capable Major League starting pitchers on the roster (and there are even major questions about both Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy). There’s no promise beyond this season for players such as Manny Machado and Adam Jones, two stalwarts who mean as much to the team for their talent as they do their clubhouse and fan-morale presence.

What’s most disconcerting about the Orioles has become a redundant theme over the course of the last few months. The team appears to have no direction or guidance, and could easily be stumbling towards the abyss. The abyss in this case, meaning very bad baseball and lots of losing. The redundancy of this storyline has already grown tired on me. Perhaps depressing is a more apt term than tired. It’s all just sad. And sure, “hope springs eternal” is a common phrase this time of year. But there isn’t a whole lot of optimism being felt among O’s fans. There isn’t even a feeling of a potential 2012 surprise season on our hands this year. No one thinks this can go well.

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Yeah, we’re not sure what we’re looking at either, guys. (GulfBird Photo/Craig Landefeld)

The team has TWO starting pitchers. The team still has an offense that relies FAR too heavily on the home run. The team will be WITHOUT its closer for at least a significant part of the season. But aside from all of the on-field turmoil, it’s the off-field “stuff” that still has my stomach churning.

The fact that both Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette both have expiring contracts entering this season doesn’t breed a lot of confidence. There’s also a lot of rumor and speculation about ownership. Many are wondering if Peter Angelos could be nearing a sale of the team. While the possibility of this may be music to the ears of many fans, I have my own reservations. Ownership change would mean upheaval throughout the organization. Just look at what’s happening with the Miami Marlins right now.

The Orioles are going to sign someone else before Opening Day. It may be a pitcher, it may be a hitter. They are going to provide fans with exciting moments this year, too. It’s not all going to be dread.

But the greater picture, when you really step back and take a look from afar, doesn’t look pretty.

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Wednesday’s O’s Links: 2018 Gets Underway!

Miguel Castro throws in Sarasota.

I just can’t help myself. Logically, I know that this Orioles season is shaping up to be 162 games of disappointment and misery, perhaps the start of another stretch of dark years resembling 1998-2011. Even with that thought gnawing at the back of my mind though, I still get a bit giddy when I see the pictures of baseball players tossing and jogging down in Sarasota start scrolling through my Twitter feed. Then I think to myself, “hey, the last time everybody seemed this down on the Birds in February was 2012, and THAT season turned out pretty damn well, right?”

Pitchers & catchers began workouts today, and hope springs eternal, damn it.

Let’s kick off 2018’s O’s Links on a positive note.

Orioles Valentines

With the start of spring training coinciding with Valentine’s Day this year, what better time for Jake at Bird’s Eye View’s annual O’s Valentines? For even more hilarious examples (albeit a bit more PG-13), look at @OriolesFanProbz on Twitter.

How Did the Orioles Fare on the Top 100 Prospects Lists?

All of the Top 100/101 Prospect Lists came out in recent weeks. Instead of tracking them all down and scouring them for Orioles, just click on over to Camden Depot & let Matt do the work for ya.

Ten Things to Watch at O’s Spring Training

Speaking of prospects, Orioles Hangout’s Luke Siler (a great Twitter follow) runs down his 10 (mostly prospect-focused) things to watch in Sarasota. Since there certainly aren’t any new exciting free agents to hog all the attention, why not watch the kids?

Orioles Will Watch Lincecum Throw This Week

O’s fans love to lament the team’s passing on Tim Lincecum back in the 2006 MLB Draft, taking Billy Rowell one spot ahead of The Freak. Twelve years and two Cy Young awards later, Lincecum is looking for MLB work again. Maybe the O’s can right a wrong! As Roch points out, he hasn’t pitched since 2016, when he put up a 9.16 ERA in 38.1 innings for the Angels, so yeah, he’ll probably be an Oriole now.

The Orioles Should Be Having Extension Talks with Kevin Gausman

Camden Chat’s Donovan Moore makes the very reasonable argument that the Orioles should be trying to lock Kevin Gausman up for a few years now, and not wait for him to hit free agency. Of course, you could say the same about a whole bunch of players in recent/current years, but Peter Angelos seems content to run nobody but Chris Davis out onto the field a couple years from now. This organization makes no sense.

Did I say we were starting on a positive not this year? Yeah, sorry.

Hang on…

There we go…all cheered up!

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Happy “Pitchers” and Catchers Day! I Guess?

empty baseball field with sun rising

Happy Pitchers & Catchers Day, Birdland!

Yeah, that’s about the reaction I expected.

For months, I’ve been using the (admittedly, bad!) joke that “Orioles PitcheR and Catchers report on February 13!” Never in my bleakest dark year-flashback dreams did I believe that I’d STILL be able to make that stupid joke as said pitcher and catchers were first reporting to the Ed Smith complex in Sarasota this morning.

The Orioles haven’t signed a single legitimate big league starting pitcher since the 2017 season came to its disappointing close, despite that being the most glaring and obvious gaping hole in the team’s roster construction.

Here, let’s take a gander at the Birds’ transaction log since last season came to a merciful end (I won’t list re-signing/arbitration-avoiding deals for current players, or instances where the Birds traded someone for “future considerations, but you can see all those at the link, should you be so inclined):

October 2, 2017: Alec Asher, Chris Lee Called Up from Minors

November 16, 2017: Signed RP Ryan O’Rourke to a Minor-League Contract

November 20, 2017: Purchased David Hess & Hunter Harvey from Minors

November 22, 2017: Traded LF Jaycob Brugman to Oakland for RHP Jake Bray

November 27 – December 22, 2017: Signed the following to Minor-League Contracts – RP Josh Edgin, SS Ruben Tejada, RP Joely Rodriguez, RP Jhan Martinez, RP Jeff Ferrell, SP Perci Garner, RP Jason Gurka, SP Asher Wojciechowski, SP Tim Melville

December 14, 2017: Selected RHP Nestor Cortes, RHP Pedro Araujo, RHP Jose Mesa Jr. in Rule 5 Draft

January 19, 2018: Signed SP Eddie Gamboa, C Audrey Perez to Minor-League Contracts

February 6, 2018: Signed RP Elvis Araujo to MiLB Contract

February 7, 2018: Signed RP David Homberg, OF Craig Gentry to MiLB Contracts

In short, nothing has been done to address the final three rotation spots at all. If you squint really hard, you can imagine Cortes, chosen from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft, as the number five starter.

Here’s how the Birds list their current rotation on their depth chart:

Orioles rotation depth chart.

So, yeah. The ol’ “Bundy, Gausman and Pray for Rain” rotation.

Just for fun (if you’re a masochist, that is), let’s take a look at the combined MLB numbers of starters 3-5 on that there list:

268.1 IP

10W – 21L

187 K

95 BB

26 Starts (18 from Asher)

Combined 5.00 ERA

Now, nobody actually believes that will be the Birds’ rotation come Opening Day, but the fact that it’s thus constructed as the pitches begin to fly in Sarasota is nonetheless distressing. At the very least, we can almost guarantee that Chris Tillman will be back on a one-year “show me” contract, and will slot somewhere in those final three spots.

In addition, there are still PLENTY of free agents (pitchers & otherwise) remaining on the street. Reams of e-ink have been spilled on that subject this winter, so I won’t rehash it here. Suffice to say, the O’s still MIGHT bring in an Alex Cobb, a Lance Lynn (if they’ll cave in and back off their four-year contract demands), an Andrew Cashner, or similar.

We don’t know what they’ll do, but their inaction thus far has caused a good bit of consternation among O’s fans, many of whom are already writing off this as just another lost season, and the dusk of another long stretch of dark years baseball.

I’m not personally that depressed about things at the moment, but I certainly understand the sentiment.

In closing, I’ve been enjoying the “laugh so you don’t cry” mood that’s been going on around the Bird-O’sphere, mainly because it beats the alternative, straight-up nihilism. Camden Depot’s Matt Kremnitzer has been leading said charge, so here are a few of his Tweets that got a chuckle from me lately:

Thanks for the sadz/laughz, Matt.

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O’s Probably Have Little Chance of Re-Signing Schoop Either

On Tuesday, the Orioles settled on a 1-year deal with their All-Star second baseman, Jonathan Schoop for $8.5 million, as the two sides avoided arbitration. Schoop had filed at $9 million, while the Orioles countered at $7.5 million before eventually agreeing to terms.

The agreement leaves only Kevin Gausman without a Major League deal among the Orioles’ seven arbitration-eligible players, with a hearing date set for Monday, February 12th.

While Schoop will be earning a raise of $5.025 million from last year’s contract, the interest of the Orioles and their fans certainly lies in how much money he will command once he becomes a free agent following the 2019 season.

There is talk coming from the warehouse that the Orioles would like to extend Schoop beyond his last season of arbitration and many believe that a deal is far more likely than one for shortstop Manny Machado. The question I’m asking is this:

Why believe that?

Much like Machado, Schoop is entering his age-26 season. He set career-highs in hits, walks, home runs, RBI, and OBP in 2017 and his 5.1 WAR ranked second in the Majors amongst all second basemen, trailing only league MVP Jose Altuve. His 105 RBI led all MLB second basemen.

Finishing 12th in AL MVP voting while making his first All-Star appearance, Schoop was voted Most Valuable Oriole in 2017 after finishing first or second on the team in almost every major offensive category. So why is it more likely that Schoop will sign an extension with the Orioles? Let’s look at the facts.

Schoop has improved offensively each year since becoming the everyday second baseman in 2014. Defensively, he is serviceable, and may have had his best year since 2014 last season. While no defensive metric is perfect, if you look at UZR/150, his numbers for the past few seasons suggest an improvement (-8.8, -1.8, 0.1, respectively). His Range Runs (RngR), per FanGraphs, have gone from -5.7 in 2015 to -9.8 in 2016 then back up to 0.9 last year. If you prefer Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) from Baseball Prospectus, here are Schoop’s:

2015: 0.1
2016: -2.4
2017: 8.9

In 2017, that was third among all second basemen. In short, it seems that reports of Schoop’s demise as a defender may have been exaggerated.

His best friend on the team, Machado, will not be an Oriole after 2018 (if not sooner), and the team has yet to show a commitment to winning in 2018 and beyond as there are still just two starters in the Orioles rotation with less than a week remaining before pitchers and catchers report to Sarasota. Not to mention manager Buck Showalter and Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, Dan Duquette, are on record as saying, to paraphrase, that the cost of pitching is too rich for their blood.

So what on God’s green Earth would give Orioles’ brass (or fans) any indication that Schoop would sign a long-term pact with the ballclub? The team is already setting a precedent of developing home-grown talent only to watch them leave once they reach their potential (see Machado). The unwillingness to spend the necessary money to keep said talent is certainly a black eye on the organization as a whole and can’t be good for persuading free agents to join the team.

The Orioles must be assuming that Schoop will undervalue his own market and sign a team-friendly deal. There is simply no reason that Schoop, should he continue his offensive surge, won’t be a $20+ million/year player in free agency following 2019. Or, they must be willing to pay Schoop his value, figuring that $20-25M/year is better than the likely $30-35M that Machado will command.

The latter would lead me to wonder why, then, the Orioles just wouldn’t pony up the dough for Machado and trade Schoop, whom has more value to inquiring teams at this point as he is close to Machado offensively and has two more years of team control.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and it has been widely reported that Machado is intent on testing the market following 2018.

So now we have the Orioles as they currently stand, about to lose their best player while having just two starting pitchers locked into the rotation and a pipe-dream of Jonathan Schoop signing a team-friendly deal.

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn.

Well, Baltimore, it’s about to get very dark, and dawn is a long way off.

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What in the Name of Earl Weaver is Going On Here?

Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette at O's Fan Fest on stage.

Since the conclusion of the 2017 season, countless articles (including my own) have been penned on what the Orioles could do to be ready to compete in 2018. From Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn to Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakas, the thoughts and postulations over the Orioles future have been bountiful, with many of them holding a great deal of validity and intrigue.

However, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota in 2 weeks (February 13th), I’m as confused as Biff Tannen witnessing a flying Delorean as to what the Orioles are doing.

The Orioles had two options to choose from, a fork in the road if you will.

 

Option 1

Rebuild (or “retool” if you prefer the Dan Duquette lexicon). Facing a deficiency of pitching talent (or just pitchers in general), and the imminent departure of Manny Machado, Zach Briton & Co., this option is all about the future. The debate about who or who not to do business with is a discussion beyond the scope of this article, but the opportunity to gain an influx of minor league talent was very real.

Even if you’re trading these guys for 40 cents on the dollar, you do it. You’re still getting some value for players about to walk, and if you aren’t going for it in 2018 (see option 2), this is your path to success.

 

Option 2

This is the easier sell to the fans. Go for it. The Orioles have one more season with this core group of players, and, even with the temporary loss of Britton, have enough talent in the pen to have one of the best in the AL. We know the power will be present throughout the lineup, and let’s say for arguments sake you sign a couple pitchers to make the rotation look like this: Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Kevin Gausman, Chris Tillman. I know there are detractors on these guys, but this group stands to be a MASSIVE improvement from 2017.

Coupled with the power and bullpen, add a speedy corner OF with +defensive skills, and the chance to compete is real, and all you need to do is get in the dance to have a shot. One last stand at the Alamo.

 

Reality

Neither option!

In what is quite possibly the most maddening offseason of my fanhood (since circa 1985), the Orioles chose neither right or left and plowed right through the median of the proverbal fork. Status quo. They bumbled the Machado trade, have made zero meaningful signings, zero contract discussions with the face of the franchise Adam Jones, and a last place team returns to camp with two starting pitchers and minus their starting catcher.

How can this be? Ownership? A lame duck GM? A lame duck manager? Lame duck players already looking forward to new deals and new teams?

As is always the case on multiple choice exams, the answer is all of the above.

The icing on this cake is the bizarre move that Buck announced at Fan Fest, moving Machado to SS. Do I think Manny can be a Gold Glove SS? Yes, maybe. Do I think moving Tim Beckham, who has had 12 total balls hit to him while playing 3B in his MLB career, is a good idea? Probably not.

But what I can say with a high degree of confidence is that this move is not what is best for the team. Manny has proven to be a Gold Glove 3B, what do the Orioles (as a TEAM) gain by moving him? Increased trade value? Nah, I don’t buy it. Smells more like rewarding a tantrum to me. Like I said, this offseason has been really confusing.

I’m truly at a loss, and I cannot explain the direction or decisions (lack thereof) that have been made this offseason.

What does this mean for 2018? Well, it means cheap seats and protective netting for all!

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Orioles Fans Aren’t Happy

A lonley oriole fan watches from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

I know, I know…I’m not exactly uncovering Watergate here. But before you give that headline a quick “a-duh!” and move on, give me a moment. I have data to support this assertion, and it’s not just of the looked-at-social-media-and-my-face-melted variety.

First off, we need to acknowledge that Orioles fans are far from alone in being frustrated at our team’s lack of (or negative) movement this offseason. The talk of MLB has been the ridiculously low temperature of the usual “hot stove,” and how free agents are, as a group, languishing in the wild without contracts. According to this Deadspin article, there are still around 150 such players out there, quite a large figure for this point in the offseason.

Is it the culmination of years of inept leadership in MLBPA (as asserted in the above-linked Deadspin article)? Is it collusion? Is it a broken economic system? Is it owners, as a group, simply deciding that they care more about making money than they do about trying to appease their fans with a competitive team?

All of these explanations have been floating around this offseason, but whatever the actual reason(s) is, the fact remains that pretty much nobody is signing, or getting signed.

Of course, the more cynical (and Dan Duquette-weary) fans in Birdland will argue that the Orioles’ offseason plan would be the one we are seeing in action regardless of whether there were 150+ or 15 free agents remaining on the market.

One entertaining way to look at it from our perspective is that ol’ Dan has simply yet again shown himself to be ahead of the curve: much like a shifting defense, waiting until March to sign players used to be an Orioles thing; now everybody is doing it!

Regardless, the Orioles have, to date, done absolutely nothing to address their starting rotation woes. The plan heading into 2018, as we sit here on January 25, seems to be Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and pray for rain (and sometimes pray for rain when Gausman starts too). After that, who knows? The MASN writers have been spending the last couple months going down the list of O’s bullpen pieces, wondering if this guy or that could come in and take a rotation spot.

Miguel Castro. Alec Asher. Brad Brach. Zach Britton (before he got hurt). Mike Wright. Jimmy Yacabonis. Never-pitched-above-High-A-Ball Hunter Harvey.

Were the team’s plan for several of those guys to jostle and fight for ONE rotation spot? I think Birdland would be relatively at ease. But there are THREE spots still to fill.

The players O’s fans wanted are, for the most part, still available. Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs, but Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb remain unsigned. Either would be an immediate upgrade, but when we listen to Buck Showalter speak in recent days, it doesn’t seem like the Birds have any intention of signing anybody of consequence to bolster the starting five.

“In today’s game, you give four- or five-year contracts to pitchers, you’re going to be happy about two of those years, maybe. I want our guys in our organization to feel like the opportunity is going to be there first for them before we start looking elsewhere. Everybody out there has got a hiccup and got a pimple, and if you think that you’re going to take one player and change the whole climate, it doesn’t happen. And I want our guys to think as they go through the offseason that there’s going to be an opportunity. We’re going to out-opportunity people.”

And try to avoid bad contracts, which Showalter preached again last night.

“Where we are in the process and what we’re talking about is a good fit. Just bear with us, OK?” he said. “If you want to jump the gun and give somebody a four- or five-year deal and they’re hurt for three years of that and they don’t pitch well and we’re all going, ‘Why did you sign that guy?’ Then let’s go ahead and jump the gun. If you want to be patient and make good decisions for the organization for the short-term and the long-term, bear with us.”

When I read Buck towing the company line like that, I can’t help but think he is angling for Dan Duquette’s job in 2019. That’s the kind of thing we’ve heard from every O’s GM in the past 20 years, isn’t it?

That’s a story for another day though. I promised you sciencey-stuff on ticked-off O’s fans!

FanGraphs polled readers, asking them how they feel about the folks in charge of their favorite team’s organization. This year’s results are summarized here, by the master himself, Jeff Sullivan.

Only New York Mets fans and Miami Marlins fans are more disgusted with their current ownership than are O’s fans.

Think about that for a moment. You have one team that’s a perennial punching bag for jokes, insults, finger-pointing, and a general poster child for ineptitude, and another whose new ownership group is shipping off the team’s best players for pennies on the dollar.

Then, you have the Orioles. Good company to be in.

In addition to just asking how fans felt though, Sullivan compared how payroll and win totals in 2017 correlated with how fans felt. So, if your team spends money and wins, you should be fairly happy, and vice versa. Those teams whose payroll+wins were least reflected in how the fans felt? Again, the Marlins, Mets, and O’s.

The greatest negative differences, by a large margin, belong to the Marlins, Mets, and Orioles. Each of them got a rating below their expected rating by more than a full point. I’ve already talked about the Marlins, and I’ve already talked about the Mets, but as the Orioles go, I’m going to guess there’s some boiled-over frustration over ownership meddling. There’s also just a general distrust that the management team is capable of making the right baseball decisions. Even last time, the Orioles didn’t score well, and now they seem closer to some kind of reckoning. This isn’t the first time you’ve read that Orioles fans are sort of unhappy.

Sullivan pretty much hits the nail on the head with his short analysis there, I’d say.

We’re sick of the owner meddling. He pays, sure, but not for the right things. We also don’t fully trust Duquette to sign the right guys with the money he IS given to address those areas of need.

Fan Fest is two days away.

Birdland isn’t feeling very festive.

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Hawaiian Shirt Highlights 2018 Promotional Schedule

O’s fans continue to sit and twiddle our thumbs waiting for the team to toss us any sort of bone to get excited about in 2018, and today the team finally made an announcement!

No, they didn’t sign anybody you’ve ever heard of – or anybody you haven’t, for that matter. They haven’t signed Manny Machado or Jonathan Schoop to extensions. Ditto Dan Duquette or Buck Showalter.

This “news” doesn’t even come from the front office as a matter of fact, but from the Marketing & Promotions department.

Here are your 2018 promotion and giveaway highlights at Oriole Park at Camden Yards:

Sunday April 1 vs. Minnesota: Retro Oriole Bird Bank (fans 14 and under)

Orioles retro bird bank

Sunday May 13 vs. Tampa Bay: Mother’s Day Pashmina Scarf (first 20,000 fans 18 and over)

Monday May 28 vs. Washington: O’s Memorial Day T-Shirt (all fans)

Wednesday May 30 vs. Washington: O’s Cooler Backpack (first 20,000 fans 15 and over)

Tuesday June 12 vs. Boston: Dylan Bundy Bobblehead (first 25,000 fans 15 and over)

Friday June 15 vs. Miami: O’s Floppy Hat (first 20,000 fans 21 and over)

Sunday June 17 vs. Miami: O’s Necktie (first 20,000 fans 18 and over)

Monday June 25 vs. Seattle: Buck “Snow”alter Snow Globe (first 25,000 fans 15 and over)

Saturday June 30 vs. Anaheim: Birdland Hawaiian Shirt (first 35,000 fans 15 and over)

Orioles Hawaiian Shirt

Finally! The O’s first did this giveaway a few years back, and fans who missed out on them have been kicking themselves (ourselves) ever since. You can STILL get them for 150+ on eBay.

Saturday July 14 vs. Texas: Maryland Flag Script Jersey (first 35,000 fans 15 and over)

Orioles black script jersey.

The Birds gave away this jersey in white last year. I grabbed one, and was impressed with the quality – the letters are sewn on, not printed. My one complaint this year (assuming the jersey will be the same quality): last year ALL fans got them. This year, first 35,000. Why not just order those last 8,000 or whatever to ensure everybody gets one?

Apply this complaint of mine to just about every giveaway here, but especially the “first 35,000” ones.

Saturday July 28 vs. Tampa Bay: Trey Mancini Bobblehead (first 25,000 fans 15 and over)

Sunday July 29 vs. Tampa Bay: Orioles Garden Gnome (first 25,000 fans 15 and over)

Saturday September 15 vs. Chicago (AL): O’s Lightweight Hoodie (first 35,000 fans 15 and over)

Friday September 28 vs. Houston: O’s Coaster Set (first 20,000 fans 15 and over)

Orioles coasters

Saturday September 29 vs. Houston: O’s Puffy Vest (first 35,000 fans 15 and over)

Sunday September 30 vs. Houston: O’s Duffle Bag (first 20,000 fans 15 and over)

Last year, the Birds had several great giveaways where ALL fans in attendance received the item. In addition to the script jersey I talked about above, all fans also got the Manny Machado starting lineup figures and the 25th anniversary OPACY replica ballparks. This year, every giveaway on the list – sans t-shirts – are limited to the first 20,000-35,000 fans.

In a year when the team looks, by all indications, to be…let’s say, “challenged,” to fill the park, you’d think making fans coming to the park for these giveaways certain that they will be able to get their hands on them without showing up hours early would be a no-brainer.

Not in Birdland, of course.

Here are other notable dates on the promotional calendar:

 

Fireworks Dates

Friday May 11

Friday June 1

Friday June 15

Friday June 29

Friday July 13

Friday July 27

Friday August 10

Friday August 24

 

Kids Run the Bases Dates

Sunday April 1, 22, 29

Sunday May 13

Sunday June 3, 17

Sunday July 1, 15, 29

Sunday August 12, 26

Sunday September 16, 30

 

T-Shirt Dates (all fans)

Wednesday May 9

Monday May 28

Thursday July 26

Wednesday August 15

Thursday September 13

See the entire calendar here.

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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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