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 cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. – A.S.
1. All the chatter surrounding the Orioles right now pertains to one basic premise – what’s next? No one really knows, and that’s really because still, no one knows who is calling the shots. The Baltimore Sun published a piece yesterday that seemed to generate much conversation about this topic.
The article, written by Eduardo Encina and Peter Schmuck with contributions from Jeff Barker and Jon Meoli, honestly didn’t teach me much. From everything I read on blogs and social media, many focused on Brady Anderson, the team’s Vice President of Baseball Operations. He was obviously the main source of the article as he’s quoted throughout. In it, he said he did not want to be the team’s general manager next season.
To me, it’s important to read between the lines of what Anderson is saying. He’s not going to come right out and say he wants the role and responsibilities currently owned by Dan Duquette, because Duquette is still with the organization (much to many people’s chagrin or surprise). Even if he does want such a role, he can’t just come right out and claim it. It wouldn’t be right. But deep down I’m not so sure Anderson wants to be in that role, because it would put him behind a desk. It would require him to know more about all levels of the minor leagues and even farm systems for the other 29 teams. It would involve much more scouting (in a franchise that already has a tiny scouting department) than he seems accustomed to.
Anderson has played this hybrid role of front office member and almost coach for a few years now. He’s active with players and I don’t see it as something he’d want to give up. Unless there’s some type of overhaul of his role where he would be elevated to make all the baseball decisions while keeping his current role of being someone who works out with players, I don’t see it happening. He would need a huge support staff in order to make something like that work.
2. Everyone is playing fantasy GM right now when it comes to Manny Machado, so allow me to join in. Before I do, I’ll say that I have no idea what the O’s can get for Machado in a trade. I don’t think his value is nearly as high as some people think, but I also don’t think it’s super low just because he’s a rental. Much of the conversation has surrounded the Cubs and their shortstop Addison Russell.
Just the other day, former GM Jim Bowden speculated in “The Athletic” that the Cubs would be the favorite to land Machado and could do so with Russell and perhaps two of their pitching prospects. That’s all fine and dandy. Especially when he speculated that the O’s could add Adam Jones to a deal and land Ian Happ in return. I’m fine with all of it.
But I wouldn’t prefer it. Something about Russell rubs me the wrong way. The 24-year-old was the centerpiece in the 2014 trade from the Athletics that sent him, Billy McKinney and Dan Straily to Chicago in exchange for Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. So one team has already traded him away. He’s still young, and has already been an All-Star, but my sensors go off when a second team is willing to ship him away.
I’d be more comfortable with another deal Bowden proposed in his piece. If the Orioles can somehow pry J.P. Crawford away from the Phillies, that would be my ideal move. Again, this is all in a perfect world where we are playing fantasy GM. Bowden also said the Phillies might be willing to throw in top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, which I find hard (if not impossible) to believe, but that would be about 17 cherries on top of the sundae. Not only because Sanchez is supposedly one of the can’t-miss pitching arms in the minors, but also because his name is Sixto and that’s just awesome.
3. The struggles of Chris Davis have reached a fever pitch, but don’t expect the Orioles to cut ties. Many are calling for it, but this is the same team that didn’t cut ties with Ubaldo Jimenez on a four-year deal through his struggles. Davis is still somehow getting starts while batting fifth in the order. He hasn’t fallen that far from grace in the eyes of the team, despite his abysmal stat line.
More than anything, it looks like there’s a mental block with Davis rather than a physical one. Watching him constantly stare at strike three down the middle is frustrating and concerning. I’ve seen more two-seam fastballs break right over the heart of the plate with no offering as these struggles continue. I had to see it to believe it when I looked it up the other day, but Davis could have a legitimate shot at breaking the all-time career strikeout mark if he continues to play regularly.
In this day and age, it’s not all that shocking. The strikeout is much more prevalent in today’s game than in the past. Reggie Jackson holds the record with 2,597 career strikeouts, and Davis would have to continue his 200+ strikeout pace beyond his current contract. But it’s within reach. Something tells me that Davis will soon become more of a 110-120 game player each season at best if he keeps up his struggles.
We may not be far off from that.
4. Last week’s demotion of Caleb Joseph came as a bit of a surprise to me. It was surprising only in the sense that it wasn’t expected, not that it was unreasonable. Joseph was hitting just .182/.203/.325 in 24 games with the O’s this season and losing playing time to rookie Chance Sisco. There’s no question that, even in a completely lost season, swapping out one of the two catcher’s spots on the roster was reasonable from a numbers standpoint.
But in such a lost season, what did not compute for me was bringing up Andrew Susac over Austin Wynns. It’s not that there’s a large age gap between the two (Susac is 28, Wynns is 27), but Wynns is a player drafted by the Orioles and thought to be, along with Sisco, one of the future “pieces” for the organization.
In a lost season such as this, the team should be getting every look it can at players it believes can be part of the future. I’m not really convinced the team traded for Susac because he is part of the future. In the long run, Sisco is going to get the bulk of the playing time anyhow and is the player the organization wants to be the catcher going forward. But it would be interesting to see Wynns get a chance to show something at the big league level in the near future.
This idea or premise, of course, applies to every position at this point. The Orioles should be evaluating their own talent for the future.
The question just remains, who is it exactly that is doing the evaluating?