One game and done hardly feels like a satisfying trip to the postseason. So as the Orioles look ahead to the 2017 season, the task at hand will be for a repeat trip to the playoffs–which would be their first back-to-back playoff visits since 1996-97–and a much longer October soiree next time around. But all of that means that some difficult decisions need to be made between now and next spring.
Catcher Matt Wieters has been with the O’s since he was the 5th overall pick in 2007. He’s an all-star, clubhouse leader, and calm and steady in the clutch. But with Mark Trumbo and his 47 home runs also set for free agency this offseason, can the Orioles afford to offer Wieters another qualifying offer, as they did in 2016, when the price tag is going to be more than $16 million, and he is likely to receive offers from other clubs as the best catcher on the market? But, when you consider the other catching options currently in the system, could the Orioles afford to not keep Wieters?
Back to Trumbo, who has said that he enjoyed his time this season in Baltimore. Since the free agent contracts are sure to flood his agent’s desk, can the O’s sell Trumbo on perhaps taking a little less dough for continuing his time with a playoff contender in Baltimore? Perhaps.
But considering that Trumbo is now on the downward side of 30 years old, and he did have a pair of subpar seasons in 2014 and 2015, the O’s front office also must be realistic in its approach to Trumbo. There is a reason why he was available so cheaply following the 2015 season. No doubt his value is much higher than the price of backup catcher Steve Clevenger that Baltimore paid for him last December, but free agency tends to always over-inflate a player’s value.
And then there is the O’s starting rotation, which ranked 13th out of 15 American League teams with an ERA of 4.72. The free agent cupboard for starting pitchers this offseason is shockingly bare. Jeremy Hellickson ranks as one of its gems. So after the top three of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Dylan Bundy, the only way the front office will be able to improve rotation slots 4 and 5, is via trade. But as it stands today, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Yovani Gallardo are owed a guaranteed $33.5 million for the 2017 season. Which makes trading one of them, or having one sit in the bullpen as a potential 6th starter, less than ideal.
The bottom line – as the rest of us tune into the playoffs to see which of the remaining postseason teams claim the 2016 World Series crown, G.M. Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have already begun the very challenging work of putting together your 2017 Baltimore Orioles.