So long as you’re out of a turkey coma, I’m sure you’ve been thinking just as much about the baseball offseason as I have lately. After all, the pilot light on the hot stove has barely been lit. It’s time to start ramping up for what is perhaps the most important offseason for the Orioles in recent memory.
1. There are a few large-scale, national headlines grabbing the attention of the baseball world with just over a week to go before the Winter Meetings in Orlando. They are two stories the Orioles should be completely involved in, but aren’t in any way, shape or form.
Japanese player Shohei Ohtani is making his way to the U.S. this winter and will sign a contract with a MLB club. The two-way Ohtani has been touted as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” as he is both a pitcher and outfielder. He’s also going to come as one of the best bargains on the open market. It will only cost teams a $20-million posting fee and a contract maxing out at $3.5-million to acquire Ohtani. He’ll also only be allowed to sign a minor-league contract, meaning he’ll have options.
There’s no reason all 30 MLB teams shouldn’t be posting the $20-million and making their best pitch to sign Ohtani, but the Orioles won’t even bother. The reason Ohtani can only sign a contract for around $3.5-million is because the money used must come out of a team’s international signing bonus pool. As you know, the Orioles don’t give a rip about that money. They give it away like candy on Halloween. Baltimore is the only organization in baseball that simply ignores the international market in the same way you ignored your uncle as he spewed politics last week at dinner.
They don’t even invest in scouting internationally the way other teams do, especially in Latin America. When it comes to the Asian market, there have been a few players like Wei-Yin Chen and Hyun-Soo Kim that have come over to the O’s, but that won’t be in the case here.
It’s a shame, but there’s really only 29 teams vying for Ohtani’s services.
2. Another potential outfield solution is on the market right now, but it’s the trade market instead of the free agent one. The Miami Marlins are shopping slugger Giancarlo Stanton, and a number of teams are interested. There are many issues involved, but the largest is Stanton’s full no-trade clause. He can block any trade, and at this point there are rumors he’s even trying to force a deal to the Dodgers.
There’s no reason the Orioles couldn’t be in the market to make a deal for Stanton. The money isn’t an issue. They have money. The prospects or even potential major-league players also aren’t an issue. It’s not like the O’s are chock-full of promising corner outfielders.
Part of the reason the hot stove has been lukewarm at best is because of the market being held up by both Ohtani and Stanton. Once those pieces move (or in Stanton’s case, stay put), everything else will fall in line.
3. Just over a week away from the Winter Meetings, all we’ve heard in terms of rumors surrounding the Orioles is that they are “interested” in (insert mediocre starting pitcher name here). That’s all you’re going to hear. They’ll likely even sign one or two of these less-than-inspiring arms within the next few weeks.
The Birds DID actually make a signing this week involving a player with big league experience. Left-hander Josh Edgin was brought in on a minor-league deal. He’ll be 31 next year and has a 3.49 ERA in parts of five seasons, spending last year pitching middle relief with the Mets. The O’s also announced a slew of minor-league deals, which is why the hot stove has been so lukewarm.
Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn and Tyler Chatwood are among the pitchers the Orioles are linked to in rumors. It’s important to remember that these rumors are just that, however. There’s also speculation out there about the Orioles trying to improve the outfield by signing Carlos Gonzalez.
It’s all going to work itself out over the next few weeks. The biggest issue I have with these rumors, is that the Orioles enter this very crucial offseason without much direction. They are essentially a miner without a headlamp. They have no idea where they are going or what they are looking for. Dan Duquette is entering the final year of his contract, Buck Showalter is heading into his walk year, and perhaps most importantly, Manny Machado is gone after next season.
What happens next? Who is calling the shots? Fans are fearing the start of more “dark ages” baseball, and it’s all based on the lack of direction this team seems to have. Going “all-in” for one more year with this crew seems like a very risky proposition.
Does anyone really think the O’s can build a championship contending club? I know I sure don’t.
4. All of this will lead to a lot of acid reflux for fans over the next 12 months. The idea that we could be entering the final months of Machado as an Oriole is terrifying. The idea that we could be entering the final few months with Showalter at the helm is also unsettling.
The start of this chapter is now. What the Orioles do in the next few weeks and months can and will go a long way into defining what they can be over the next few years.
Hopefully 2017 wasn’t the start of another long string of last place finishes.