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.
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.
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.
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!