After sweeping a two-game series from the Mets at Citi Field, the Orioles are now 5-1 in “The Big Apple” … and 14-40 everywhere else.
Though the Birds might be flying high after winning back-to-back road games for just the third time this season, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the same issues still abound for the ball club, as the team combined for just three runs on 11 hits (all singles) in the series.
The Orioles rank last in the American League, and next-to-last in the majors, in runs scored (218). Their .230 team average is better than just three teams in all of baseball, while their saving grace from seasons past — the long ball — ranks 14th out of 30 teams (68).
Former home run champions Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis have combined for just six home runs and 23 RBIs in 2018, and the season is more than two months old. Jonathan Schoop, a 2017 All-Star and team MVP, is hitting .232.
Trey Mancini, the second runner up for AL Rookie of the Year in 2017, was hitting .284 on April 20th when he exited the game against the Indians after smashing his knee into the fence attempting a sliding catch in foul territory. Since the injury, Mancini is hitting just .200 (28-140), dropping his average to .231.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Orioles are offensively challenged in 2018, and there doesn’t appear to be any help on the horizon. As Buck Showalter likes to say, these guys all have track records, and their numbers should be better by season’s end. The problem is that the numbers have been so bad to this point that a team that had legitimate playoff aspirations in March is now the worst team in baseball in June.
And now rumors are swirling that the team could be on the cusp of signing Hanley Ramirez, who was recently discarded by the rival Red Sox when Dustin Pedroia returned from offseason knee surgery. That possibility has left many scratching their heads of as to why the Orioles would even consider such a move when the season is basically over.
In fact, I questioned the move myself when I first heard the rumors, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Now put down your pitch forks and torches and hear me out.
The Red Sox are on the hook for Ramirez’s $22 million salary this season, meaning that any team that chooses to sign him would only have to pay a prorated portion of the league minimum salary, which at this point would be roughly $343,000 (give or take a few grand).
While a last place ball club with the worst record in baseball should be focusing on the future, they are still a business, and the main priority should always be winning ball games, first and foremost. Also, good luck getting a bunch of veterans and former All-Stars on board with tanking the rest of the season in the hopes of bettering the future of an organization most of them will no longer be playing for in the coming years.
With those things in mind, signing Hanley Ramirez absolutely makes sense. His .254 BA would rank third on the Orioles amongst players with a minimum of 150 PA. His 29 RBIs would rank second, and his six home runs would rank fifth, ahead of the likes of Schoop, Trumbo, and Davis.
For $343,000, the Orioles would be getting a cleanup hitter that would actually make pitchers think twice about walking Manny Machado, which would mean more pitches for Manny to hit, and ultimately improve his trade value (if it could conceivably get any higher).
Ramirez is versatile and can also play first base, third base and left field in a pinch. In addition, falling just behind the effect on Manny in terms of importance, a Ramirez signing should mean significantly less playing time for Davis, who, when it is all said and done will go down as the worst contract signing in the history of Major League Baseball.
Yes, the fans are correct, the Orioles need to get younger and start planning for the future. Everybody knows that. There just isn’t any help on the horizon in the minor leagues. Cedric Mullins is the only viable option as Austin Hays has struggled at Double-A Bowie and he, along with D.J. Stewart, is currently on the disabled list.
The team has no middle infield depth at any minor league level, and the best arms are all in low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick, save for Hunter Harvey, who isn’t exactly thriving at Bowie (5.57 ERA in 9 starts), and Keegan Akin, who is only in his second full season of pro ball.
Signing Ramirez doesn’t mean that the Orioles expect to get back into contention, nor does it mean that they aren’t looking towards the future. Ramirez simply gives the team a viable chance to play better baseball than they have to this point. At this juncture in his career, the risk is greater for the player than it is for the team anyway.