Now that Los Angeles has punched their ticket to the Fall Classic, all of the baseball world save for those who root for Darth Vader in Star Wars will be hoping the Houston Astros can bounce back and win two straight.
Astros-Dodgers sounds like a blast to watch. Astros-Yankees? Yeah, not so much.
What about next season though? What are the Orioles’ chances of finally breaking through, and how can they get there?
You can place your bets as early as the day after this years’ World Series. The oddsmakers are reporting the O’s odds at making the playoffs next year at 25/1 . The 2017 season was one most Orioles fans would like to forget. Baltimore had its worst season since 2011, and finished dead-last in the ultra-competitive American League East. Injuries and porous defense were partially to blame, but pitching was the club’s real Achilles heel. Baltimore’s staff threw the most pitches in the majors and had the second-highest ERA and fewest quality starts in the AL.
Those same problems are likely to plague the Orioles again in 2018 unless they target a couple solid starters in free agency. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, and CC Sabathia are all available, and each would improve the front end of the rotation, allowing Buck Showalter to use Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman (the only O’s starters under contract for next season) at the back end of the rotation.
Whether management will want to break the bank on free-agent pitchers is another question.
Baltimore will also have to address the future of Manny Machado at some point next season. The three-time All-Star becomes a free agent after 2018, and with the O’s looking more like a rebuild candidate than a World Series contender, the smart move is to (attempt to) incite a bidding war for Machado’s services. It’s highly unlikely he would re-sign with Baltimore without testing the free-agent market, and the O’s just won’t be able to compete with the likes of the Cubs, Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and other big-spenders in major markets.
There’s a chance that the team will go all-in on Machado’s last season by trying to load up in free-agency. But realistically, the team would need to land two very good starters to compete with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees next year.
It’s more likely that the Baltimore brass realizes the untenable situation the team is in and uses 2018 as the start of its rebuild.
But will that cause a fan revolt? We’ve been led to believe that the current “window” would extend THROUGH 2018, not stop short of next season.
It will be an interesting offseason, for certain.