This is a weekly column that dives into some random thoughts about the Orioles/MLB. I used to do eight as a nod to Cal Ripken Jr. A couple years back, I cut it down to four or five, so consider it the Earl Weaver/Brooks Robinson era of Thursday Thoughts. (Today we have a Billy Ripken version) – A.S.
1. There’s been some bluster over the last few weeks about the fact that the Orioles are one of a handful of teams that haven’t handed out an extension to any players. It’s been a popular trend over the last few months, with deals going to players like Mike Trout of the Angels and Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Braves.
The Orioles, of course, don’t have a Trout or an Acuna. They don’t have anything close to that. The O’s are one of 11 teams in baseball to have not handed out an extension in the last few months, and the only team in the AL East to have held out. Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com wrote this week that Trey Mancini should be the player to get a new deal from the Birds, claiming 27-year-old is worthy of being the “face of the franchise.”
I couldn’t disagree much more. The Orioles are a rebuilding team, and they frankly already have their face of the franchise. It’s someone they DID give a contract to this offseason. His name is Mike Elias. There are very few players in the organization Elias has had the chance to bring in, and Mancini is not one of them. I think Mancini is a useful player. But he’s probably more likely to get traded in the next year with his value at its highest than to get an extension from the Orioles. He’s also taken a real leadership role with this young team, being one of the senior members of the roster. That’s something he deserves credit for. But giving him an extension just wouldn’t be good business and wouldn’t show great vision from the Orioles.
Mancini doesn’t really project as a massive centerpiece of a team that would contend, and depending on how long any extension would be, he’d likely be well into the back nine of his career by the time it matters. We are probably seeing the best version of Mancini as a hitter right now. I’d actually be surprised if there was anyone on the 25-man roster that was a candidate for an extension right now. If anything, the O’s would probably be looking to do one with a minor leaguer like Yusniel Diaz or Ryan Mountcastle. But neither of those players are at the level of a prospect like Eloy Jimenez of the White Sox, who received an extension earlier this year.
A few other things I’ve been thinking about regarding the Orioles…
2. The draft is just over a month away and it looks more and more like Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman is the consensus top choice. ESPN’s Keith Law has written that Rutschman has a very high floor, with a ceiling that could see him become a multi-time All-Star. It looked last year like prep shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. out of Texas might be the top selection in many mock drafts, but he’s fallen to third in Law’s latest rankings behind Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn. Whoever the pick is, there will be plenty of eyes and pressure on as Mike Elias’ first big project.
3. The Orioles have allowed 74 home runs in their first 32 games, which is astonishing. It’s not astonishing in the sense that their pitching is that bad. We all knew the pitching would be bad. It’s just remarkable because it’s a pace of more than 350 over the course of a full season, which would obliterate the record.
In this day and age with “three true outcomes” baseball being played, home runs aren’t going to slow down. Especially when the O’s pitching staff is as bad as it is, and when it plays half its games at Camden Yards.
Just wait for the weather to warm up this summer and see how the ball flies out of that yard.
4. A month into the season, the only thing I feel like I’ve learned about this team is that it’s going to be a long road without much action this season. Of the players who would be candidates to be traded this season, many are either hurt or completely ineffective.
Alex Cobb and Mark Trumbo are both on the shelf and there’s no real expectation for either when they do return. Andrew Cashner has shown glimpses of being a pitcher that could help a contender down the stretch, if for no other reason than starting pitching is so incredibly valuable, even if it isn’t quality. Dylan Bundy, on the other hand, has been below that rung even, and unless a team wanted to take him on as a reclamation project, there’s not much hope for a decent deal.
Even Mychal Givens hasn’t been that great out of the bullpen, another area where playoff-bound teams could be looking to bolster their roster. I have no doubt that the O’s will make some moves, but it’s important to temper expectations on what they might get in return.
Trading bad players away won’t bring back good players in return.