Baltimore Orioles: Thinking About 2018 & 2019
Could the Baltimore Orioles keep their roster as is, and play better over the remainder of the year? Sure. There are plenty of logical reasons to believe the O’s could plausibly play their way back into this 2017 season. Machado could go on a sustained run, and produce like the MVP caliber talent he is. Some of the recent positive signs from Gausman (before his most recent implosion last night) could become consistent. The recent returns of Britton, O’Day, and soon Davis, and Hardy can all help to varying degrees.
Could be, and even should be ignores who they are currently.
With two games remaining until the 2017 All-Star Break mercifully arrives, the Orioles are 40-46. In the midst of a five game losing streak, the O’s are tied for last in the American League East (9.5GB of Division Leading Boston). While they are just five games out of the 2nd Wild Card (currently held by Minnesota), there are five teams in-between them and the Twins (not including Toronto who they are tied with). With a run differential of -88, the O’s have been outscored by more than a run per game.
If all of the possible positives happen, and none of the possible negatives (such as Mancini or Schoop regressing from current highs) occur, maybe the O’s can play their way back into this season.
Given that it would probably require 47 to 50 wins in their last 76 games to be in position for the 2nd Wild Card; I feel pretty safe with saying that before we’ve seen the Home Run Derby, the Orioles 2017 season is effectively over.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
If 2017 is over, the attention should turn to 2018 and beyond.
Thoughts & Questions Based On That:
1) Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette and Manager Buck Showalter are both under contract through the end of next year. Does O’s Ownership want both to stay in their current positions past ’18? Do Duquette and Showalter both want to stay? Does everyone want to punt on this decision through ’18? If so, does that mean the focus will be on the ’18 season by itself, and not the longer-term for the organization?
2) If the O’s are set on playing for ’18, than there figures to be no consideration of moving Machado and Britton prior to the forthcoming 2017 Non-Waiver Deadline. If the organization wants the duo back for ’18, and they (the Ownership and Front Office) want to play for the ’18 season, what is their plan for augmenting the roster this coming off-season?
3) Finding a new home for Wellington Castillo in the coming weeks, and promoting Chance Sisco should be an easy decision. If you were truly contending, you would ride out Castillo’s experience (and likely better current production) for the remainder of this year. Since you aren’t, moving Castillo, and obtaining some asset of value under long-term team control; while giving your best prospect his initial experience at the ML level makes sense.
4) Brad Brach and what the O’s do with him in the coming weeks is a litmus test for the mindset of the organization. Like Machado, and Britton, (and Jones) he’s a Free Agent after ’18. He’s an asset, and can be a valuable member of the ’18 roster if you don’t trade him now. If you don’t trade Machado and Britton, and you don’t trade Brach; you are giving every indication that you are playing for ’18. However, it would be a false narrative to say that trading Brach (or frankly anyone) now would be an indication you won’t be attempting to contend in ’18. You can build a quality bullpen without him. Like Castillo, Brach wouldn’t figure to bring back a top prospect(s); but would bring back an asset under long-term team control.
5) BSL Poster ‘Mackus’ said the following on the BSL Board yesterday, “We’re one modest offseason away from a competitive team next year, though. This same exact team could easily be competitive next year. I wouldn’t expect them to win the division or earn a WC spot, but with a couple small moves made to improve I’d likely peg them as the same low- to mid-80s win team we’ve looked like the past several seasons and if things go well that’s a competitive team. Things go as good as possible and you get 2014. Things go modestly well and you get 2012/2016. Things go as expected and it’s 2013. Things go slightly worse and it’s 2015. Things go very wrong and it’s 2017. This year is that same team with lots and lots of things going wrong and very few things (Schoop, Mancini) going better than expected. Some foreseeable and on management for not fixing (Tillman, Ubaldo), some unforeseeable and just what happens in baseball sometimes (Gausman, Manny), and some injuries (Britton, Davis, O’Day).”
I’m in agreement here. The O’s could do very little roster wise, and this same general group could rebound in ’18. However, going back to what I said above (#2), if the O’s are going to ‘go for it’ again in ’18, I want to see the roster augmented.
6) I see Tillman back on a 1 year deal. Think it will make sense for both sides.
7) What will the O’s decide they want to do about SS in ’18? The O’s have a $14M club option on Hardy, with a $2M buyout. It’s hard to envision the O’s picking that up.
Would they move Machado back to SS?
If Machado were to move to SS, who goes to 3rd?
If Schoop were to move to 3rd, who goes to 2nd?
Would they consider jumping Mountcastle to 2nd? Probably not, but I think the O’s should be promoting Mountcastle to Bowie (and 2nd now) to provide for that potential additional option.
External to the organization, the O’s could go after someone like Zack Cozart for SS, or Mike Moustakas for 3rd. Either would be a nice addition for a roster trying to win.
A cheaper, defensive only SS option would be Alcides Escobar. However, Escobar’s bat is so weak, I think the O’s would be inclined to just bring back Hardy on a cheaper deal vs. the existing club option.
Maybe Todd Frazier would take a 1 year deal at 3rd?
8) Jimenez is playing out the end of his contract, and will be a FA. Even if he were to go on an extended 2nd half run, it would be surprising to see him back on anything but a 1 year deal. Not on a limb saying he doesn’t figure to be back. The O’s have a $12M club option on Miley. It seems like a tremendous amount to spend for a 5th starter, but it’s still possible the O’s pick that up. Miley’s 2017 BB% is 12.4% (7.7% for his career). If Miley can get back to his career BB% over the remainder of the year, the O’s may decide it’s worth bringing him back. Right now, I’ll say he will be elsewhere in ’18. That would mean the O’s will need to make at-least two additions to their ’18 rotation, and that’s saying Tillman does return on the 1 year make-good contract I believe he will sign.
9) The O’s are paying Jimenez and Miley a combined $23M this year. They could offer those dollars to attempt to lure a Yu Darvish, or bring back Jake Arrieta. Don’t see the O’s being in on either, but Arrieta’s ’17 struggles (and his past history with the organization) make it possible.
Cheaper options the O’s could go after include Hellickson, Estrada, Vargas, Buchholz, Pineda, or true back-end options like Cashner, Chacin, and Vargas.
10) Will the O’s have interest in bringing Smith back? Will they want to give Austin Hays a chance to make the Opening Day roster? Could they have interest in FA’s like Lorenzo Cain, or JD Martinez? Carlos Gonzalez has had a horrific year, but plenty of career success. Maybe a short-term deal there? With Cain, the O’s could move Jones off of center to RF (Mancini to LF, Trumbo to DH).
11) If the O’s anticipate Mancini, Sisco, Mountcastle, and Hays each starting for them in ’19, does that impact their decision making process with Machado?
12) Will the O’s have resolution (extensions or trades) with Machado and Britton prior to looking at a possible extension for Jones?
13) If the O’s do allow themselves to look past ’18, things get murkier. If they were to trade Machado and Britton now (if Britton looks healthy and productive this Month); and get the return those two would figure to provide – they would certainly have more talent under long-term team control then they do today. With that talent influx, plus the availability of the $ you would be spending on the contracts for those two – you would have a new core to build around. As we’ve discussed numerous times, most recently here, Machado will never be more valuable in a trade than he is right now.
14) The O’s stance with obtaining International Amateur Talent is just maddening as a fan. For me personally, it’s far more disappointing than the results on the field at the Major League level this year. Keith Law was asked yesterday about the Orioles strategy of selling off all of their International Signing Pool Money, and he stated, “I think it’s awful but it’s par for the course for that org. You can’t ignore an entire swath of the player pool and suffer no consequences.” In this case, Law is exactly right. Clearly one of the reasons 3rd party talent evaluations of the Orioles Minor League system, continues to place Baltimore near the bottom is the lack of young international talent.
You need a flourishing system that not only produces talent for you to utilize at the ML level, but also depth available for trade. If you played at the high ends of the International Market, those players will not succeed at any higher rate than those US born players you select in the annual June Amateur Draft. But by adding that talent (or at-least perceived talent); you would give yourself more options as an organization (interest in obtaining from other organizations). Some of those players would also hit. Developing players is always a cheaper investment vs. signing players as Free Agents later. Even if you didn’t want to play at the top of the market, you could sign large swaths of cheaper IFA’s. There you would just be increasing your chances of development.
For the record, I don’t blame Duquette here. Go back to the start of Peter Angelos Ownership. No matter the regime, it’s never been a priority. Also, you can look at Duquette’s history prior to being in Baltimore, or what MacPhail and Klentak are doing in Philadelphia for further confirmation that this is a decision from above Baseball Operations.
15) One of the worst aspects of the dark era of 1998 through 2011 was that seasons were over before they began. It made for an apathetic fan-base, and basically lost a generation of would be fans. One of the best aspects of these last 5 years has been regularly having a chance. Watching the O’s play lots of games which mattered. Seeing a bunch of younger fans become excited about being fans. It’s definitely disappointing feeling that we’re in for a summer of apathy. Could be a long, and ugly few months. The results will only make ’18 and on that much clearer, or raise additional questions.