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How Can The Orioles Salvage Their Winter – While Operating Under The Parameters They’ve Set?

We’re under 100 days until the Orioles 2018 season begins.

Catch the excitement Baltimore!

Many people struggle around the Holidays. 
What do you think life has been like inside the O’s Sales Department this off-season?

I’m picturing tubbleweeds piling up throughout The Warehouse, with Sales Reps looking for a noose.

How can the O’s salvage their Winter, while operating under the parameters they’ve set?

Let’s begin by defining those parameters:

1) The O’s are now telling people they won’t trade Machado (unless the offers significantly jump).
2) With Britton injured, many believe the O’s won’t trade Brach.
3) We live in a world where the O’s believe Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn are too expensive. Thus you can’t legitimately discuss Jake Arrieta, or Yu Darvish as options.
4) The O’s have told anyone that will listen, that one of the SPs they obtain, should be a lefty (which is silly overall, just obtain the best talent you can).
5) The O’s are still trying to contend in ’18 (at-least they’d like to believe, and like their fans to believe).

So, to recap – The O’s want to contend in ’18 without trading Manny, without having Britton and/or Brach available for SP, are unwilling to spend on options like Cobb and Lynn, and still have 3 spots to fill in their rotation (yes, it seems clear the O’s are going to try and let one of Castro, Ynoa, or Cortes be their 5th).

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

Realistically we should probably define further what ‘contention’ means.

If contention is building a team that when Spring Training starts we can look at and legitimately believe can contend for the ’18 AL East Title – that’s not going to happen.

If contention means building a team that we can look at and legitimately believe has a chance to contend for one of the two AL Wild Cards – that’s still plausible, but currently unlikely.

The O’s won 75 games in ’17.  As of today, FanGraphs has the O’s as a 75 win team for ’18.

If we start there (75 wins) as the current baseline for the roster (and that projection was prior to Britton’s injury); the O’s have work to do, to look like a true Wild Card contender (typically 88-92 wins).

Let’s keep things simple. How do the O’s get from where they are, to looking like an 85 win team? The thought being that if you enter the Spring looking like an 85 win team, you certainly will have the possibility of playing up and grabbing one of the two WC’s.

And let’s review the roster, if the season were opening today:

Infield: Davis, Schoop, Beckham, Machado, Sisco*
OF: Mancini, Jones, Hays**
DH: Trumbo
Bench: Joseph, UTI Inf, Santander, Brugman
Rotation: Gausman, Bundy, Castro, Ynoa, Cortes (Asher, Wright, Kelly)
Bullpen: Brach, O’Day, Givens, Bleir, Hart, Yacabonis / Asher / Wright / Kelly, Mesa***

*Sisco – I’d like to see him start, or at-least be in a split-time system with Joseph. Won’t shock me if he starts at AAA, and Wynns is the backup Opening Day catcher with Joseph starting.

**Hays – I can see the argument of sending him back to AAA, getting that additional year of service time, and letting him work on vulnerabilities some people believe will be exploited in the Majors. Right now, given the roster, he’d be my Opening Day RF.  I’d be find with batting him 9th, knowing he can play good defense, run, and has some pop. I would just be looking to see him get better offensively month-to-month.

***Mesa – I know little about him beyond his bloodlines, and his stat-line; but as a Rule V he at-least figures to get a good look this Spring. If the O’s like his arm, and believe he can contribute at an inning at a time, he has a decent chance to stay on the roster.

That’s your starting point.

How do you improve on that, while operating under the O’s parameters?

The best available Free Agent Starting Pitchers in the market below Cobb and Lynn are Andrew Cashner, Jamie Garcia, and Jason Vargas.

You look at the peripherals of those guys, and you can’t be excited.

The absolute best case scenario for that group is that they would be serviceable stop gaps.

They’d be handed the ball, and you’d just be hoping that even if they were the below-average starters they’d figure to be; that they’d be a step-up from the horribleness you received in ’17 from Tillman, Jimenez, and Miley.

Cashner, Garcia, and Vargas are there for the taking. If you are ‘trying to contend’, they are obviously better options vs. going with Castro, Ynoa, Cortes.

For anyone that would balk at that statement, I’m not giving a ringing endorsement to Cashner, Garcia, Vargas. I’m simply acknowledging they did put up a combined 500+ Major League innings in ’17.

One would think that if the O’s ‘want to contend’, they wouldn’t be satisfied with going with one of Castro / Ynoa / Cortes as their 5th.

One would also think if the O’s ‘want to contend’, they wouldn’t be in a position of looking at options like Cashner, Garcia, and Vargas as upgrades – but alas, here we are.

I’d argue the O’s should go and lock-up one of Cashner / Garcia / Vargas between now and Christmas and at-least enter the last week of December feeling reasonably confident in three of their five starters.

Out of that Cashner, Garcia, Vargas trio – Cashner would be my ‘preference.’ Let’s go with the MLBTR projection of 2 years, $20M.

Then I’d turn my attention to obtaining another rotation option via trade.

The O’s have already shown interest this Winter in Danny Duffy, and Gerrit Cole.

Frankly their interest in these arms are the most encouraging things I’ve seen out of the O’s this Winter. At-least they’ve identified two guys with legitimate ability.

Duffy is under contract through 2021, Cole is under contract through 2019.

I personally am higher on Cole, and also think he’d be easier (not easy) to obtain.

Could the O’s pry Cole for Mountcastle, Scott, and Mullins? Maybe not, but I think the Pirates would have to at-least consider that offer.  That’s 18 years of team control represented in 3 players with some upside, for a starter with just 2 remaining years of control. Seems reasonable to me. Reasonable at-least with my orange colored glasses, and love for Cole.

I like the oft-rumored idea of the O’s pursuing OF Carlos Gonzalez. Again, let’s go with the MLBTR prediction of 1 year, $12M.

With Gonzalez on-board, you could start Hays at AAA. The hope being that Trumbo gets off to a quality start, and becomes moveable.  Once / if you moved Trumbo; you could move Mancini to DH, and have Gonzalez and Hays on the corners.

Even before Britton’s injury, the O’s wanted another lefty in the pen. Tony Watson has some appeal to me. Has decent velocity, and has made at-least 67 appearances each year since 2012. RHH hit him pretty good in ’17, but his 3 year splits are pretty good. MLBTR had him at 2 years, $12M.

I think a Flaherty return is inevitable, so let’s pencil that in as well.

So, I’ve signed Cashner, traded for Cole, signed Gonzalez, and signed Watson.

That would have the roster looking like:

Infield: Davis, Schoop, Beckham, Machado, Sisco
OF: Mancini, Jones, Gonzalez
DH: Trumbo
Bench: Joseph, Flaherty, Santander, Brugman
Rotation: Gausman, Cole, Bundy, Cashner, Castro / Ynoa / Cortes
Bullpen: Brach, O’Day, Givens, Watson, Bleir, Hart, Mesa

Is that an 85 win team?

It’s in the ballpark.

I’d like the everyday lineup.

A rotation headed by Gausman / Cole / Bundy would have a chance to emerge and be really good.

The bullpen could still be solid (especially if the rotation was better), and improved whenever Britton returned.

Final Thoughts:

A) I hope it’s clear that I don’t love this plan. It only gives you a chance in ’18, and doesn’t position you well at all after next year. That’s a mistake, and not how the O’s should be attempting to operate – but the O’s dance to their own beat.

B) It does give you better odds vs. the roster you have today though, and if the O’s are going to operate under the above parameters – hey, that’s something.

C) If Mountcastle, Scott, Mullins was enough to get Cole (and it might not be); it’s still a fair amount for the O’s to give up. Mountcastle’s position is tbd, but people believe in his bat. Scott has to show he can find the plate, but his arm talent is real. Mullins might be a 4th OF in the Majors, but he has an interesting game. If you trade that trio, you have do everything you can to extend Cole.

D) Since the announcement of Britton’s injury, there has been some talk about the O’s possibly releasing him. That would be a mistake in my opinion. I think the O’s should be pursuing an extension. See if the injury gives you an opportunity to get him extended at a discount.

E) If you aren’t going to trade Machado right now – how about doing something crazy like making another effort to sign him? How much more do you think he’s going to bring back vs. the packages you’ve received in the last week; if you make him available at the non-waiver deadline? 

E1) The offer I’d present is this. Manny can pick the years. The average AAV would be $30M. I’d offer opt-outs every year after Year 3.  Machado can decide if he’s comfortable with any deferred money. If he wants SS, it’s his.

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Chris Stoner

Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director. You can reach him via email at [email protected].

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