How to Make the 2018 Orioles Work
At this point, it feels like the winter freeze outside is more likely to thaw soon than the one which has gripped the MLB offseason. That has given fans and writers a long time to evaluate what their respective teams have stocking the cupboards, what the teams should do, will do and all of that sort of thing.
To the detriment of the Baltimore Orioles, it has also led to drawn-out chatter about a potential Manny Machado trade — and by definition, a clearer and perhaps harsher realization that he may be gone in a year no matter what — and Zach Britton suffering a serious Achilles injury while working out in preparation for the 2018 season.
(Chat about this on the BSL boards here!)
But it’s not like the Orioles are totally broke or broken. Sure they finished last in 2017, but they still won 75 games while getting almost nothing from Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Mark Trumbo and a lesser version of Machado. They have two starters that many teams would like to start a rotation with, and according to Cot’s Contracts (via Baseball Prospectus) could still spend a little over $40 million and still not even reach their Opening Day payroll from last year.
That’s something to work with, right? Especially now that we’re this deep into the offseason, where players are slashing years and dollars off their expectations just simply so they can have a place in Arizona or Florida to call home this spring.
So let’s take a look at how we can the 2018 Orioles the best version they possibly can be — within reason. We’re still going to operate within the idea that Machado may, in fact, leave in the near future, so we aren’t going to break the budget to sign a Yu Darvish or to bring back Jake Arrieta. But with that said, we won’t be super slavish to the idea of 40-man space or anything like that.
We’re operating in a bit of a vacuum, you might say, but we’ll still try to stay realistic.
- C – Chance Sisco
- 1B – Chris Davis
- 2B – Jonathan Schoop
- 3B – Manny Machado
- SS – Tim Beckham
- LF – Trey Mancini
- CF – Adam Jones
- RF – OPEN
- DH – Mark Trumbo
Note: I’ve emboldened the givens, and I’m not sure there’s a ton of need for discussion. Regardless of if it’s pedigree- or salary-based, it’s hard to see any of these guys giving up their roles.
Sisco had a decent season at Triple-A Norfolk last year (.267/.340/.395), though the power was not terribly inspiring. Still, there’s enough discipline and skill here to not feel like he needs to show that on the farm before he gets an extended look. If not, the O’s will could go with Austin Wynns back there to help Caleb Joseph shoulder the load. Wynns hasn’t played at Triple-A or anything, but he’s also heading into his age-27 season, is on the 40-man roster and hit pretty well at Bowie (.281/.377/.419) last year. He’s worth a look. In short, I don’t think they’re signing Jonathan Lucroy or anything.
That really only leaves right field as an option. And while I know some people are really, really pining for Carlos Gonzalez, I have a different idea:
Sign Jarrod Dyson to a one-year, $5 million deal with a team option for 2019 ($7 million)
Dyson will be 34 in August, and still somehow has never gotten more than 400 plate appearances in any season. While he has no power to speak of — 12 career homers, with five coming last year — he’s routinely a 2 to 3-win player thanks to speed, contact and of course, defense. The Orioles have punted outfield defense in recent seasons, but Dyson’s skill set is still underrated to the point where he’ll sign a cheap deal and give the team some things they don’t already have. And while I know the days of hitting the fast guy leadoff are waning, he rarely strikes out and walks just under the league-average rate. At the very least, he’s a good No. 9 hitter to turn the order over with.
He also doesn’t require a long-term commitment if the team if the team opts to retool following 2018. Plus, he’s a perfect mix-and-match partner for Joey Rickard, who hits lefties better.
- C – Caleb Joseph
- IF – OPEN
- OF – Jaycob Brugman
- OF – Joey Rickard
With the bench, I do see the idea that you’d rather have another infielder rather than two outfielders — and maybe in that case, the Orioles would just start Brugman and scrap the Dyson plan — but if not, I think this is probably how it’d look. In that case, you need a jack-of-all-trades infielder to help you out, though it helps that Beckham and Machado can play short, and Schoop even saw a few innings over there as well.
So to fill in that role, I’d probably….
Sign Eduardo Nunez to a two-year deal worth $15 million ($7.5m-$7.5m)
Nunez doesn’t make waves in the clubhouse, is willing to play all over and again adds some speed and contact ability to a team that doesn’t have a ton. He batted leadoff for the Twins for quite some time — not advisable based on his career walk rate of 4.9 percent and last year’s 3.7 percent — but again, he’s a nice player who is still on the market, and thus his contract demands should have come down a bit. Ryan Goins as a fallback option isn’t a bad idea, either.
- 1. Kevin Gausman
- 2. Dylan Bundy
- 3. Gabriel Ynoa
- 4. OPEN
- 5. OPEN
I’m admittedly intrigued by Ynoa, but not sure I want him anything close to ironclad at this point. But I’d give him a look as the team’s No. 5 starter, and I’d be lying if I said that Gausman and Bundy wasn’t a really night foundation. With that said, like a few key cogs on offense, they were merely solid last year. The Orioles need more, and the team should also add some help to put them in a better position overall. To fill in the two open spots we see here, I’d…..
Sign Jaime Garcia (two years, $20 million) and one of Chris Tillman/Jeremy Hellickson/Brett Anderson/Clay Buchholz (whoever will take $5 million to rebuild their value for one year). I’d also offer minor-league deals with low MLB bases to Derek Holland, A.J. Griffin and Hector Santiago.
There isn’t much shine on Garcia, but he’s more than serviceable, still only 31 and gets plenty of grounders (56.2 percent), strikeouts (7.3 K/9) and limits the walks (2.8 BB/9). In a riper offseason, he might be looking at a three- or four-year deal worth something like $40 million, but this flatlining market has opened up some new avenues. I’m not wild about any of the fliers on the other guys, but for $5 million, you just aren’t going to get much even in today’s market. I’m open to ideas if you have them.
- RP1 – OPEN
- RP2 – OPEN
- RP3 – Miguel Castro
- RP4 – Richard Bleier
- RP5 – Mychal Givens
- RP6 – Darren O’Day
- CL – Brad Brach
Britton’s injury dealt a crippling blow to what could have been a good bullpen. Brach and O’Day both had solid years last season and could fill in at closer, but shortening the totem pole just hurts the depth. It’s not that advanced of a thought, really. I like Givens a lot and Bleier is super interesting with his no strikeouts, no walks and only grounders approach, but beyond that, I find it wide open. Castro has a live arm, a big fastball and keeps the ball on the ground, but beyond that, you’re left with the Donnie Harts of the world. So….
Sign Matt Belisle (one year, $3 million) and Trevor Cahill (one year, $4 million plus starts incentives) for the bullpen. Backup plan here would be to sign Jesse Chavez as a swingman.
Belisle filled in admirably for the Twins after the team traded Brandon Kintzler at the deadline, and really had a tale of two seasons — pre- and post-San Francisco.
The Twins went to the bay in mid-June, and Belisle came out of that series with an 8.59 ERA in 22 innings. Over the rest of the season, he was a man on fire: 1.41 ERA, .544 OPS against and 36-8 K/BB ratio in 38.1 innings. He has closing experience and plenty late-inning experience besides, and could help prop up the existing guys or just take the closer’s role and let everyone else stay where they’re comfortable.
Cahill can work as a starter or a reliever, and was fairly solid for the Cubs in relief in 2016: 2.74 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and a GB rate of 56.6 percent. The Padres made him a starter to open 2017, and he had strong numbers — 3.69 ERA (3.40 FIP), 10.6 K/9, 56.8 percent GB rate — in 11 starts before he was dealt to Kansas City, where his health and season fell apart.
He’s still just going to be 30 in March, and could be a good bounce-back candidate after posting a .326 BABIP last year.
Overall, I think we’ve improved this team while adding roughly $35 million to this year’s budget. So….what would you do to make the 2018 Orioles the best version of themselves?