Mike Elias has been at the head of the Orioles rebuilding efforts for just over one full calendar year. We know how awful the team was last year and it seems as though we are going to be in for a down year in 2020 and perhaps beyond that. I was okay with how things were handled in 2019. Elias came in late and didn’t know the organization, the people in it or the players that play in it. It takes some time to evaluate all of that, see what the strengths and weaknesses are and decide how to proceed from there.

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I wanted them to make more trades at the deadline but I have to think Elias didn’t get good offers or else he would have moved players. I liked the Cashner deal. It was only two lottery tickets you received but Cashner was a ticking time bomb and getting him out of here as quickly as possible was smart and each of those lottery tickets has upside and could become something long term.

And while I was okay with last offseason (although I did feel they should take on some guys to 1-2 year deals and see if you could get something out of them), the approach over the first year isn’t good enough for me in Year 2. While I am very happy that he has gotten rid of a lot of people and brought in his own and that we are seeing more and more dedication to technology and things like that, it is time for Elias to start making more baseball moves.

What I don’t want to see is them overpaying for mediocre vet players just to have a better record. I am good with having a better team and feel they should put a 70-75 win team on the field next year, I also don’t want to see them doing that at the expense of future roster flexibility and I don’t want to see them block any young players that should be up soon.

The start of everything, to me, is deciding on what you are doing with your 4 main trade chips. Those players would be Trey Mancini, Jonathan Villar, Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens. I would personally like to see all 4 players traded. I am not trading any of them just to trade them although if they are considering non tendering Villar, I take the best offer for him. The other three players are guys I need to see good offers for. You don’t have to be blown away to trade them or anything but I do think you need to get very good offers for them.

Givens is an interesting case to me. His K numbers were great last year, his walk numbers were a little high but within his normal range and his HR numbers were sky high. However, with the juice ball that was obviously in place in 2019, I take that with a grain of salt. Yes, he has been prone to the home run in the past but not at the rate he did last year. I am not trading him for the normal value of a reliever with a 4.50 ERA. You wouldn’t expect to have to give up much to get that player, especially one that is further along in his service time and is in arbitration money years. I am more than happy to bring Givens back in 2020 if a good deal isn’t there.

Mancini is a guy I feel they have to trade. I don’t see him as a player that is an extension candidate. He is a good player but he doesn’t give you much on the bases and is a mediocre defender. He is versatile and he does have a good hit tool, so there is value there for sure. 11 teams got 1 WAR or less out of first base last year. 3 teams had negative DH WAR last year. He was top 30 in wOBA and wRC+ in all of MLB. He was a top 50 WAR player as well. He was clearly one of the top 25ish offensive players last year, which is pretty impressive considering the great offensive years we saw throughout the league last season. I have to think that there is going to be a deal out there for him that makes sense to move him. He still has a few years of service time and he is relatively cheap, so he makes sense for a lot of teams, not just immediate contenders.

As I mentioned before, Villar is a guy that is also someone you trade. He is coming off an excellent season where he showed power, speed and defense that, while not great, won’t kill you either. While I don’t agree that he gets 10 million in arbitration, I do think something along the 8 million dollar area is likely. He is likely to be worth that next year and while that’s not cheap, it’s not overly expensive either. Again, there should be a deal out there that satisfies you enough to trade him, especially if non tendering him is on the table.

Dylan Bundy is the hardest case here. I don’t expect the offers to be great for him. I think they could get 2 guys that are ranked in the 8-15 range of a good organization. There will be no top 100 prospects for him. He has been a guy that takes the ball every 5th day, has shown to be durable and gets a lot of Ks. His BB rate is solid and he misses a lot of bats. He also gives up a lot of homers and his ERA, xFIP and FIP are usually on the high side. He is very much like Chris Tillman used to be in that he will take the ball every 5th day but he is usually only good for about 170 innings a year. Still, there is value to that and he has a good attitude and appears to have some leadership qualities. He knows how to pitch but his stuff just isn’t good enough to work up in the zone, which is where he usually works. However, I can see teams looking to trade for him. If he is your 4th or 5th starter on a good team, you are in pretty good shape.

You may ask, how do you win 70+ games in 2020 if you trade these 4 players. Forgetting a moment, the players you could get back in trade, let’s see what makes sense for 2020 in terms of player acquisitions, looking strictly at FA options (for the purposes of this article, I am not looking at guys we could trade for from other teams). I think the strength of the team in 2020 will be in the pen. Recently, Nick Stevens wrote this article on the pen. There are some arms out there that are exciting and they have some more on the way. I still would like to see the team add another arm out there for more stability. The guy at the top of my FA reliever wish list is Dellin Betances. He missed last year with a partially torn Achilles but he has been an excellent reliever for much of his career. I would be good with a 2 year deal for him but my guess is that he will be looking for a 1 year deal to re-establish his value. I would pay him as much as 10 million (I don’t think he gets this much but the O’s may have to and I think he has the upside to justify it). I would also hand him the closers role. I would hope to trade him by July but that would depend on a lot factors. Adding him to the pen we already have would give us a lot of high K, power arms out there and that would be the case whether you keep Givens or not.

The rotation has to be addressed. I have talked before about Colin McHugh. I continue to believe that he is an excellent guy to go after, assuming his elbow checks out. He has gone back and forth between the rotation and pen the last few years but I think if we hand him a rotation spot, it makes the O’s enticing for him. Figure there is a connection with Elias there as well. The oft-injured Brett Anderson is another target I like. While the K rate is poor, he keeps the ball on the ground, doesn’t walk a lot of guys and his injury history figures to keep his price down. Alex Wood is another guy that I feel would be worth looking into. He missed most of last year and has had some injury issues in the past but he also can be very good and you would think his value will be suppressed as well. He usually keeps the ball on the ground, limits walks and homers and gets his fair share of Ks. Get me a few of these types of guys (Teheran may also be in this group) …guys that can eat innings, keep you in games and whose values will be kept down. Yes, there is some injury concerns here and that could come back to bite you but I think it’s a risk worth taking for this team.

Offensively, I would go sign Jose Iglesias. His defense is still very good and he hits enough to be worth signing. I think it’s important to add some defense to this team, especially the IF. Let’s help out the pitching as best as possible. Starlin Castro is a potential bounce back candidate for me. Miami is a tough hitters park and while he has never been a great hitter, I think he could get back to a 780-810 level OPS guy in a better hitter’s park. I wouldn’t think he will be costly either. His defense has traditionally been suspect at second but UZR had him showing improvement in 2019. Still, I wouldn’t count on great defense from him, although I don’t think it will be much worse than Villar or Alberto either. The last guy I would target is Avisail Garcia. He plays a good enough RF. He has played in parks that could hurt his offense as well, so I think an 800+ OPS season from him is reasonable. He gives you a fairly decent BA as well. He is coming off a good year in Tampa but again, not one where it should make him a ton of money either.

Putting all of this together, you have this team (with the assumption that the other 4 are traded):

1st – Mountcastle (but not until the third week of the season for service time reasons)
2nd – Castro
SS – Iglesias
3rd – Alberto
RF – Garcia
CF – Hays
LF – Santander
DH – Nunez
C – Sisco

Bench: Davis (I would cut him but don’t think they will), Severino, Ruiz, Wilkerson, Smith Jr…Decision made when Mountcastle comes up on which of those guys is sent down/DFA’ed

Rotation: Cobb, Means, 3 of the pitchers listed above or 2 of them and Akin

BP: Betances, Harvey, Tate, Scott, Armstrong. I like those 5. Other 2 spots could go to a myriad of guys, including perhaps some guys who get MiL deals or something like that.

That’s certainly not a great team but it is a team that should be better than last year and one that doesn’t stop you from continuing to go through the process. By the deadline, I would hope to see Diaz up, as well as a few of the other guys like Pop (if he is healthy and back) and Kremer, to name a few.

Again, this is just looking at acquisitions solely through the eyes of free agents. There are obviously a lot of ways to go but I do hope that Elias does enough to make the team more competitive.  While this does add some vets to the team and there isn’t much long term upside with most of them, I do think he can bring in guys that can help now, can get you players in July and be a good bridge to some of the other young guys I expect to see as the season goes on.  These guys will all likely get 1 or 2 year deals and the money will be kept down.  There will be no overpaying or foolish moves that jeopardize anything long term.  I feel that many of these moves to carry an immediate upside that could at least make the team entertaining and perhaps give you more ammo for trades in July or even QO opportunities that could result in another draft pick.

Rob Shields
Rob Shields

Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570. Co-Host of The Warehouse: https://anchor.fm/the-warehouse Co-Host of Sports Tonight: https://anchor.fm/sports-tonight