With the winter meetings over and spring training just a few weeks away, the O’s have no shortage of unanswered questions – Should the team trade Manny Machado now, mid-season or try and sign him to a long-term extension? Who will make-up three rotation slots following Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman? What does the club do with the bullpen considering Zach Britton’s latest injury?
There are a lot of uncertainties. However, the holidays are here, which means plenty of presents and hopes across Birdland. In that spirit, below are several potential gifts that would bring smiles to O’s players and fans in 2018.
Trey Mancini – no sophomore slump
For all the talk about the perilous state of the O’s level of minor league talent, Trey Mancini delivered a stellar 2017 rookie campaign. His line of .293/.338/.488 with 24 home runs was impressive. Perhaps more notable was his play in left field. What started out as an experiment turned out to not be a problem at all. Mancini’s glove in left, while not spectacular, was more than adequate and improved throughout the season.
Here’s to no sophomore slump from the University of Notre Dame product.
Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo – rediscover your stroke
Whether Orioles fans like it or not, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo are two players that will be on the field in 2018. Their contracts are completely unmovable and Buck Showalter sticks with his guys. Perhaps most frustrating was the flashes of past brilliance from both. Trumbo had several game winning doubles and home runs last year, and Crush fielded well, continued to hit moon shots to center and right – he’ll get the warehouse one day – but these successes were few and far between.
In 2018, seeing the re-emergence of the 2013/2015 Chris Davis, and the 2016 Mark Trumbo, would be a dream come true.
Jonathan Schoop – show that 2017 wasn’t a fluke
In 2017, Jonathan Schoop posted career highs in every offensive category and he was the O’s lone representative at the All-Star Game. It was an unbelievably impressive season for the 26-year-old that isn’t a free agent for two more seasons. A few years ago, he was at the bottom of the order struggling to be above the Mendoza Line, last year he spent a bunch of time in the middle as a major run producer. The trend line for Schoop is wonderful.
With all the uncertainty involving Manny Machado’s future, the potential leadership void with free agency for Adam Jones, as well as Tim Beckham’s shaky defense, the future of the O’s needs Schoop to establish himself as a legitimate MLB star. That happening would be a great gift.
Adam Jones – stay consistent, new contract
Since 2011, the hallmark of Adam Jones has been his consistency. He’s never played in less than 137 games, hit fewer than 25 home runs or had less than 73 RBI. All while winning three Gold Gloves in center field and appearing in four All Star Games. On top of that, watching anecdotally on television, at Camden Yards and occasionally on the road, Jones and his leadership is the glue that holds the team together.
Another consistent year from Jones, and a new contract to make him an Oriole for life, would be great presents.
Darren O’Day – bounce back
After the 2015 season when he was a free agent, every MLB team in need of relief pitching wanted Darren O’Day in their bullpen. He’d recorded four straight seasons with a sub 2.30 ERA and at least 68 appearances. Impressive. Unfortunately, after staying with the O’s and a four-year contract in hand, Darren has struggled with injuries, a 3.43+ ERA and very inconsistent results.
A consistent Darren O’Day – particularly with the recent injury to Zach Britton – would be an outstanding gift.
Austin Hays and Hunter Harvey – become MLB regulars
Austin Hays is 22 years old and only had 60 at bats with the big club in September 2017, but he is the Orioles number two ranked prospect and should get a chance to play every day in right field. In 128 games at Frederick and Bowie, Hays slashed .329/.365/.593, along with 32 home runs and 95 RBI. Naturally, he is a center fielder with a good arm, so the hopes are high looking to the future.
Hunter Harvey, a 2013 1st round pick that had Tommy John surgery in 2016, only pitched 18.2 innings in 2017, but was impressive only allowing 11 hits, a 0.96 ERA and striking out 30 while walking six. This off-season Buck spoke highly of Harvey and believes his injuries are behind him.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Harvey helped shore-up the back end of the rotation and Hays proved to be an everyday fixture in right field?
Dan Duquette – wisdom and luck
DD has a myriad of difficult tasks at hand when it comes to competing in the American League East and putting a team on the field O’s fans will be proud of. But, his track record as a GM is solid and the team does have money to spend. As decisions are made regarding Manny and other potential free agents, here’s hoping the gifts of wisdom and luck help deliver the goods to the Orioles.
O’s fans – patience
Yes, there are a ton of issues the team must work out. That said, despite the constant doom and gloom, it is a time of year for hope, positive thoughts and reflection.
The Orioles made the playoffs in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and the only losing season over the past six seasons was 2017. Buck Showalter is one of the top managers in baseball. They have a core of quality players under team control including Jonathan Schoop, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gasuman, Mychal Givens and others. They have several valuable trade chips to cash in now or mid-season, or sign them long-term, including Manny Machado, Brad Brach and Adam Jones. Promising young players are around in Austin Hays, Hunter Harvey and Chance Sisco.
In life and in baseball, things rarely are as good or bad as they appear. Opening Day is Thursday, March 29. That’s when a full evaluation of the team building job DD and Buck do should be evaluated. Until then Orioles fans, please accept the gifts of patience and a wonderful safe holiday season.