The Orioles 2018 season has been an amusement park ride that only free falls. The ride might be broken, you could be in danger, but there’s really no reason to think that you’re going to bounce back up any time soon.
As Mark wrote on Monday, the team has performed so poorly that it’s difficult to have hope for next year’s club. That raises the question, should the Orioles even bother trying to compete next year?
I’m not here to advocate the Orioles tank the season. Most fans feel that the Birds don’t need any extra motivation to lose games, and that may be a reality that carries over into next year. But if this current roster is so far removed from resembling a winning baseball team, how could the team possibly turn it around in one year?
Orioles fans don’t have to think too far back to see how quick fixes turn out. The team spends nearly $60 million on a starting pitcher that is mysteriously still available in late March. They sign a couple of veteran starters that have shown clear signs of regression. Maybe they add a few veterans that have lost a step or two, and then they hope that it all works out.
This year’s team has underperformed. There’s no doubt about it. But even with a return to the mean for struggling players, this roster is more than a few march signings from the bargain bin away from competing. So if the Orioles don’t attempt a quick fix, what does that mean?
First of all, the team needs to make this decision ASAP, because this year’s trade deadline is when the rebuild kicks off. The Orioles are going to lose their best player at some point this season. I have not heard one sane argument that advocates for keeping Manny Machado, unless someone feels the Orioles will make a legitimate attempt at resigning him, so the former Platinum Gold Glove award winner will be on the move.
There are a few other obvious trade candidates. If Zach Britton can prove his worth to another team, the free agent to be will be on the trading block. The same goes for current Orioles closer Brad Brach, and hopefully any other player with an expiring contract. This is where things get a little more difficult for fans.
If Adam Jones would be willing to waive his no trade clause to play for a contender, the Orioles must make the deal. The move may initially be met with the same ire that Pirates fans showed when the team dealt Andrew McCutchen, but nostalgia does not win baseball games. Additionally, a slow Adam Jones roaming center field is not enough to keep ticket sales afloat.
After that, the Orioles must consider dealing players with multiple years of control left. Naturally, more time under team control makes a player more valuable. Do the Orioles truly want to build around Jonathan Schoop, or are they willing to sell low on the second baseman who has struggled this season. Schoop will be a free agent after 2019, and the team must decide the best way to maximize his value.
The same goes for Kevin Gausman. Under control until 2020, Baltimore does not absolutely need to make a decision this July. However, his value may never increase past its current point. Many teams likely believe they could tap deeper into what made Gausman a former top prospect, but another year of an ERA well over four could change that. As we’ve seen with Machado and Britton, players lose their value if they are not dealt at the right time.
Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are also in the final years of their contracts. While neither will be traded before July 31, the organization should decide whether they want to bring those two back. If the Orioles plan on going a different direction at general manager, they should not have a lame duck GM making decisions about a future rebuild.
The prospects that Mark mentioned in his article should all get a shot sooner or later. Cedric Mullins, Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart all could make an impact in Baltimore, but none of them should be treated as a savior. The Orioles need to find out what exactly they have in this group before they pencil them in as a solution.
Most fans understand this situation by now. Small market teams, and really any team that does not spend like the giants (literally and figuratively) go through periods where they have a chance to compete. The right steps can be taken to prolong the window, but it only takes a bit of bad luck or a few wrong moves to end that term. The Orioles window has been boarded up and sealed shut at this point.
The Braves have provided an excellent example for a proper rebuild. After winning the division in 2013, Atlanta began to fall off in 2014. The Braves lost at least 90 games in 2015-through-2017, while stock piling prospects and building up talent. Now, the Braves sit atop the NL East with a young group of starting pitchers poised to carry them to the playoffs. Whether or not the Orioles could develop a group of talented prospects is a conversation for another day.
So what would you like to see? Are you alright with a long term rebuild, even if it means likely signing up for multiple losing seasons? Or do you think the Orioles should attempt to form another winner immediately? After all, they have a lot of money coming off the books this year. In a year full of losses, Orioles fans need something to root for.
How would you like to see the Orioles handle their future?
This poll is closed
A long term rebuild (likely a few years of losing, but with a plan in place)
Attempt to win in 2019 (fill holes via free agency and bank on a return to the mean for current players)