With the Orioles rebuild officially underway, the team is already making decisions that will impact the next winning club in Baltimore. The most important task the Orioles can begin to accomplish is determining who has a quality shot to be on that team.
The Orioles are bad for a number of reasons. Several players, at several positions, have under performed or were never good enough to begin with. The team has a plethora of holes that need to be filled, and several positions that are lacking internally. One or two players would not have turned this year’s club into a contender, so fixing just one or two positions won’t do the trick. This is where things get complicated.
The Orioles really only have depth at two positions— Outfield and first base. Unfortunately, the Orioles have the worst kind of depth— A logjam.
Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini will all return to the Orioles in 2019. All three of those players have had varying success at the position, and all could potentially bring something to the table (well, at least two of the three). But there’s one pretty big issue, there’s only one first base.
Let’s get the painful one out of the way. Chris Davis is signed through 2022 for entirely too much money. No team will be even remotely interested in making a deal for the former MLB leader in home runs, and he hasn’t hit over .225 since 2015. Davis will be on the roster for the next several years, unless the Orioles decide that he’s toast.
Mark Trumbo, before recently returning to the disabled list, had proved he is still a legitimate major leaguer. And yet, Trumbo had mostly proved this from right field and as a designated hitter. Trumbo is under contract through next season, and likely will not garner significant trade interest until next year’s trade deadline.
Having an experienced, former All-Star mentor could certainly benefit young players, but Trumbo needs a position. However, keeping Trumbo in the outfield would not benefit young Oriole pitchers, and it’s already getting pretty crowded out there.
Speaking of first basemen posing as outfielders, Trey Mancini is less than a year removed from a top three finish in American League Rookie of the Year. Mancini, who won’t be a free agent until 2023, holds the most upside of the three Birds. He’s done his best to play serviceable in left field, but a Buck Showalter led winning team should have three true outfielders playing quality defense. There’s certainly not a shortage of outfielders in Baltimore.
With Adam Jones and Craig Gentry set to depart, the Orioles still have a logjam to clear away. Mancini and Trumbo have to be included, seeing how they played the outfield for a majority of the year. But the Orioles actually have a plethora of options to man the grass.
Cedric Mullins has excited fans with his strong start. If the rookie was able to supplant Jones in center field, he’d have to really struggle over the next month to lose next year’s starting center field position. The Orioles are going to give John Andreoli a chance to show them something, and there’s always a chance Jones or Gentry return.
The Orioles farm systems has faced more than its fair share of criticism, but there are several legitimate outfield prospects stashed in the minors. Yusniel Diaz, the Orioles top prospect according to MLB.com, is certainly expected to factor into the team’s plans. Austin Hays, who was once ranked as the club’s top prospect, will be back from injury and ready to bounce back from his lost year of 2018.
DJ Stewart made an impression back in spring training, and he’s been playing both corner outfield spots at Triple-A Norfolk this season. Steward will be a candidate for a September call up, and it is unknown how the Orioles plan on handling Hays for the remainder of the year.
Not every prospect will be a hit, and it’s great to have options, but the Orioles sure could use a little more depth at different positions. I haven’t even mentioned Joey Rickard, who has bounced back and forth from Baltimore and Norfolk, or 27-year-old Mike Yastrzemski.
The young guys need to be on the field to develop, and there’s not enough room for everyone. While some fans would love to see Davis released and Trumbo traded, it’s a lot easier said than done. Baltimore might as well get whatever production they can out of Davis, while hoping for a statistical recovery. The money is spent either way, so they’ll try to squeeze out a few home runs. He certainly doesn’t have to play every day. The Orioles should shop Trumbo during the offseason, or even before the end of the month, but he’ll likely be around until next July.
Mullins is here to stay, while Jones should be gone for good after the end of the season. His stance on being trading is not benefiting the organization, but the club cannot do anything about it. Hays may be the biggest wild card in the outfield, and Diaz could force a promotion by playing well next season.
The Orioles will be forced to consider trades for guys like Yaz or Rickard, or anyone that can’t prove their worth on the roster. They won’t receive a big haul, but they could exchange an outfielder for an under-performing starting pitcher who may need a change of scenery.
Unfortunately, the only way to prove you can contribute is to actually be on the field. The Orioles need to get better at almost every position, and logjams don’t work in a rebuild. The team must identify who they want on the big league roster, and use whatever is left to try and improve the team in every way possible.