It didn’t take long for Orioles fans, players and front office members to figure out this team was not going to compete for a playoff spot this year. It did not take much longer for everyone to realize that the team likely won’t be a competitor in 2019 either.
Anyone holding out hope for next year had to take their medicine when the Orioles dealt away players like Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman at the July 31 trade deadline. After parting ways with once-in-a-generation player, and free-agent-to-be, Manny Machado, Baltimore also punted on promising guys like Schoop and Gausman. It made a statement that the team was embracing a full rebuild. Some have an idea what the rebuild blue prints should look like, but nobody knows exactly how this will all unfold.
While many fans have checked out on the 2018 Orioles, those still hanging around are faced with the daunting reality of what next year will look like. But the reality is, there’s no way of knowing. That’s not meant to imply that the Orioles will catapult from last to first in the standings, but to simply state that no one knows what the team will look like.
Will Buck Showalter still be the manager? Who is calling the shots in the front office? What prospects break camp with the team, and did Chris Davis patch any of the holes in his bat? There’s more questions than answers with this ball club, but only a few of those can truly impact the future.
The pivotal decisions lay with the front office and manager decisions. With winning all but ruled out in 2019, the Orioles need to find out who will be laying the ground work for the future. That ground work will likely include a few trades, but this offseason may be slower than one might think.
The Orioles would be selling extremely low on Dylan Bundy if they moved him this offseason. Bundy is currently 7-14 with a 5.58 ERA. He leads the league in home runs allowed at 37, and his WHIP is an astounding 1.420. The former first round pick has not provided anyone a reason to believe that he’ll bounce back this year, and he’s running out of time to do so.
Bundy would almost certainly benefit from a change of scenery, and the Orioles are still looking for an influx of prospects, but it’s hard to see Baltimore getting anything close to what a talent like Bundy should command. Teams may look at former-Bird Kevin Gausman’s 2.32 ERA in seven starts for Atlanta and be encouraged, but it’s unlikely a club would be moved to pursue the league leader in round-trippers allowed. The real question is whether the Orioles find a pitching coach that can help Bundy bounce back.
That being said, the Orioles could make a deal or two before next season. Would the club eat a portion of Mark Trumbo’s salary to facilitate a deal? Trumbo played well before a season-ending knee surgery, and dealing Trumbo would free up playing time at first for Trey Mancini and in the outfield.
Could either Alex Cobb or Andrew Cashner be shipped off? Cobb has impressed in the second half, but a team would be taking a real chance with the righty. The Orioles signed him last off season to a four-year, $57 million deal that runs through 2021. Andrew Cashner only has one year remaining, but his 4.89 ERA will not garner much hope.
Will the Orioles current face of the franchise stick around? Adam Jones could man right field and provide fans a reason to come to the ball park during another losing season. But the club has to make an offer to the 33-year old, and he has to prefer staying in Baltimore over chasing a ring with a contender.
Regardless of whether any of these things happen, the Orioles should improve in some capacity next season, right? The club has to have hit rock bottom by now, the question is how long they will stay there.
Many have pointed to the Houston Astros as a rebuilding role model, and rightfully so. The Astros lost 111 games in 2013, but underwent a massive overhaul before eventually winning the 2017 World Series. While the Astros represent the ultimate rebuild, that process started prior to 2013. Houston lost over 100 games 2011-2013 before finally turning a corner. Sure, that’s when a portion of the team’s talent was acquired, but it doesn’t bode well for the short term future in Baltimore.
Another recent World Series champion has some dark years in their past. The Royals finished with triple digit losses in 2004-2006, but their trouble did not stop there. Kansas City suffered nine consecutive losing seasons before turning the corner in 2013. The club won 95 games in 2015 before clinching the World Series.
The Astros and Royals took different paths to rebuilding, and both came after long stretches of losing. The Orioles have the advantage of already knowing that they need to blow things up, but there’s no way of knowing how long it could take. All the club can do is look at past success stories, and attempt to steer itself in the right direction.