When examining the current state of the Orioles, one must look for the bright side. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself swimming in a black and orange sea of negativity. Baltimore has put together consecutive 100-loss seasons, and there’s very little hope for the immediate future.
“There’s a plan in place.” That’s a big one for most. The Orioles, seemingly at rock bottom, have realized that drastic change are necessary. That’s step one. Step two? They hired Mike Elias, and Elias has started putting his touch on the organization. It will take time.
But you all know this. We’re all aware that the journey back to winning is a long one. At times, it’s been tough to watch. It will be tough to watch again next season. So what is there to get excited about?
The O’s farm system is on the rise. The organization’s farm system has entered the top 10 in multiple league rankings, and there are several players worth our attention. Still, Ryan Mountcastle likely won’t crack the opening day roster, and several of the club’s young guns are still a year or two away. If you missed Camden Chat’s prospect year in reviews, you can check them out here. But if you’re looking for new players to get excited about, you’ll have to turn your eye to free agency.
The unfortunate truth is that Baltimore will not be active in free agency this off season. Ironically, it’s not “strategically relevant” for a team lacking good players to go sign new players. The Orioles will peruse the clearance rack come February, and likely end up with a few low-risk, low-reward type of players.
The Birds are legitimately set at a few spots, so which positions will Baltimore target this off season?
Let’s get this one out of the way. The club probably doesn’t need any more first base/designated hitter types. Even with the departure of the now-redeemed Mark Trumbo, Baltimore’s still full. Our Drew Bonifant believes that Trey Mancini should be off limits, but there’s a chance he could be moved. Chris Davis certainly won’t be dealt, but the Orioles likely will not cut the cord just yet.
Dealing Mancini could create a spot, but the same can be said about Jonathan Villar and the middle infield. Regardless of whether Villar is traded, non-tendered or in Baltimore on Opening Day, the Orioles should look around for middle infield help. Jordy Mercer and a few other veterans have been thrown around, but the O’s could stick with Richie Martin at short. The Orioles will likely bring in someone similar to Alcides Escobar and make a decision on what is best for Martin this spring.
The club appears to be set at catcher with Chance Sisco, Pedro Severino and Austin Wynns. Sisco and Severino should serve as battery mates to the O’s staff in April, with Wynns providing depth in the organization.
The Orioles outfield depth took a hit last year and again this off season. Cedric Mullins could not hit at the Major League level and his struggles continued at Norfolk. DJ Stewart underwent a “microfracture procedure” that could keep him out into at least spring training. Austin Hays emerged as a legitimate center field candidate in September, but his medical record, paired with a lack of experience, make it difficult to bank on him right away.
Anthony Santander showed promise last year and can be penciled into a starting role. Mancini could spend time in right if the club starts Davis or Renato Núñez at first base. Baltimore could get away with Dwight Smith Jr. or Stevie Wilkerson handling outfield duties until Stewart returns, but a low-risk free agent or eventual waiver claim could work here too.
The most glaring hole on the 2019 Orioles was a lack of Major League caliber pitching. The rotation took an immediate hit when Alex Cobb was lost for the season, and the 32-year-old will be back this year. John Means finished second in the A.L. Rookie of the Year competition and will look to avoid a sophomore slump. It gets a bit foggy after those two.
There’s a legitimate chance that Dylan Bundy could be moved this offseason. While the Orioles would be selling a bit low on the former first-round pick, there’s really no guarantee that they’d have a chance to sell high. Bundy could return to Baltimore and pitch well before the trade deadline, and there’s definitely a place for him on the staff, but it’s no guarantee.
Asher Wojciechowski will be back and is a warm body with a right arm attached to it, so he figures to be in the conversation. After that, who knows?
The Orioles need to sign multiple starting pitchers before opening against the Yankees at the end of March. Ivan Nova has been mentioned, and who knows if Andrew Cashner would be up for a reunion. Remember when he didn’t want to leave? There’s no way of knowing who the club would sign, and it hasn’t been linked to anyone in a major way, but the rotation needs a touch of credibility and at least some depth.
Ideally, that rotation would protect a bullpen that Tyler Young believes is poised to bounce back in 2020. The O’s won’t bother calling any high-priced relievers, and they may not sign one at all. The bullpen has several viable options, and could always see a left-handed waiver claim when rosters are finalized.
The Orioles may not be competing yet, but every club must field a team. The amount of holes will depend on potential trades, but look for the Orioles to sign at least one starting pitcher and middle infielder. There’s really no way of knowing past that. Elias may not be the dumpster diver that former GM Dan Duquette was, but this team could benefit from a cheap veteran or two. Speaking of Duquette, there’s always the Rule 5 draft as well.
What position do you think the Orioles must focus on in free agency, and are there any specific players you’d like to see in Black and Orange? Let us know!