Monday night’s loss to the Tigers continued to doom the Orioles playoff chances. It’s the type of game that shifts the focus from how the team can improve now to what the team must change moving forward. The Orioles likely needed to sweep the Tigers to have any chance at a wild card spot this season, but they must improve to make the playoffs next year.
I wondered last week whether the Orioles offense could face more turnover than the pitching staff. There will be turnover in the line up this offseason, but could a shift in philosophy come with it?
You can’t put a value on veteran leadership You can, however, figure out how those veterans are performing at the plate. Brandon Hyde has spoken extensively about the value that Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos bring to the team, but FanGraphs and Baseball Reference disagree.
I’m not here to take a shot at the few experienced players on a surprisingly successful club. Odor, Chirinos, Brett Phillips and others have brought energy to the dugout. They’ve helped establish a winning culture in Baltimore, and steadied the locker room after the Orioles traded Trey Mancini.
Still, the numbers do not lie. Odor is hitting .196 with a -0.4 WAR according to Baseball Reference. Chirinos checks in with a .178 average and -0.2 WAR. It’s easy to focus on a guy’s ability to turn a double play when the offense is rolling, but the chirps get louder when the team can’t hit a lefty with a 5+ ERA.
Like it or not, Hyde has stuck with his guys this year. I won’t argue with someone earning Manager of the Year buzz, but I will ask if the Orioles have a place for players like Odor moving forward.
Mike Elias has delivered on his promise to rebuild the farm system. Baltimore’s prospects rank among the best in the bigs, and they are finally making their way to the show. Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson rocked Birdland with their long-awaited debuts, but the system is not top heavy. The Orioles now have an ability to fill holes from their own organization instead of exclusively looking to the waiver wire.
Cedric Mullins, Baltimore’s seventh best prospect in 2018 according to MLB.com, led the team out of the dugout during his major league debut. The arrival of Mullins marked a reason to celebrate during a difficult season. Now, with an improved system, some debuts have become less of an event.
Kyle Stowers was named a co-winner of the Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award last season. He debuted during a random series north of the border. Mullins won the award in 2018 and bumped Adam Jones from his position. Kyle Stowers can’t even get an at bat against lefties.
Jordan Westburg could easily break camp with the team next season, but Connor Norby will be ready at some point too. The same goes for Colton Cowser, and that’s before Elias delivers on his word to bolster the club with free agents.
There are players out there that can fill the veteran role without sacrificing at the plate. Stars like Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Abreu or Freddie Freeman might be a stretch, but the Orioles should be in the market for veterans that actually bring something to the table.
The White Sox paid Josh Harrison $5.5 million to add experience to the infield this season. The Mariners brought in Adam Frazier (1 year, $8 million) with intent to contend. Neither player will carry their team to the postseason, but they could resemble the type of player the Orioles target this offseason.
Good teams rarely need to search for a veteran presence because their players already know what it’s like to win. The Orioles have learned what it’s like to be in the hunt down the stretch. If all goes to plan, they will have plenty of players with postseason experience by the end of next season.