I’m not saying that’s out of the ordinary on some days, but this time it’s about the Orioles.
Here we are at the beginning of spring training. The skies are blue and the weather is warm down in Sarasota, and I can already hear the first Buck, “The ball looks good coming out of his hand” quote.
Hope springs eternal this time of year, but should it for Orioles fans? Honestly, it’s hard to get too excited about an organization that seemingly is confused about their plan for 2018 and certainly beyond 2018.
After coming in last place in 2017, the Orioles did just about nothing of significance to their roster this winter. Sure, it’s been a weird offseason with many prominent free agents still on the market, but the Orioles are opening up big league camp with two starters penciled into their rotation.
Now don’t get me wrong, the subtraction of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Chris Tillman from the roster is a plus, but the fact that the Orioles have only brought in Rule 5 pitchers, other team’s castoffs, and their own in house candidates of AAAA guys and middle relievers to compete for the three open spots is mind-boggling.
But my confusion goes deeper than the Orioles starting rotation woes. What is this team’s plan for not only this year, but the future as well?
It appears the Orioles were starting some kind of plan when they put Manny Machado on the market last November. With one year left of his deal it made sense to trade him for as many prospects and young retainable players as possible. Apparently, the offers were short of the kind of prospects the Orioles were requesting so they have broken camp with their star player in uniform for at least one more season.
That’s all well in good, but what’s the plan now? Are the Orioles going for it? If they are, they need at least to two quality starters to make it at even remotely interesting that they can compete for a playoff spot on 2018.
That doesn’t even take into consideration they have a right field competition in which the top two players (Hays and Santander) haven’t played much over Double-A, they lost 20 home runs from the catcher’s spot when Welligton Castillo left via free agency, and their All-Star closer is out until at least June.
So are the Orioles going for it or not? If they are, then they should see if they can get two of Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb to sign a big one-year deal. That sounds crazy of course, but maybe since the market has not opened up, perhaps signing a big one-year deal with perhaps a player option for next season (similar to what they did with Castillo) would motivate them to try and get that big contract next year when perhaps the market will straighten itself out.
If this miracle happens, it gives this team a legitimate shot at the playoffs for what might be the last hurrah for this organization for some time.
But if that doesn’t happen, then what’s the plan? No one can honestly think this team has any chance of competing for a playoff spot as it’s currently constructed. Bringing in some retread starter is not going to change the fact that the Orioles seem to be treading water with a team that finished in last place in 2017.
Now if that’s not enough, I’m really confused about the future beyond 2018. The Orioles have not resigned their brain trust despite both Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter openly saying they’d like to return. Player wise, Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, and Adam Jones are all free agents after the season and none have reportedly been approached about an extension.
Then add in the fact that Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman are free agents the season after, and no extensions have been discussed with them either, and you have an organization that looks like the only plan is to start over.
The only reasonable answer I can come up with all of this is perhaps the Orioles are going to be sold?
Cutting salaries and getting rid of your management team is usually a precursor to a team being sold and with no players being approached about the future, you gotta think something is up. Could the Angelos family finally be willing to get out of the baseball business and sell the team?
Whatever the answer is, it seems that the Orioles are willing to tread water in 2018 until something major happens this offseason.
Maybe, just maybe though Angelos will be willing to go all in on one more season and try to go out a winner? We can only hope so.
It will be interesting to see If the Orioles are going to give this core one more chance or not, because right now, their plan for 2018 doesn’t bring much hope, even for the most die-hard Orioles fan.