Sep 11, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold (14) high fives teammates after beating the Kansas City Royals 14-8 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The big go-to baseball site, MLB Trade Rumors.com, does an offseason outlook on every team. Their article on the Baltimore Orioles was published on Wednesday by Mark Polishuk and it is very good, even if it does hit an Orioles fan in the snoot a bit with the reality of the situation facing the Birds this winter.
It is interesting to read what someone outside of the daily ebb and flow of Orioles writing has to say and think about our local team. Often when we see this, it is obvious that the writer does not really understand the local situation, or that he is still subject to some sort of long-term bias and preconception that may no longer apply to the current Baltimore culture. But this is not so with the MLBTR article.
Let me go through it a bit and pull out and talk more about some of the major ideas …
The Overall Picture – The writer begins with the good news: the breakout season of Manny Machado, the rise of Jonathan Schoop, the continued leadership of Adam Jones, the closer dominance of Zach Britton, and the rebound of Ubaldo Jimenez. And he then added …
"Combine these with former fourth overall pick Kevin Gausman, who is now established as a full-time starter, and there are worse building blocks to have in place for a team looking to reload as an AL East contender. The problem, however, is that these are also pretty much the only areas of relative certainty amidst a very unsettled Orioles roster."
See what I mean about getting hit in the face? But there is truth in the analysis. The fact is that there are a tremendous number of holes to be filled. Along with that, there will be the absolute necessity of certain players — dare I mention Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez to name two — to have a rebound season. There is no way for the Baltimore Orioles to buy their way back to the top without critical contributions from the lower portion of the roster.
The Starting Rotation – It is easy to criticize the Orioles rotation, but it is extremely difficult to know what to do about it. Signing a top-of-the-rotation starter is also simple to say, but to do that and also re-sign Chris Davis is enough in two players to put the O’s out of play for much of anything else at all (more on that later).
The writer makes an interesting suggestion as a way to free up some extra dollars, saying …
"A more aggressive move would be for the Orioles to non-tender Gonzalez (the less established of the two) this winter and replace him with one of Tyler Wilson or Mike Wright. This frees up more money to pursue a true top-of-the-rotation starter …"
There is no doubt that the top free agent pitchers will be extraordinarily expensive, including even Jordan Zimmerman. So the author suggests the Orioles will be in on Scott Kazmir, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ or similar pitchers who could give Chen-like numbers without a huge payout … while also hoping for some rebounds by the rest of the staff.
The Free Agents – If the Orioles are unable to bring back Chris Davis, the power he gives will need to be somewhat addressed then by securing some more bang in the corner outfield (and first base) positions. This could include Gerardo Parra, but with Davis and a top pitcher, he probably demands too much. Therefore, signing Steve Pearce is a reasonably good move for the Orioles.
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A Great Financial Summary – Do you want to be depressed? This will do it. With the arbitration-eligible salary increases that are to come, the three ongoing contracts (Jones, Jimenez, Hardy), all the smaller salaries of shorter-term players, the Orioles cannot afford to even bring back the team that only went 81-81. They cannot afford the costs of the six free agents. So, somehow the O’s need to secure players to improve over a .500 team that they cannot even honestly afford to put back together.
I had not run the financial numbers, but I have been guessing that the Orioles probably have about $40 million to spend on new acquisitions. This is confirmed by the writer …
"The Orioles have just under $42MM committed to three players (Jones, Jimenez, J.J. Hardy) for 2016 and MLBTR projects roughly $34.9MM for their 11 arbitration-eligible players, assuming everyone is tendered a contract. Pre-arb players in regular roles (i.e. Schoop, Gausman, Joseph) will take up a few more roster spots at minimum salaries. If the 2016 payroll stays in the $119MM range, that leaves Duquette with approximately $42MM to work with this winter. That’s certainly enough room to add at least one big salary into the mix."
The writer goes on to say that if the Orioles are going to break the bank on one player, it is going to be Chris Davis. The more I have given consideration to this, I believe there really could be some stars lining up to have this come together — putting together the desire of Davis to stay in the place where he has become a star power hitter, along with ownership and management’s need to not repeat the offseason of a year ago.
This is going to be difficult to get the Orioles back to the top of the AL East in 2016. A lot of players are going to need to take a step or two forward. Will they do it? Can they do it?