Congratulations to the 2016 Orioles on their Wild Card placement. I somehow lost track of them some time after that announcement. I am sure it all worked out great. I heard something about a homegrown Orioles and couple Orioles by trade managed to win themselves the World Series. Please do not bore me with the specifics because it is time to move on to 2017.
Moving on is a good theme to grad hold of, but not to completely embrace. This post was originally rather extensive and broke down the roster in many ways. I was far along in statistical modeling that suggested that the baseline talent the current currently has is around 82 wins and pretty much any way you jumble a budget of 160 MM without trades gets you up to 83 to 85 wins. In other words, this is a mediocre team as is and can rise to fringe playoff contender.
Below is a link collection of all of our blueprints:
What we have in mind for Qualifying Offers ran the gamut of no offers to offering both Matt Wieters and Mark Trumbo. Our writers generally thought a QO on Trumbo only was the right move. I polled our audience and they were split on offering it to Trumbo or offering it to both Trumbo and Wieters. Before the Orioles announced, I noted that the final view of our site by me would be a QO to Trumbo. Why? I think he is worth the QO to another club as a first baseman, but is not worth a QO to the Orioles as a corner outfielder or designated hitter. In other words, the bet is that he is wanted because it is a rather poor deal for what opportunities the Orioles have for him.
Saying no to Wieters is about how his profile is rather limited. His defensive aptitude has been reduced as his athleticism decreases with age and injury. His framing ability is pretty average and the rotation needs a plus glove there. Finally, the offense just does not look like a package that can deliver a plus bat behind the plate. The ability is their, but it just repeatedly fails in game. Last year, I said it was smart to offer him the QO, but with another year in the books I find whatever hope of him getting it together at the plate is simply dreaming on old scouting reports. The club is not set up all that well behind the plate with Caleb Joseph and some mish mash, but it is preferable to me than to go in deep again with a player who has shown that he probably is not who he was five years ago.
Non tender suggestions kicked around the same players, but the only discussion of merit were on Ryan Flaherty and Vance Worley. Flaherty has a dependable glove at multiple positions, but has progressively become a strong arm version of Brandon Fahey. In the last year of arbitration and without options, his versatility on the bench is not as inspiring as it once was. Vance Worley was a depth addition last year from the Pirates. He pitched well in the pen, but showed on several occasions that no he is not a starter. This club needs long arms to start in a pinch and more left handed options. Worley simply is a bit redundant and not very versatile. Ideally, the club wants someone with options in that slot. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson should be given more looks or someone else coming in from a southpaw persuasion. I would non tender both of them.
This leaves the club with about 16 MM for contracts. After considering the blueprints and the fan polls, I actually come in right with the readership. The club should offer Jason Castro a 2/20 contract. He is a platoon player who fits in with Caleb Joseph's right handed bat. Castro is one of the best pitch framers in the game and would provide some relief for the starting rotation that often needs the call on the edge. Second, the club should bring someone back in the Michael Bourn mode. He should be available for a few million on a one year deal. He has versatility and potential to fill in at all positions with more aptitude than Joey Rickard, who should be in a firm platoon with Hyun Soo Kim.
With the few million left, I was in a position to either go with the upside veteran Steve Pearce or with a hopeful look to the future in Jae Gyun Hwang. Pearce, with his arm injury, is a big question mark in the field and, with a delayed start to his offseason, also at the plate. Upside is that he can really mash left handers when he is on as he was in 2014 and for the Rays last season. Hwang is an unknown at the plate and probably not all that great. He has the defense for third base and could potentially backup a corner outfield position. I think this is really a coin flip, but I would lean to Hwang for defensive options with Pearce as a backup.
In the end, this club is around an 85 win team. Really, with any of the blueprints, you find a very similar end point. The reality is that you have several different approaches to get to a similar place. You can have your pick.
In a greater sense, it seems we are at the end of an era. The club has been well positioned on the Major League level. Dan Duquette has managed to get the most out of this club with a strong core made of a few upcoming players, veterans at the backend or downside of their peaks, and underrated pitchers. There is no cavalry. There is no plan B. The minors are barren and the infrastructure in place is not designed to quickly develop talent at that level. The turnip is pressed and there simply is not much left in the system.
This leaves us really in a bit of a quandary. Does it make sense and keep going down the path to get everything in as best shape as possible to pull in a championship? Or, does it makes sense to ignore the championship and try to develop the most talent possible? That question of Pearce vs. Hwang points to that. Do you go with the guy who has a better chance to be helpful in 2017 or do you go with the guy who has a better chance being useful in 2018 or 2019?
For years, Orioles fans have been told of a gloom and doom window. Dan Duquette chose to ignore the window and max out the club. He was right in hindsight. However, his success does not mean that windows are a fantasy. They exist and they feel ever present. The better question is can we truly see those windows or can windows be perpetually open with fringe talent acquisition like Kim, Trumbo, Pearce, and Cruz. Does it matter whether a minor league system is bereft of talent. Is the Orioles front office truly smarter than everyone else and is the coaching staff miles beyond the competition.
I, for one, have no belief in Orioles Exceptionalism. I find the Oriole Way to be no different than other era related terms like Dodger Baseball. Those grand ideas were really the ideas of Connie Mack, Branch Rickey, and Paul Richards. Their ideas germinated from elsewhere. The current club has no Baltimore lineage through those souls. It is just baseball.
Anyway, this article was to be posted over a week ago. I got sick. I was stuck on a bed. Time passed and baseball decisions have happened. As a liberal, this past week was not a statistical shock, but an emotional one. I find my baseball thoughts bleeding into my political philosophies. I have shoehorned similarities between the Orioles and the sweeping losses in the election for the Democrats. That is, the democrats had given up the denominational flexibility needed for whole government rule in order to put all effort into grabbing the presidency. When that failed, barely, there was no safety net. The party has put little effort in broadening the base beyond abstract progressiveness. They simply were riding out the leadership of past days.
I see the current Orioles in a similar position. They have had success, but they are not truly trying to cultivate the next wave of players. They are riding out the current wave and hoping it lasts a little longer than it might seem. At some point, the wave ends and a change needs to happen. As with life, the difficult action is being able to know when that change needs to be implemented before you sink under the waves. Maybe the Orioles have time to kick the can to the mid-season point to see where they stand. Maybe they will be bold enough if their fortune is not smiling to make that next step. I think the current wave should still be ridden, but ideas like dealing Zach Britton should be pondered and well-considered.
This club needs new life, but it is not dead yet.