The Orioles held their annual midseason State of the Orioles address with season-ticket holders at Camden Yards – at least until it was cut short by rain.
The Q&A with executive vice president Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter yielded few details on the plan for the next week or so.
Let’s face it, that’s not really unexpected. Duquette is close to the vest as it is; he’s not revealing to fans what he’s targeting before July 31’s non-waiver trade deadline. That’d be foolish.
So, if you were hoping that Duquette was going to declare that the 46-50 Orioles are sellers – or buyers – well, he wasn’t going there. But this is what he did say. You can read between the lines with me.
“I got a lot of confidence in the guys that we have that we can put it together. This is a tough division. Day in, day out we have to compete against the toughest teams in the league and invariably we do a pretty good job,” Duquette said. “This year, we haven’t had the starting pitching that we need, but the other elements of our ballclub are intact. And if we can get a little bit better pitching — or add to the pitching — we can still make a run at this. We are about four games out of the Wild Card (race) and that second Wild Card gives you a lot of hope until late into the season. And we are going to see what we can do this week to help our ballclub and strengthen the club, so that we can give you a contending team year in and year out.”
To that end, Duquette stressed that his focus was helping the Orioles get better, but didn’t specify any timetable. But stressed that there are players he will not trade, hinting a full rebuild doesn’t appear in the cards.
“Whatever we do [at the trade deadline] we are going to try to help the club. I still like a lot of our core players,” he said. “I don’t believe all this stuff that says we have half the club on the market. Because we have a lot of baseball left to be played.”
The most pointed question of the brief session came from a fan wanting to know what the Orioles were going to do about improving the moribund rotation.
Duquette stressed that everyone, industry-wide, needs pitching and, “There’s just not enough to go around.” He added, “We are going to do what we can do to get some pitching here.”
No more clarity than that.
What was most telling to me was, in an exchange about the Orioles’ farm system, Duquette admitted that there were no obvious rotation answers in the high minors right now. He talked about promising prospects such as catcher Chance Sisco, infielder Ryan Mountcastle and outfielders Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins that could be on the horizon of the majors.
And then he added, “I think you’ll see a starting pitcher or two come through the farm system. I just don’t know who they are yet.”
I don’t think he was being coy. I don’t think any of us know who they are yet.
During the session, Duquette did heap praise on some lower-level starters such as Delmarva’s Alex Wells, Frederick’s Keegan Akin and Bowie’s Tanner Scott, who is still primarily considered a future reliever, but has been starting for the Baysox.
Duquette said a team inquired about Wells’ availability Friday and that he has received multiple inquiries from teams about Scott.
Given that, you can read between the lines that Duquette is at least talking to some non-contenders – or sellers – since contenders wouldn’t be pushing for pitchers that aren’t close to the majors.
Perhaps the most interesting question asked of Showalter was whether Hyun Soo Kim would get more playing time. The fan said he thought Kim deserved more at-bats.
Showalter’s response: “So you want to sit (Trey) Mancini? No? You don’t want to sit Mancini? I wish we had that 10th player (in a lineup). I’ve been trying to get him in there more. It’s tough. It’s a good problem to have … I think Hyun Soo, if he can get a little more consistent at-bats, he can get more into the form he is capable of and what he did last year. So, it’s something we are looking for a way to do it all the time. It’s a challenge.”