It’s that time again on the site – the time when I’m sick of asking questions and not getting sufficient answers, so I’m making you do my job.
Technically, it’s Twitter users that are asking the questions this weekend. And I’m answering them, so I am kinda working.
I’m not Orioles’ executive vice president Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter. So, the answers are more speculation or educated guesses than slam-dunk facts. But, hey, it’s the age of mass misinformation. Who needs pesky facts?
Regardless, here are some of the questions sent to me from Twitter followers this week – and there were a lot of good ones. I may have to do a 2.0 later. There were also some repeats, and I’ve summarized a few. There also were some really dumb ones, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Call this a representative sampling.
Thanks to all who played this time around; I include Twitter handles in parentheses for the “chosen ones.”
Q: Any possibility the Orioles acquire a starting pitcher by absorbing a bad, short-term contract such as James Shields or Homer Bailey’s et cetera? (@RavenOsTerps)
A: I think this has to be a viable option for the Orioles. The free-agent market is thin on legitimate starters, and the competition for the top pitchers will be stiff. And, as I’ve written countless times, the Orioles don’t win bidding wars for coveted arms. The club doesn’t engage in major overpays and, if the money is equal, pitchers don’t choose to play half their games at Camden Yards. Needing three starters for the 2018 rotation, the Orioles must get creative. And that means taking a chance on someone who hasn’t lived up to his contract.
Assuming the Orioles would have to absorb a chunk of salary, the quality of player(s) in return wouldn’t have to be as steep. And that’s key for a club that has traded away solid pitching talent recently. There’s also the potential of swapping one hefty contract for another. Candidates would include Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, but I don’t see the team being able to unload what’s left of Davis’ deal (five years and roughly $115 million). That would leave Trumbo, who is owed $26 million in the next two years, as the primary salary-swap candidate.
I would imagine Duquette is considering all prospective trade partners, but there’s a reason these pricey arms are available. For instance, Bailey, 31, had a 6.43 ERA in 18 starts last year for the Cincinnati Reds and is guaranteed $44 million over the next two years (assuming his $5 million buyout is exercised for 2020 instead of a $25 million option).
Shields, who turns 36 this month, is owed $21 million this upcoming year and has a $16 million club option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout. He was 5-7 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts for the Chicago White Sox in 2017.
So, yeah, those guys are out there (Ian Kennedy, Jeff Samardzija, et al). But it’s buyer beware.
Also, to summarize the multitude of pitching questions I received, just about any free agent starter will be considered by the Orioles. They will get one, maybe two. But I don’t see them landing one of the more coveted starters available.
Q: If the Orioles struggle in the first half of 2018, do you see a fire sale and an Astros-type rebuild beginning in 2019? (@BrionMcClanahan)
A: I chose this question because it covers a couple of the most common themes asked this time around. Good job, Brion. In a word, no. Ok, two words: not really. If the Orioles are truly out of it by July – and they’d have to be clearly done and not dancing on the fringes of the Wild Card — then, yes, I could see the club dealing away a couple pending free agents such as Zach Britton and/or Brad Brach.
I don’t see ownership approving an in-season deal of Manny Machado unless it is an overwhelming package coming back. Owner Peter Angelos and company have always been hesitant to sell off major pieces in the middle of the season because, the philosophy goes, the season-ticket holders paid to see a certain team and weakening that promised product in-season is disingenuous. That philosophy goes back to at least 1996. Now, letting Machado walk without getting any real return also isn’t good business. So maybe that ends up as the overriding factor this July. But, be warned, that’s counter to the club’s philosophy since I’ve been paying attention.
As for an Astros-type rebuild starting in 2019, I also don’t see a purposeful strip-down of the club to a 100-loss shell. The Orioles have lost 100 games or more just twice in their modern history: the inaugural 1954 season and the disaster of 1988. The Astros lost 100 or more in three straight seasons from 2011-13. Now, I could see a fairly substantial rebuild in 2019 if the Orioles lose all of their pending free agents. But I think that will be more out of necessity and happenstance than an orchestrated plan. Oh, and don’t shoot the messenger.
Q: Why do the Orioles avoid the international market by trading so many of their international slots? (@damobanks)
A: Let’s flip this one. The Orioles trade so many of their international slots because they avoid the international market. Now, why do they avoid the international market? It’s an ownership philosophy. And I’ve heard two reasons. One, ownership wants its organization to avoid getting involved with the seedy underbelly of amateur baseball in other countries. Corruption can be king in some of those interactions, as Major League Baseball concluded in dropping the hammer on the Atlanta Braves recently.
The second reason, from what I’ve been told, is that giving big-dollar contracts to 16-year-olds with little knowledge of their backgrounds is considered too risky. Indeed, it’s the ultimate crapshoot, even more so than MLB’s first-player draft, but cutting off an entire avenue of talent, for whatever reason, is exceptionally shortsighted in my opinion.
Q: Any chance Zach Britton is dealt prior to Friday’s non-tender deadline to free up money for starting pitching? (@BmoreBaseball)
A: This one comes from my business partner, Steve, who, frankly, could have texted me. But it is a question worth repeating. The answer: Nope. I know the Orioles did that with closer Jim Johnson at the non-tender deadline in December 2013, but that was because they had no intention of paying Johnson $10 million and so it was either deal for something (Jemile Weeks and David Freitas) or just cut Johnson loose. They wanted to save their former All Star the indignity of being non-tendered and Weeks was thought to be a candidate for the open second base job.
This time, the Orioles have every intention of paying Britton $13 million or so to close games if they don’t deal him. And the potential team that would acquire him knows that’s the going rate for a quality closer. So, it’s still possible Britton gets dealt if the Orioles get an attractive package in return, but there’s no need to do it by tonight. By the way, I expect the Orioles to tender contracts to all seven of their arbitration-eligible players. They are all key guys.
Q: Are you finally ready to admit that Archbishop Curley is better than Calvert Hall College High School? (@deanjonesjr)
A: Hey Steve, you cool if we fire this guy? Dean provides strong minor league baseball content for the site, but I think he is losing his grasp on reality. (Go Cards.)
Q: Who is the starting catcher in 2018, Caleb Joseph or Chance Sisco? (@thatguy0915)
A: Joseph, no doubt in my mind. In fact, I’m not positive Sisco starts the season with the Orioles. I think in spring training he’ll have to show improvements defensively, especially if the Orioles sign a veteran backup type that could hold the space warm while Sisco continues to work on his backstop skills in Triple-A. This kid has a real chance to be the Orioles catcher of the future. But he doesn’t turn 23 until February.
Sisco made his debut at 22 – younger than wunderkind Matt Wieters. And, unlike Wieters, who was seemingly born wearing shin guards, Sisco didn’t become a full-time catcher until his senior year in high school. There’s so much to learn about being an effective major league catcher, and the Orioles have to make a decision on how Sisco’s education will be best served. I’d be shocked if that meant usurping Joseph at the start of 2018.
Q: Are you going to miss Ubaldo Jimenez? (@MrHarryLime2011)
A: As a person? Yes. As a website click magnet? Yes. As a pitcher? No. As a pitcher I’ve defended for roughly three years and one who has made that defense look incredibly foolish, causing my baseball acumen and mental acuity to be intensely scrutinized? Um, nah.
Q: Which young reliever will be a future closer: Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott, other? (@NateWardle)
A: Givens is being groomed for the role. If Brach and Britton were dealt, he’d be the first to get a lengthy look. Scott has electric stuff, but he needs to have better control before he’s in that conversation.
Q: Who is the most underrated Orioles’ minor league player that you believe will one day contribute on the 25-man roster? (@ijustshukya)
A: This is probably better answered by our minor league writer Dean Jones Jr., assuming I haven’t fired him yet for his Curley-centric insubordination. He can go much deeper to find minor league gems than I can. But I’ll give you one name that I think is clearly under the radar and has a chance to be useful in the near future: Drew Dosch. The 25-year-old, left-handed-hitting third baseman has climbed the organizational ladder one rung at a time. His offensive numbers aren’t eye-popping — .276/.338/.425 with eight homers in 2017 – and, despite a strong arm, he made 23 errors at third in 104 games at Norfolk and isn’t suited for a utility role.
He does nothing that wows you, but he can drive the ball. Evidenced in 2017 by his 39 doubles, which can be an indicator of developing power. The Orioles decided not to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, so he’s available to any organization this month. Ryan Mountcastle is clearly the guy the organization hopes can be its future third baseman. But if Machado leaves after 2018 and the Orioles need to bridge the gap to Mountcastle (or if Mountcastle can’t handle the position) Dosch could, at the least, be a third base candidate for 2019, especially if the former seventh-rounder builds on his first year hitting Triple-A pitching.
Q: Why don’t you call them the BaltimOrioles? (@ndyclark)
A: Too confusing when it comes to differentiating between home and road uniforms.
Q: The Allman Brothers or Tom Petty? (@dblack2508)
A: This might have been a tough one previously, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Petty – and his band Mudcrutch – since his death, and goodness gracious was he fantastic. Sad it took his death for me to revisit Petty’s catalog, but I’m glad I did. Allmans are great, though.
Q: Would you eat the moon if it were made of barbecue spare ribs? I know I would. (@barstoolRDT)
A: Spare ribs? I’d probably nibble the edges. Pizza? I’d turn it into a waxing crescent. Crabcakes? Adios, Luna.