New Orioles management will need own blueprint for rebuild - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

New Orioles management will need own blueprint for rebuild

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

There will be dozens of decisions facing the Orioles’ new hierarchy beyond a new manager and coaches. At the top will be determining how they will proceed with rebuilding a team that hit bottom this past season.

Will they sign free agents to one-year “bridge” contracts? Which players on the major league roster will stay? Are there players in the minors who could contribute in 2019 and beyond?

The old regime took the initial steps to deconstruct the team last July. They sold off obvious targets: Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman while getting out from Darren O’Day’s onerous contract.

In return they received 15 players and $2.75 million in international bonus slot money. How many of those players will the new regime view as valuable, and how much of the more than $6 million in international money will be spent on high-end prospects?

The international market was among the change in direction the Orioles cited for an upgrade, along with a stronger commitment to scouting and analytics.

There also will need to be timely decisions on personnel. The 40-man roster must be set by the end of November and space must be cleared to add prospects and figure out if players such as Tim Beckham and Caleb Joseph have a future with the team.

Beckham and Joseph could be non-tendered, but since fresh eyes will be making those calls, perhaps they’ll be viewed as pieces worth keeping.

The Winter Meetings are in early December in Las Vegas. At last year’s Winter Meetings at Disney World, the Orioles toyed with the idea of trading Machado.

This time, they don’t have many pieces to trade. There was interest in Mychal Givens in July, but he wasn’t moved, and pitched well in the final two months as a closer. Givens isn’t viewed yet as a top-shelf reliever and may not bring back enough to satisfy the Orioles.

Starter Dylan Bundy could garner interest, but his 2018 season was statistically awful. He allowed a major-league leading 41 home runs and his Wins Above Replacement Value (WAR) was only 0.1.

Andrew Cashner, who limped to a 4-15 record and 5.29 ERA, had a better WAR (0.6) than Bundy, but there doesn’t seem to be a market for him. Nor is there one for Alex Cobb, who despite pitching well in the second half of the season, has a contract that has three years and $43 million left on it.

At some point, the new regime will have to decide if the deconstruction has gone far enough and if construction can start.

Will they like Trey Mancini, Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart? Can catcher Chance Sisco recover from an awful season? Are outfield prospects Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna close to being major league ready? Where should Ryan Mountcastle play?

Their opinions might not align with those of former executive vice president Dan Duqette and manager Buck Showalter. Showalter would caution that a common mistake is for a new hire to think everything was wrong with a situation they’re inheriting.

When Showalter took over in August 2010, the situation was much different. The team had floundered for 12 years but had three building blocks: Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters.

Machado was about to begin a wonderful career, and there were a handful of players on the roster or minors that would help the team to three postseason berths in five years: Zach Britton, Jim Johnson and Chris Tillman.

Most of the players Showalter had in the last two months of the 2010 season were soon gone.

After a season in which the Orioles lost 115 games, everything is much different. The losing began in September 2017, and may not be close to an end. There don’t seem to be any obvious building blocks.

Patience will be required, but how much patience will fans have? Attendance is at a 40-year-low after a drop of nearly a half-million in 2018.

The Orioles can begin 2019 with Bundy, Cashner, Cobb, David Hess and Yefry Ramirez in the rotation, but they can’t afford the embarrassment of September when injuries to Cashner, Cobb and Luis Ortiz and innings’ limitations to Josh Rogers left Showalter scrambling in the final few weeks.

Would the Orioles consider the opener theory that the Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays successfully used in 2018?

They seem to have accumulated some solid bullpen pieces in Givens, Paul Fry, Sean Gilmartin and Tanner Scott.

After surgery to repair a torn left lat muscle in June, Richard Bleier might be back early in 2019, adding to the strength of the bullpen and giving the Orioles another trade chip.

But will the focus shift from: “Who can we trade?” to “Will we be better in 2019?”

Mathematically, it shouldn’t be hard to be better. The Orioles had more losses than all but four teams in baseball history. However, if they improve by 15 games, they’ll still lose 100.

Losing might be hard on a first-time manager, which might be the way the Orioles go. And it will continue to be hard on even the most loyal fan.

But the rebuilding process could also be fascinating to observe and, if done right, will pay off in the long run.

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34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Ekim

    October 15, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Can we take a year off?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 7:35 am

      Not from reading this site, Ekim.

  2. SpinMaster

    October 15, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Rich: I guess all we can do now is wait until the hirings begin. As you have said repeatedly, this winter will be a fascinating one to watch.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

      Spin, can you speed up the hirings, please?

      • Lookouts400

        October 15, 2018 at 11:26 am

        Why do you want to speed up the hirings? Nothing much is going to get announced during the playoffs and I would think the extra time will allow the Orioles brain trust to do their due diligence and get it right. People complain, “The Orioles aren’t telling us who they’re interviewing!!” and that’s just fine by me. Let them do what they need to do and in the mean time, we can amuse ourselves by watching the playoffs and rooting for the Capitols.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 8:41 am

      Lookouts, I am eager to find out who
      Is being hired and what the club’s new direction is.

  3. TheWalkingEd

    October 15, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Rich,

    Were the building blocks that Buck inherited supposed to read Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Matt Wieters?

    I know Adam Jones meant a lot to the team but you have him listed twice.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      October 15, 2018 at 9:47 am

      Jones was just *that* good. 😉

      • Rich Dubroff

        October 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

        You have a great future as an editor, Ed. It’s been corrected. Many thanks.

  4. deqalt

    October 15, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Rich,

    Great article! Right now is a critical time with the Cuban players on the block. The one advantage of a lost season is the ability to look to the future early rather than after season. I would think the Orioles would have the ability to make GM hire quickly after season. The fact that it’s taking this long is that a sign of the same ole ownership? I can’t imagine they really waited until October to fire DD.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 10:32 am

      deqalt, I would have thought if they were going to move on from Duquette they would have done that last month, but I think it’s that they’re searching diligently.

  5. Bancells Moustache

    October 15, 2018 at 9:43 am

    I’d hold onto Bundy and hope he can blossom under new coaches. Like with so many now ex-Oriole pitchers, the talent is there. It’s just not being utilized. I’ve never understood the fascination with Givens. Sure, coming in sidearm at 97 is sexy but every time he’s on the hill I’m waiting for a blowup. I don’t see a reliable late inning guy there, let alone a closer. The bullpen pieces are nice, but for how much longer now that Duquette is gone? Say what you will about Dan Duquette, the man could find a relief pitcher. And of course, the biggest question of all is the Davis decision. Not rehash one of Rich’s previous columns, but it is the massive elephant in the room, and I have no idea what you do there. At least for 2019 it looks like you are stuck running him out there and hoping you get .220 with 25+ Home runs.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 10:33 am

      Bancells, I think you’re right about Bundy. It would be selling low, and new eyes can be beneficial. I think the Orioles’ minor leagues have done a good job in developing relievers.

  6. Bancells Moustache

    October 15, 2018 at 9:52 am

    One other thing; a lot has been made of Miami’s big Cuban population being an enormous advantage in the Mesa brothers sweepstakes. I’m curious Rich, since Baltimore simply cannot offer anything similar, do the O’s have another advantage in Yusniel Diaz? Mesa and Diaz came from the same Cuban National Team background, do you know if there is a relationship there? Baltimore cannot point to a large Cuban community, but perhaps the idea of playing in the same outfield as his buddy Diaz may seem attractive to Victor Victor?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 10:35 am

      I don’t know if there’s much of a connection there, Bancells. I’ve met Diaz only once, and that was in a group interview session.

  7. bmorebirds

    October 15, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Hmmm. Various GM candidates being interviewed. Is that what it’s called when Brady Anderson does dinner, brunch and a movie with various members of the Angelos clan?
    Lord, please deliver Baltimore from the plague of know-nothing locusts that’s hijacked our beloved baseball team. Amen.
    https://www.si.com/vault/2001/02/12/8094500/birdbrained-under-the-misguided-stewardship-of-peter-angelos-the-onceproud-orioles-have-become-the-laughingstock-of-baseballand-the-worst-may-be-yet-to-come

    • Orial

      October 15, 2018 at 10:29 am

      That articles from 2001. Hopefully things have changed.

  8. Orial

    October 15, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Looking at 2019 as a blip in the radar. I think at this point we fans could draw out a blueprint going forward. Just hope the new regime is young,bright,progressive(not politically),and aggressive. Rich you think they’ll be in place by the end of the World Series?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 11:05 am

      Orial, I don’t know, but hope they are.

  9. DevoTion

    October 15, 2018 at 11:04 am

    “If done right”
    Should be the teams new slogan

  10. bmorebirds

    October 15, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Orial, I hope things have changed, even though the dysfunctional Duquette/Showalter shyt show and the presence of Chris Davis would seem to indicate otherwise.
    Believe it or not, I’m an optimist. But after watching the Angelos family futz around for a quarter century, with largely predictable Orioles underperformance . . . yikes!
    Is it asking too much to wish for a team where everyone from Orioles ownership to the ballboy in Class A is on the same damn page (sob)?
    Given the price of Orioles tickets, no, it’s not asking too much at all.

    • Orial

      October 15, 2018 at 11:26 am

      I too am optimistic. I see the Sons going in the right direction. Who they hire will tell us a lot about their real intentions.

  11. PA Bird Lover

    October 15, 2018 at 11:33 am

    In my opinion, hiring the most savvy GM is the first and most important task. Even the best GM can’t operate with the Angelos family hovering over his/her shoulder. The GM is either calling the shots or is just a puppet. That was DD. Hopefully the old man goes out to the pasture and forgets about baseball. Hire a real GM.

  12. ZantiGM

    October 15, 2018 at 11:42 am

    This will be a very boring winter meetings, the O’s have almost nothing to trade.
    You can’t deal Bundy because you would be selling at an all-time low.
    Givens is worth more to us right now-You have to have somebody in the pen.
    Mancini and Villar have some trade value but you are not getting anyone’s top prospects for them.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Phil, I thought you were going to be there. That would really liven things up.

  13. Bhoffman1

    October 15, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    There is no rebuild as long as Chris Davis is on the team. Mancini has to be the everyday first baseman and Chris Davis contract has to be bought out .

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 8:40 am

      Thank you for adding your thoughts, bhoffman.

  14. Birdman

    October 15, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Will a top tier GM candidate be willing to sign on with the Orioles, if he knows that Brady Anderson is lurking behind the scenes and has the ear of the Angelos sons?

  15. boss61

    October 15, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Rich, as you now know in detail, I have been watching the O’s and armchair-quarterbacking management and general management decisions since the mid ’60s. I’ve seen the highs and many lows. We’re in another valley, and here is what I think we need to see in order to return to sustainable contention:

    1.
    1. Hire the best available people for the open management positions, sooner rather than later. Fan name recognition should not be a factor. No Cal…

    2. Be willing to make the team worse in the short-run to make it better in the long run. Yes, this means being willing to trade any remaining veterans with trade value. This includes Bundy , Givens and Villar – the return for each will be less than one might hope but its got to be done. This also means sacrificing more gate revenue in the short-run.

    3. Give Chris Davis 100 games ot leash. If he does not return to serviceability, work some confidential buyout if possible. Othewise, DFA him and eat the contract. He’s logjamming the roster and cannot be good for the clubhouse otherwise.

    4. I agree with you that the building blocks for a future of contending baseball are not obviously present in the system, and almost certainly are not on the big league roster. Be prepared for a long wait – a half dozen years, give or take 3. It’s darkest just before dawn.

    • Orial

      October 15, 2018 at 7:58 pm

      Well said. I just worry that the fans of Baltimore will disappear and leave the O’s an irrelevant franchise come lease time.

  16. OriolesNumber1Fan

    October 15, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    General perception is that the Orioles can’t be worse than last year 47 wins. I think they will, especially if they get rid of anymore tradeable players. The yanks and sox both had over 100 wins in the division and are relatively a young rosters. Rays nearly had 90 and are on the rise. Jay’s have better pitching than O’s and will be tough to beat and all play the Orioles 18 – 19 times a piece. Add in the al west with the A’s and Astros and wow.
    Now if the O’s played in the National league, things could be different but they don’t so… things sure seem bleak to me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 16, 2018 at 8:38 am

      As I’ve written in the article you’re commenting about, the Orioles had more losses than all but four teams in baseball history. That’s hard to duplicate. The odds are they’ll be slightly better, but let’s talk in March about how much.

  17. Hallbe62

    October 18, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    With the exception of C. Davis, the deconstruction of the O’s should be just about complete.

    Time to clean up the front office, find a manager, and invest some time, energy, & $$ into scouting, analytics, & the international market.

    Lets nail that #1 draft pick and start making good decisions for the long haul and stop band-aiding what is ailing the ball club.

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