It was just over two years ago that the Orioles were in the postseason, proving that it’s a lot quicker to deconstruct a team that construct one. Oriole fans will be eager to find out from the team’s new hierarchy how long they think it will take until the team can contend.
In Philadelphia, it took about three years from the time Andy MacPhail became the team’s new president, in June 2015, until the team contended. This year, the Phillies were leading the National League East as late as Aug. 11, but floundered after that, going 15-31 and finishing two games under .500 at 80-82.
The Phillies of 2018 are vastly different from the team MacPhail inherited, but have two regulars (Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera) and a standout starting pitcher (Aaron Nola) remaining.
The Orioles hope they’re that lucky.
Of the team-record 56 players who saw action for the Orioles in 2018, the majority probably will be gone by the end of 2019, and perhaps six or eight will remain in 2020.
That’s not radical. That’s just being realistic.
There’s one way to measure how close, or far, the Orioles are from contending. When you watch the postseason, imagine how many of the current Orioles could help the postseason teams.
Remember, six top names were traded in July, and another, Adam Jones, who is unlikely to return next season, exercised his veto power to avoid a trade to MacPhail’s Phillies.
If you eliminate Jones, who’s about to become a free agent, one major league scout says that there’s only one Oriole who could improve the top four teams in baseball.
It’s Mychal Givens, who was mentioned in some possible July deals and whose name will come up again at December’s Winter Meetings.
Givens was part of perhaps the best bullpen in Orioles history in 2016. Zach Britton converted all 47 of his save opportunities, and both he and Brad Brach, who compiled a 2.05 ERA and 10 wins, made the All-Star team.
Although veteran Darren O’Day missed more than half the season because of injuries, Givens made up for his absence with an 8-2 record and 3.13 ERA.
Brach, Britton and O’Day are gone. Only Givens remains, and while teams could conceivably be interested in Dylan Bundy and Trey Mancini, only Givens will attract much buzz in Las Vegas.
Givens could have pitched ahead of rookie fireballer Josh James, who was included on Houston’s postseason roster despite pitching in just six games.
He also could have fit in nicely in Boston’s bullpen, and his stats are equal or better than those of Matt Barnes or Joe Kelly.
Givens could have helped Los Angeles or Milwaukee, too.
But, aside from Jonathan Villar, who was traded by both the Astros and Brewers, who could have helped a contender? Villar could have fit on a postseason team’s roster as a utility infielder or pinch-runner.
Mancini has promise, but had a rough first half and finished the season with a -.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) average.
No other Oriole who finished the season with the team could help any of the League Championship Series teams.
The draft and farm system have produced depth pieces and players with promise in recent years — Cedric Mullins, David Hess, Tanner Scott and DJ Stewart among others. But none is considered “can’t miss” and have yet to make an impact in the major leagues.
Next June, the Orioles will have their first top selection in the First-Year Player Draft in 30 years, awarded for the worst record in the majors.
If they draft well, then enviable prospects will appear. The last time they drafted in the top five, Bundy and Gausman were picked with the fourth overall selection in 2011 and 2012.
Hunter Harvey, their top pick in 2013, has been sidelined by injuries and has yet to pitch a complete season in professional baseball. In 2014, they didn’t have a first-round pick because they signed Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz. Stewart was their top selection in 2015.
Until and unless they draft impact players, fans will watch the postseason knowing that few Orioles could make a real difference on baseball’s best teams.