BOSTON— The second-worst season in Orioles history is over. It wasn’t as bad as 2018 with its 115 losses, but the Orioles eight-game improvement in 2019 still left them with a 54-108 record.
In 1988, when the Orioles started 0-21, they finished 54-107 with a game rained out.
Their 223 losses in the past two seasons are the fourth worst in baseball history, according to STATS.
Their ERA was 5.59, by far the worst in baseball.
And, they allowed 305 home runs, nearly 50 more than the previous major league record.
Jonathan Villar played in all 162 games. Mark Trumbo, who only played in 12 after knee surgery, may have concluded his career on Sunday.
The Orioles used 58 players and 38 pitchers, both team records.
Now that the season is over, there’s more certainty about where the team is heading than there was a year ago. Still, there are many questions as they head toward 2020.
Manager Brandon Hyde wouldn’t get specific on whether there would be changes to the coaching staff. Hyde’s staff wasn’t completed until more than a month after he was hired in mid-December, so there’s no rush if he and general manager Mike Elias are considering changes.
Elias, who wasn’t hired until mid-November, has already made over the front office and minor league staff, making large-scale dismissals.
He’ll get a chance to make major changes to a roster that he could only tinker with last winter. Elias used the waiver wire throughout the season, and he’s likely to grab players let go by other organizations.
That bargain hunting brought the Orioles Hanser Alberto, Aaron Brooks and Pedro Severino, who all contributed in 2019.
Don’t expect many, if any, major league free agents to be signed. The only player Elias signed before this season that way was Nate Karns, who pitched in just four games before he was hurt.
There’ll be many six-year minor league free agents signed. During the Dan Duquette-Buck Showalter era, the Orioles mantra was that they could “out-opportunity” other teams for those players.
That will again be true because there are relatively few players on the 40-man roster who are guaranteed to be there next February 11 when spring training begins in Sarasota, Florida.
Elias will get the opportunity to engineer some trades. The only name player he’s traded since taking over was Andrew Cashner, who was dealt to the Red Sox for two teenaged Dominican Summer League players in July.
The Orioles contemplated dealing Villar and Mychal Givens at the deadline, but didn’t receive any tempting offers.
Givens, who’s in his second year of arbitration eligibility, could make $3 million next season, and with a 4.57 ERA and eight blown saves, Elias could decide to move on from the 29-year-old right-hander.
Villar stole 40 bases, had 24 home runs and a 4.1 WAR, but could earn in excess of $6 million in his final year of arbitration,. Elias might try to trade Villar, too.
It’s unlikely the Orioles will deal Trey Mancini, who was named Most Valuable Oriole. It’s also unlikely that they offer him an extension, though they would be wise both on the field and among a fan base starving for good news.
There’s been chatter about the Orioles parting ways with Richard Bleier and Dylan Bundy, though that would seem shortsighted.
Bleier had his best month of the season in September with a 2.93 ERA and 0.717 WHIP.
The Orioles are trying to acquire young talent, but they still need starting pitchers. Although Bundy had another disappointing season, he’s an innings-eater, and with John Means and Alex Cobb, gives the team a credible top three.
A better bullpen is a necessity for 2020. In his brief time with the team, Hunter Harvey showed promise that he could be a late-inning reliever. So did Dillon Tate. Others who might get a chance to show more include Evan Phillips, Tanner Scott and Chandler Shepherd, who started on Sunday.
But many of the relievers on this season’s team could be swapped out.
Since they finished with the second-worst record in baseball, the Orioles get the second pick in December’s Rule 5 draft, and it would be surprising if the Orioles passed on the opportunity to grab an additional player or two there.
Richie Martin, the top pick in last December’s draft, made it through the entire season on the active roster, and while he doesn’t appear to be a future star, might be useful in 2020 and beyond.
There won’t be nearly the hype about the draft in June that there was this year. For the first time in their history, they’ll have the second choice and should be able to select good players there.
The Orioles’ record improved slightly in 2019. In 2020, fans will be less patient and hoping for more improvement. A similar upward move next season would still leave them with about 100 losses, which wouldn’t satisfy a dwindling fan base.
The guess here is that the offseason will feature dozens of moves. Few will excite the fans as the long overdue remake of the Orioles continues.