With or without Villar, Orioles are likely to have another tough season in 2020 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

With or without Villar, Orioles are likely to have another tough season in 2020

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Despite the warnings, many Oriole fans expressed frustration about the Jonathan Villar trade. He played in all 162 games in 2019, hit for average (.274), hit for power (24 home runs) and stole 40 bases while splitting time between shortstop and second base.

He was guilty of lapses on occasion, but he brought excitement to a team that lacked it.

Still, it was clear that Orioles Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias had no intention of keeping Villar. The 28-year-old infielder was arbitration-eligible, and the Orioles weren’t willing to pay the $10.4 million it was estimated he would have received.

Had he stayed and produced again next season before July’s trade deadline, the odds are the Orioles would have received a deal similar to the one they received on Monday night when they acquired a raw 23-year-old left-hander, Easton Lucas, from the Miami Marlins.

Last July, they traded starting pitcher Andrew Cashner for two 17-year-old players from the Dominican Summer League.

Elias said the market for players with a season or less before free agency won’t bring great packages in return.

Some of the arbitration-eligible players who will return to the Orioles could be traded. Pitchers Richard Bleier, Dylan Bundy and Mychal Givens would seem to be in line to become former Orioles sometime between now and next July.

Bleier has three years left of club control. Bundy and Givens have two, and that makes them more attractive to other clubs than Cashner or Villar.

Trey Mancini, who also has three years before free agency, seems likely to stay, at least for the moment. Pitching will likely bring back more in return than slugging first basemen/outfielders.

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Fans seemed to give Elias a grace period for 2019, accepting the decision to rebuild from top to bottom after 115 losses in 2018. That patience might not be as strong in 2020, which could be just as ugly as the past two seasons.

Even with Villar’s flashy play and strong numbers, the Orioles still had their second-worst season in history in 2019, losing 108.

If they kept him until next July, traded him then, got a minimal return and still finished the year with more than 100 losses, would it make much of a difference?

While 2020 could see the Orioles finish with 100 losses for a third straight season, there were some positive signs in 2019.

They introduced some younger players into the mix. Outfielder Anthony Santander seemed to tire down the stretch but his 20 home runs showed promise. Reliever Hunter Harvey excited with an explosive fastball. Austin Hays made a number of exceptional plays in centerfield. Dillon Tate added another power arm.

You’ll see more of those players in 2020, and the hope is that some of the younger players who didn’t perform as well —  outfielder Cedric Mullins, relievers Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott and catcher Chance Sisco — can improve.

Prospects Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Ryan Mountcastle could join the team during the season, giving fans a glimpse of what may lie ahead.

Of course, if the Orioles trade Bundy before next July, it leaves a hole in their starting rotation, one that can’t easily be filled. Even with him, they’ll trust that John Means repeats his outstanding 2019 and that Alex Cobb can pitch well enough to create a market for himself.

Cobb has two years and $29 million left on his contract and has only a 5-17 record and 5.36 ERA to show for his first two years in Baltimore that has been limited by injury.

Attendance is down 720,000 over the past two seasons, and some season ticket-holders whose renewals are due on Friday, were discouraged by Villar’s trade.

Orioles attendance was 28th of 30 teams in the majors, ahead of only Tampa Bay and Miami, but despite the awful record and the much smaller crowds, there’s still interest in the team.

According to John Ourand of Sports Business Journal, Orioles TV ratings on MASN were actually up 2 percent in 2019. Overall, the Orioles had the 18th-best ratings in MLB of the 29 U.S. teams, finishing just ahead of the Nationals, whose regular-season ratings were down 9 percent.

Elias heads to next week’s Winter Meetings in San Diego with two open spots on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, and they’ll continue the majors’ longest streak of participating in the Rule 5 draft. When they choose a player or two on December 12, it will be the 14th straight Rule 5 draft they’ve been a part of.

Last year, the Orioles nabbed shortstop Richie Martin with the first pick of the Rule 5, and though he may start next season at Triple-A, it was still a worthy gamble.

This year, Elias is looking for more middle infielders and additional pitchers. Whether he drafts them, signs them to major or minor league contracts, trades for them or claims them on waivers isn’t known. The 2020 team will be built using all of those tools. Just don’t expect the results to be terribly different than they were in 2019.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. geevee3

    December 4, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Thanks for another good offering. I’m still trusting the process.

    • VICTORTEE

      December 4, 2019 at 8:10 am

      Drink the orange koolaid.

  2. J Guy

    December 4, 2019 at 7:24 am

    Stevie Wilkerson

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 4, 2019 at 8:49 am

    Rich … I love this article for it’s grasp of the obvious. The bottom of the article grabbed my attention.

    As you stated, of course there is still interest in the team. Until we baby boomers have passed, that won’t change. Old men love their rounders and are more or less married to their teams for life. Baseball better hope we (old guys) live forever, cause that loyalty to team and the game itself is lost on the younger generations.

    Perhaps the TV ratings are up because people aren’t at the park anymore? Makes sense to me anyway. Nobody wants to pay major league prices to watch a minor league product in an organization that has no desire to win today. They will however follow along on TV for ‘free’ until such time as the team becomes relevant again.

    I ask … How can a company not named Tesla expect their customers to pay today for a product being promised 2 or 3 years down the road?

    • Bancells Moustache

      December 4, 2019 at 9:37 am

      Bringing up the generation gap Boog, can you really blame the younger crowd for shifting allegiance? I’ve reflected on this quite a bit since my son is 13 and has adopted the Dodgers as his team of choice. The kid picked a team that is loaded with stars that will do what it takes to put a good product on the field. With modern baseball economics, franchises have no problem selling trash to their customers, so why should the customer be shamed for going across the street to the other guy? Happens in every other business. There is a strong argument that, rather than the younger generation having “no loyalty” and not being “real” fans, the older generation that keeps shelling out the bucks for what both they and the salesman know is junk have “no common sense” and are “dumb” fans.

      Also, TV ratings aren’t up. They simply had a slight rebound in ’19 from the catastrophic 50% nosedive they took in ’18.

  4. Fareastern89

    December 4, 2019 at 9:09 am

    I’m fine with the Villar trade. I actually plan to attend several more games than last year, partly because of the afternoon start times, and partly to see younger players such as Hays and Harvey (and eventually Mountcastle and Akin) who will be part of the future. I’ll also be heading out to Frederick, since the Keys should have much of last year’s Delmarva team on their roster. Building from the ground up is much more interesting to watch than patching a mediocre team.

  5. NormOs

    December 4, 2019 at 9:18 am

    Villier is gone, Bundy will be gone shortly, then Mancini and Givens are sure to go, and then the O’s will be completely devoid of major league players. Good job Elias! WHEN THE DOES REBUILD START? We’ve only seen tear down and salary dump. Again I ask, WHEN DOES THIS REBUILD I’VE HEARD SO MUCH ABOUT, ACTUALLY TAKE PLACE?

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2019 at 9:50 am

      Agree, no other opinions, I just agree w/you…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 4, 2019 at 2:15 pm

        I’m not so sure I agree 100% with Norm here.

        I believe the rebuild actually has started. It started before Mr. Elias was even hired. Duquette started it when he traded Gausman, Schoop, Manny (thank god) and a few others for prospects. I do believe in starting by building in the low minors on up. I like the re-emphasis on scouting and particularly what management claims they’re doing in Latin America. I believe the rebuild has already started, and yeah, it will take at least a few years to see anything substantial come of it.

        BUT…that being said …. rebuilding is no excuse for dumping salary for the sake of saving the Angelos family money. Allowing Adam to play for some other team (for $3 million was it?) is not doing any good for the rebuild. It makes no sense. Trading Schoop for Villar and a fat pitcher, and then jettisoning them for no reason that is related to a rebuild makes absolutely no sense. Don’t tell me dropping Villar has anything to do with rebuilding. I was a monetary decision. P.E.R.I.D. Not giving a dang about winning a few more games this year as apposed to last year is NOT rebuilding. Don’t sell it as such.

        Love the rebuild .. hate the obvious tank job. Don’t confuse the 2.

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2019 at 2:32 pm

      Really, really agree…go O’s…

    • Camden Brooks

      December 4, 2019 at 4:33 pm

      How is saving $10.4 million while picking up a LHP not part of the rebuild? I agree we would be better next year with Villar, but at that price, it just wasn’t worth it.

  6. PA Bird Lover

    December 4, 2019 at 9:49 am

    It’s amazing to read the negative comments that some readers seem so righteous about. How they expect a rebuild happens. With Villar or without, the O’s wouldn’t win…ever.
    So he’s traded for young upside pitching. How else is a rebuild suppose to work. By trading our worse players now, the return is much worse players. Rebuilding a baseball organization from the floor on up is not a reward of instant gratification.
    Why not relax and learn from the process. NormO’s, you better settle down your mindset, because your blood pressure is probably on the rise.

    • Camden Brooks

      December 4, 2019 at 12:13 pm

      Exactly.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 4, 2019 at 2:39 pm

      Dude … Villar was gone regardless if anyone ever made an offer. Hell, he was gone BEFORE anyone made an offer.

      You said … “By trading our worse players now, the return is much worse players” … Are you saying that Jonathan Villar was one of our worst players? Jonathan was hardly one of our worst players.

      Pitcher with upside? This guy was a college pitcher drafted in the 14th round. The odds of a college pitcher drafted in the 12th round ever having a single day in the bigs is less than 9%. He was drafted two rounds later. I don’t know the odds of the 14th round, but I’d bet my bippie that it’s lower than that aforementioned 9%. Player with upside? What makes you think that. What do you know about this guy that has a whopping 3 IPs in the GCL and a middling statistical line at Pepperdine that the rest of us don’t know?

      This is what you traded a quasi-all star big league player for. This is what you got in return for Jonathan Schoop. But then again, I guess I’m just being negative.

      Make no bones about it. It was a money grab. Done hide behind the “rebuild” facade.

  7. Bman

    December 4, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Losing Villar hurts but I understand the logic, at least we got something for him even if not fully comparable. Let’s hope they get a full set of prospects if and when they trade Bundy. I expect they’ll get a much better deal. The first half of this season has to be the end of the tear down phase or there will be a revolt…. im hoping they don’t lose anyone in the rule 5, especially Sedlock. Hopefully they’ll pick up a good pitcher or middle reliever too. I expect some final salary dumps and trades by July. Let’s hope it’s full on prospect call ups by then!

  8. Baltimore Castaway

    December 4, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Well, what do people really expect for crying out loud???

    Elias has inherited an entire organization that was bereft of talent at the Major League level, a sparsely-talented Minor League system, a patchwork rabble of an existing Minor League Coaching, Drafting and Player Development, a NON-Existent International presence and framework and a feuding old-school cabal between Buck, Dean and Brady….

    Give this whining a rest please. No one can criticize Mike Elias for at least another two years..

    He is working his ass off trying to make up for the decades of neglect our beloved Orioles have suffered from…Period.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 4, 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Working is ass off? BC … I’d do his job for meal money, and I bet I’m not the only person on this site that would. Working your ass of spreading asphalt on a hot summer afternoon. Working your ass off is pulling 12 hour shifts in the emergency room. Working your ass off is getting up at 4:00 AM to go collect the trash in the neighborhoods. Working your ass of is NOT playing rotisserie baseball with all the other bluebloods from Harvard and MIT.

      And we’re allowed to criticize and ‘whine’ whenever the heck we want to. So let me ask you, have you bought your season ticket package for 2020 yet?

      • Baltimore Castaway

        December 4, 2019 at 7:10 pm

        Hey Boog, am not going to get into a pissing contest w you about; 1) how hard this new kid works and 2) how hard he works compared to the rest of us in the real world work. I come from a blue-collar world where people works their asses off their whole lives-and hopefully live long enough to enjoy themselves.

        My point is this: he has had to and continues to have to re-invent an entire Baseball Operation for the Baltimore Orioles. This team needed everything to be either invented, redone or blown up; Major League team front-office staffing, Manager, Coaches, Analytics Staff (from scratch), Roster management, trades, waivers, Amateur scouting , Professional scouting, contracts, etc. Restaff an entire Minor League System with the right Managers, Coaches, Analytics People. Hire a new International Scouting Leader in Koby Perez and an entire Scouting Team throughout the Caribbean. Personally scout the 2019 Amateur Draft Class from the time he arrived and until Draft Day–plus sign the players he drafted.

        There are very very few people on this planet who have the know-how, energy and “juice” to do this effectively. Very. Very. Few. Especially to jump in and to try to save a sinking ship like the Orioles. Normal hard-working people like me have zero chance at doing this job well. This is why I give him a great deal of credit for what he has already accomplished which he gets no credit for from the casual fan.

        This is why he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt from the fans at this point, of course it isn’t going to stop certain people from complaining about things, just like it doesn’t stop people from complaining about a lot of things throughout their lives–so be it.

        This kid is smart, hard-working, has the rolodex to quickly build an organization and has relevant experience to build a winning team, from both the Astros and the Cardinals and isn’t afraid to make difficult decisions to move the ball forward.

        That’s my take.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 4, 2019 at 7:48 pm

          Now there you go. I have no problem with anything you said this time. I don’t think I’ve heard too many people ‘whine’ about what he’s doing or how he’s doing it OTHER than the tanking issue. Purposefully losing is absolutely NOT required when tearing down and organization and rebuilding it. I’ve never seen it from any of the traditionally successful franchises. Sox, Cards, Yanks, Dodgers … Where is the dignity much less the integrity in it? Really? Purposefully losing? It’s just just plain wrong. The fans deserve better. How about this as a compromise. How about he cut ticket prices in half while he’s cutting salaries in half?

          Not even trying to win now is my only problem with the guy. It’s a big fat wart on his nose for me.

  9. willmiranda

    December 4, 2019 at 10:29 am

    A few comments from the Geezer Patrol. I’m not surprised or disappointed with younger people not having loyalty to sports teams. They employees of the teams, including the players, many of whom are paid in six, seven, or even eight figures for their loyalty, have none. I think the NBA is the worst, but baseball is certainly not exempt. It’s just assumed a free agent like Machado will jump ship for more money. And all the talk of “player control,” is about how cheaply loyalty can be bought. And it’s not just the players. What was Elias’ loyalty to the Astros? A similar question can be posed about many new employees. It is one thing to hire someone who has been let go by another organization, but another to poach. Secondly, about the team. I’m interested and excited about the performance of the Baltimore Orioles Major League Baseball Club. Minor leagues are of minor interest, except for following successful players marching up the ladder. Front office stuff is interesting insofar as it produces a good product on the field today, or at least gives evidence that the team is better today because of what management did yesterday. At the moment, it is hard not to feel that producers are asking you to buy a ticket to their show or movie because in five years they’ll have a production with real singers and actors. Meanwhile, pay top dollar to watch extras paid minimum or union scale wages. And, oh yes, don’t criticize the performance because you were forewarned.

  10. Orial

    December 4, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Rich the most interesting and surprising comment you may was the O’s TV ratings going up and Nats going down on the heels of a an unbalanced season gor the two franchises. Yes forgotten in the fury of Villar’s circus leaving town is that Hays and Harvey are here. Something tells me that Hays can add that flair that Villar supplied. I’ll hang my hat on that and move on.

  11. CalsPals

    December 4, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Who did the O’s get for Bundy, saw 4 players & my source cutout, thx ….go O’s….

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 4, 2019 at 4:38 pm

      Your source cut out because I killed the messenger.

    • CalsPals

      December 4, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      Awesome…Boog cracks me up, thanx I needed something funny there…go O’s….

  12. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 4, 2019 at 4:23 pm

    Sorry to see Bundy go but the rebuild continues!!! https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/12/orioles-trade-dylan-bundy-angels.html

    • Bancells Moustache

      December 4, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Hoo boy, Baltimore Baseball is gonna be a salty place tomorrow…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 4, 2019 at 4:49 pm

      I’m not really doubting you on this one my friend, but 3 exclamation marks hardly conveys a sense of sorrow.

      Really dude … I’m sorry to see him go as well. Hopefully Elias insisted the Angels kiss him during the deal.

      So now it’s Cobb, Means and Wojo and nobody else. I wonder if those 2 – 16 year old Dominicans can bring it?

      • Bancells Moustache

        December 4, 2019 at 5:06 pm

        A little unpleasant, but honestly Dylan needed a change of scenery and the fact that they got a package of 4 pitching prospects is pretty good. I’m not upset about this, it’s different from the naked cheapness that was the Villar move

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 4, 2019 at 6:28 pm

          Agreed. Once Bundy lost the magic in his right arm, he simply wasn’t equipped to pitch in Orioles Park.

  13. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 4, 2019 at 4:53 pm

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