Thanks to everyone who submitted a question for this month’s mailbag. I’ll have another right before the start of spring training.
Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Question: If Chris Davis performs poorly during spring training, do you think they will let him go and just eat his contract?-Kay Hoffman from Facebook
Answer: Kay was one of many readers with similar questions about Davis. Beginning the 2020 season, Davis is owed $93 million on his seven-year, $161 million contract. But the dynamic of the contract changes during the season.
Davis will be paid $17 million for each of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 seasons. He has deferred $6 million in each of the seven seasons, and according to Cot’s Contracts, he will be paid $3.5 million annually from 2023-2032 and $1.4 million from 2033-2037.
In July, the Orioles will owe Davis more in deferred money than remaining salary, and that might change the Orioles’ thinking about his future.
If Davis continues to struggle at the plate in spring training and the early part of the season and Ryan Mountcastle is deemed ready to play in the majors sometime during the first half of the season, that might also encourage them to make a move with Davis.
Q-I can be accused as an eternal optimist, but I feel that this year’s acquisitions as far as in the field are a step above last year.
With the outfield and middle infield shored up, where do you think Elias focuses his efforts next?-Cedar
A-I think the obvious answer is starting pitching, Cedar. The Orioles still need more accomplished pitchers for their rotation, and I think general manager Mike Elias will look to add to that list between now and when spring training begins on February 11. I’m sure he’ll also be looking to add during the early part of camp, too.
There are still some recognizable names on the market, including Andrew Cashner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a reunion.
Q-When are the Orioles going to be sold?-Salvatore V Citrano from Facebook.
A-I’m not privy to the inner workings of the Orioles’ ownership, but my guess is no time soon. The issues over MASN and the Nationals may be nearing their end, but until that matter is resolved, there’s no way the club could be sold because there’s no way to accurately measure the team’s worth.
And, more importantly, I think John and Louis Angelos are lifetime Baltimoreans who want to keep the team and watch it recapture its glory.
The Angelos family wouldn’t have hired Elias and allowed him free rein on changes in the front office, scouting and minor league departments if they were not planning to keep the team.
The team’s “Kids Cheer Free” program is an innovative approach to try to grow young baseball fans. Spending that much effort on this program is another example of why a team sale is unlikely.
Q-Would you say that there was a chance that Fredi Gonzalez is a manager in waiting?-Stephen Johnson on Facebook
A-Fredi Gonzalez was recently hired as a coach on manager Brandon Hyde’s staff for 2020. Gonzalez has 10 seasons of managerial experience with the Marlins and Braves, the only member of Hyde’s staff with big league managerial experience.
I think Gonzalez’s hiring is a recognition that Hyde could use an experienced manager to help him before and during games.
Things in baseball can change quickly, as we saw with the Astros and Red Sox, but I’m pretty confident that Hyde will be the Orioles’ manager for the foreseeable future.
Q-Any chance this team actually improves their win total by actually losing less than 100 games despite trading Villar? I know Iglesias has always been a great defensive player but not offensive. Will his defensive value help the pitching staff enough so they improve their win total?-Blake Robinson on Facebook
A-Sure, there’s a chance that the Orioles lose fewer than 100 games if some of their young players develop and their starting pitching is better than last year.
Shortstop José Iglesias should help, but don’t expect massive improvement from the team in 2020. Even if they lose “only” 98 games, that’s still a poor record. You shouldn’t get hung up on the won/loss record. That’s for 2021 and beyond.
Q-How long will fans be happy watching minor league baseball at Camden Yards?-Jeff Dillon on Facebook
A-Fans aren’t happy with losing baseball, Jeff. Orioles attendance has dropped from 2.028 million in 2017 to 1.307 million in 2019, a loss of 720,000.
I would say that’s a good indicator that fans are dissatisfied with the product on the field.
Q– When will this team realize that we have to have a core of players to “rebuild” around? Anyone of significant talent seems to be on the trading block for picks and prospects that may never end up making it to the MLB level. How long ago was the Machado trade and when are any of those picks/prospects gonna play for the O’s?-David Palombi on Facebook
A-The rebuild is finding players who can play. While 2019 was painful and challenging, and 2020 could be nearly as difficult, the Orioles are using the process to find players such as Anthony Santander, who wasn’t a proven major league player, and Hunter Harvey, who wasn’t considered a reliever until last June.
The Machado trade was in July 2018. One of the five players acquired for him, Breyvic Valera, played for the Orioles shortly after the trade and has since moved on.
Dean Kremer, a starting pitcher acquired in the deal, has pitched well in Bowie and conceivably could pitch for the Orioles later this season. Another pitcher, Zach Pop, a highly thought of reliever, underwent Tommy John surgery in May. The Orioles are hoping Pop will have a solid 2020.
Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the centerpiece of the trade, probably will start the season in Triple-A. Rylan Bannon, an infielder, was the fifth player acquired in the deal, and he played creditably for Norfolk.
It’s still far too early to assess the prospects. Please check back in a year or two.