In our first mailbag since spring training began, I answered questions about a variety of subjects and, yes, there’s the obligatory Chris Davis query. Questions have been edited for clarity and grammar.
Question: Will the Orioles make a trade involving pitchers before Opening Day?@MichaelJBenelli, Twitter
Answer: A trade is always possible, but I think any trade involving a pitcher would be a minor one. For example, the Orioles could make a trade to acquire a pitcher who’s been designated for assignment and not give up anything beyond a fringe minor leaguer or cash.
I can’t see the Orioles trading a reliever such as Richard Bleier or Mychal Givens before the season starts. If they pitch well in the season’s first half, then their value increases and a trade becomes more possible.
Q: Is Andrew Cashner’s asking price too much?@wvwllw, Twitter
A: As Mike Elias indicated on Friday, it’s getting late to sign a free-agent pitcher and have him ready to help the Orioles early in the season.
The Orioles and Cashner had mutual interest, but we can assume that since there wasn’t a deal consummated that his price and the Orioles didn’t jibe.
Q: Who do you think will have a greater impact with the Orioles, Rylan Bannon or Mason McCoy? @Ben_Dewhirst, Twitter
A: That’s an excellent question, Ben. I would guess that Mason McCoy would have a greater impact because he plays both second base and shortstop. For the moment, the Orioles have a number of corner infielders, and I don’t see Bannon unseating either Rio Ruiz or Renato Nunez.
Q: Hey, Rich, what in the he double hockey sticks has gotten into Davis? I am not following spring training as close as I would like. Is his stance/swing different? BirdsCaps, BaltimoreBaseball.com
A: Hey, BirdsCaps, Chris Davis has said that a major part of his swing strategy this year will be going opposite field and two of his three homers have been to left. Some of his singles have been to left as well, including an RBI single on Thursday.
Q: Can’t wait for the season to start. The core of talent is exciting to watch. I was hopeful Diaz and Mountcastle will make opening day! With Trey and Santander to age it up a little, I thought why not? That’s me, but what are your thoughts? Thank you! Dean Anoia, BaltimoreBaseball.com
A: Dean, I would be a bit surprised if Ryan Mountcastle were on the Opening Day roster, and very much surprised if Yusniel Diaz was there, too.
I think the Orioles want to get an extra year of service time from Mountcastle, which they can achieve if he plays the early part of the season in the minor leagues. It also gives him non-pressurized time to play more left field.
Diaz has yet to play in Triple-A and hasn’t even had a breakout season in Double-A.
I expect Mountcastle to debut for the Orioles in late May or early June. If Diaz has a good season at Triple-A, he could play in the majors late in the season.
Q: When Ryan Mountcastle is ready to join the Orioles, which position do you see as his likely landing spot? Vince Celano, Facebook and Orial, BaltimoreBaseball.com
A: I think Mountcastle’s likely position when he debuts in the major leagues is left field. The Orioles have a number of players who can play first, Chris Davis, Trey Mancini and Renato Nunez, and fewer who can play left.
If Mountcastle can hit in the major leagues and plays acceptably in left field, the guess here is that there’s where he’ll stay.
Q: Looks like a logjam of outfielders, DH, first base types. Do you see a trade by the end of spring training of some of these players? Robert Watkins, email
A: I don’t think a trade involving any of the players mentioned above (Davis, Nunez, Mancini) will be coming in the next two weeks. I think Mancini will play some right field and some first base, Nunez might be the designated hitter some days and third baseman others, and Davis might not play every day.
Q: Hi, Rich. Any update on the MLB-proposed minor league changes?-Jeff Mose, Facebook
A: At MLB Media Day in North Port last month, Rob Manfred was asked about the negotiations for a new agreement with the minor leagues. The commissioner maintained that the minor leagues were being unrealistic and resistant to change.
Manfred’s time has been occupied by the sign-stealing scandal. He said then that he hoped to have the investigation of the Boston Red Sox wrapped up by the end of last month, which is wasn’t.
Until that’s concluded, don’t expect any progress in the minor league talks. The agreement doesn’t expire until September.
Q: Has there been any talk of how the coronavirus might affect the upcoming season? Tim Watson on Facebook.
A: Manfred has established a task force to deal with the issue, and they don’t have any plans to cancel or postpone any games.
Q: Oriole Park is in serious need of a facelift, and a major one. New video boards are a must. Expanded concourse space and seating, better lighting around the outside of the park, possibly addressing/removing some of the left-field upper deck and making open-air seating and rooftop deck options like center field has … something innovative and groundbreaking like the park deserves.
I know we are waiting on the lease to be renewed as a starting point for who pays for what (Stadium Authority/Orioles). My question is, have you heard of ANYTHING in regard to the Orioles reaching out to HOK, or any other companies to get ideas or studies underway? The Ravens just had a very nice facelift, OPACY needs the same. Vic Matusak, Facebook
A: Vic, I think those talks will occur after the lease is renewed. The Orioles did add the roof deck a few years ago, and I’m sure that some of the changes you write about will be talked about during the negotiations.
I’m hopeful that new video boards will be added sooner rather than later. Traveling around the major leagues, I’ve seen many scoreboards add to fans’ enjoyment and knowledge, and having new ones at Oriole Park would certainly help.
Q: Who do you think is the front-runner as of today to be the utility man?-Blake Robinson, Facebook
A: The front-runners seem to be Andrew Velazquez and Pat Valaika. Through seven games, Velazquez is batting .250 and has stolen three bases.
Valaika is hitting .381 with three home runs and five RBIs.
Velazquez is helped by his ability to play center field. Valaika plays second and short and has played first base this spring. He isn’t on the 40-man roster while Velazquez is. That shouldn’t be a problem for the Orioles, who have two open roster spaces on the 40-man after Rule 5 pitchers Brandon Bailey and David Rucker were sent back to the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs on Friday.