Editor’s note: The 2020 season for the Orioles might be over, but readers had a lot of questions for reporter Rich Dubroff, so many that he thought it would be best to present them in two parts. He’ll have Part 2 on Friday. (Questions are edited for style.)
Question: My question is regarding Chris Davis. After what was reported regarding [Mike] Elias’ comments on Davis coming back next year, at what point are the Orioles going to cut ties? I understand starting the season with him to see if he can regain a semblance of form, but at what point does his holding up young, talented players outweigh his veteran presence and gigantic paycheck? Again, thank you very much for a summer’s worth of entertainment. I look forward to reading more hot stove offerings. From: Scott Scheer via email
Answer: Scott, you are among a number who readers wondering about the future of Chris Davis.
Davis has $46 million, including deferred money, left on his 7-year, $161 million contract. Because of this year’s truncated schedule, he’ll collect only 37.7 percent of the 2020 money, including deferrals.
According to a recent report by MASNsports.com, the Orioles are reluctant to cut ties with Davis because of the uncertainty of the length of next season. If they wait until they have a better idea of how long the 2021 season will be, they could save substantial money. In these tight times, that money is important.
There is a logjam with Trey Mancini set to return next season as well as Ryan Mountcastle, who played first base late in the season.
Q: Considering [Cedic] Mullins’ improvement at the plate and his superior defense in center field, is he penciled in as the everyday centerfielder for 2021? I get the impression [manager Brandon] Hyde likes the defense and speed Mullins and [Austin] Hays bring to the lineup when they are in center and left. This would mean Mountcastle moves to designated hitter.
I realize the Orioles just finished 25-35, but am I crazy in thinking their 2021 roster is pretty much set? Maybe an upgrade at third base and catcher, but other than that are they set? Alberto and Iglesias at second base and shortstop with Mancini, Santander, Mullins, Hays, Mountcastle and Nunez to handle first base, outfield and DH spots. Valaika and Martin or Urias as utility guys.
Six guys battling for five rotation spots (Means, Cobb, Akin, Lopez, Kremer and Zimmerman). Bullpen has Scott, Fry, Armstrong, Harvey, Tate, Valdez and Lakins with Eshelman or Stewart as the long guy. And that doesn’t include guys like Kline, Carroll, Sulser and Phillips.
I don’t think Ruiz is the answer at third and they have no one in the minors, so I think they need to get someone to play there. As for catcher, I think they can get by with Severino and Sisco (and Holaday) for another season until Rutschman is ready.
So is the roster set or am I crazy? From: Greg Fuchs via email
A: Greg, yours was also a popular question. Some readers think that many positions are accounted for. Others think relatively few.
I think more positions are relatively set for 2021 than they were for 2020, but I think the Orioles might try to trade Alex Cobb and, because of the potential logjam at first, the outfield and DH, Renato Núñez might be a casualty. He’s eligible for arbitration.
As for the bullpen, Cody Carroll and Evan Phillips have already been dropped from the 40-man roster, and there’s a chance that Brandon Kline and Cole Sulser might be, too.
The Orioles are going to have to make room for young players such as Yusniel Diaz, Zac Lowther, Michael Baumann, Isaac Mattson and perhaps a few others, including Rylan Bannon, Mason McCoy, Zach Pop and Alexander Wells.
Mike Elias might also want some room to add a few players claimed on waivers and perhaps another Rule 5 draft choice, so there should be a lot more churn on the 40-man roster.
Q: After the five-round draft I thought a free-for-all would ensue similar to the NFL rush to sign undrafted free agents after their drafts yet I am not aware of one such signing by any MLB team. What’s up here? From Milt Dutcher via email
A: Milt, there was a rush to sign undrafted free agents. The Orioles signed eight players — TT Bowens, an infielder from Central Connecticut State; Shane Davis, a right-handed pitcher from North Carolina Central; Thomas Girard, a right-handed pitcher from Duke; Dylan Harris, an outfielder from North Carolina; Isaiah Kearns, a right-handed pitcher and outfielder from Pittsburgh-Johnstown; J.D. Mundy, a first baseman from Radford,;Ryan Watson, a right-handed pitcher from Auburn and Brandon Young, a right-handed pitcher from Louisiana-Lafayette
Q: Which infield position do you think the Birds will go for first in the draft? From: @cal_host
A: The draft isn’t until next July, and a lot can happen in more than nine months. Pitchers, infielders and outfielders will be on their radar, but they have a long time to think about specific choices.
Q: I grew up in New England and when I’m up there visiting relatives, we end up watching the Red Sox (of course). I noticed that the NESN broadcasts always show the simulated strike zone that we call “the box,” and it always annoyed me that MASN didn’t. I’m glad that MLB now requires it, and it leads me to my question: The box is a two-dimensional rectangle, but the strike zone is a three-dimensional space. So where exactly is the box in relation to home plate? Is it at the front of the plate (closest to the pitcher), at the center of plate, etc. Also, is the placement consistent across all broadcasters? I’m hoping you can use your contacts to get us a definitive answer. From Ray Kearney via email
A: The strike zone is placed at the front of home plate. MASN used three-dimensional coordinates to calibrate the game camera in its software, and then renders the zone in the proper place in space. Every ballpark and every camera location is different, which is why MASN recalibrates before each game. The live strike zone is consistent across all broadcasts.