Orioles face hard decisions on key players - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Orioles face hard decisions on key players

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The Orioles have decisions to make on a number of players, and it’s difficult because they had fewer games to watch them. That was known entering the 60-game season. Now that the season has ended, they’ll have to make some educated guesses.

It’s one thing to extrapolate the 25-35 record, which works out to either 68-94 or 67-95 in a 162-game season, but things are never that easy.

Ryan Mountcastle looked great in his 35-game trial, hitting .333 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Those 35 games were 60 percent of this year’s schedule, so if you think Mountcastle would have played 60 percent of a 162-game schedule, that would work out to 100 games with 14 home runs and 66 RBIs, solid numbers.

John Means had a rough start, but an excellent September with a 2.48 ERA and an 0.828 WHIP.

Once Austin Hays returned from a fractured rib, he finished the season with a .377 average and .988 OPS  in 14 games, his second straight strong September.

Although these players performed well in September, a month when the Orioles went 10-16, there were some who had months to forget and their futures are in doubt.

Take catcher Pedro Severino, who on the surface seemed to perform as well in 2020 as he did in 2019.

A year ago, Severino was a happy surprise who was claimed off waivers from Washington at the end of spring training. The catcher hit .249 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 96 games in 2019. This year, he played in half as many, hitting .250 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 48 games.

Severino threw out just 24 percent of runners attempting to steal against him 2019, and 31 percent (4 of 13) this year.

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But Severino struggled in the final month both seasons. In 2019, he hit just .195. This year, he hit only .159 with no RBIs in 63 September at-bats.

Severino will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, and the decision may be tricky. Adley Rutschman is the Orioles’ catcher of the future, but the lack of a minor league season might delay the team’s timetable in promoting him.

If they don’t think Rutschman will play in Baltimore until late in the 2021 season, or at all, they could stay with Severino and Chance Sisco, who also struggled. They also could try to sign another veteran catcher to work with their young pitchers as a placeholder.

With money being tight around the major leagues this winter, there might be some moves made that wouldn’t be contemplated in a normal offseason.

Another decision they need to make is on second baseman Hanser Alberto, who was a happy surprise in 2019 when he was among the American League batting leaders with a .305 average, 12 home runs and 51 RBIs.

This year, Alberto hit .283 with three homers and 22 RBIs, and his average against left-handers dipped from .398 to .375. His average against right-handers increased from .238 to .257.

However, the Orioles faced left-handed starters in 40 percent of their games in 2019 (60 in 162). This season, left-handers started in only 13 of the 60 games (22 percent).

In September 2019, Alberto hit only .237. This year, he hit only .215 the last month.

Alberto made $1.65 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and the Orioles may seek to deal him, though there’s no obvious second base successor, rather than give him a substantial raise.

With Trey Mancini returning, and Hays, Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander showing promise, there may be little room for Renato Núñez.

In 2020, Núñez was the Orioles’ starting first baseman in 28 games and their designated hitter in 21. He started at third base twice.

Coming off a year in which he hit 31 home runs and drove in 90 runs and hit .244 in 151 games, Núñez followed it with a .256 average in 52 games with roughly equivalent numbers of 12 homers and 31 RBIs.

Núñez also slumped in September. Last year, Núñez hit .213 in September. This year, he hit 227.

Núñez may be eligible for arbitration this winter. He’s just under the three-year requirement, but may qualify as a “Super Two” because he may be among the top 22 percent of players who have between two and three years of service.

Complicating matters, it’s not known whether teams will play a full season and if fans will be permitted to attend, and what limits may be placed on their numbers.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    October 14, 2020 at 7:24 am

    You make decisions with your brain, not your heart, adios Severino, according to MLB article, Rutschman was an impossible out at the alternate site, bring him up, don’t Mountcastle him, Sisco will be an adequate backup, with an upside, potential at 2nd base, many of us have said that, WTH, try him there, Alberto, nice guy, nothing special, maybe bench player, Nunez, eh, one dimensional at best, offensively, but very streaky, if Trey is gonna be at 1st then keep him there & keep Ryan in left, or switchem, but keep them in one place, biggest decision will be who’s in CF, two slightly different players, one better (a little) defensively & puts more pressure on defense, more a lead off hitter, one good defensively, not a lead off hitter, basically same speed, but not as big a threat to steal…will be neat battle to see…go O’s…

  2. The Cartoon Bird

    October 14, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Respect Alberto as a player and as a person. His BABIP was .314 in 2020. Good if he could put the ball in play. Problem was, he was on place to strikeout double the amount he did in 2019. With no obvious replacement in 2021, I would bring Alberto back for one more season.

  3. VICTORTEE

    October 14, 2020 at 8:38 am

    How much of a pay cut is Elias taking to ease the O’s financial issues?

    • CalsPals

      October 14, 2020 at 11:50 am

      LMAO, hysterical, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander…go O’s…

  4. Orial

    October 14, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Until that recent,head scratching coaching bloodbath and financial red flag I thought this off season would be business as usual. Now Iglesias’and Valaika’s return are highly questionable do to financial staps. Seems that if anynody wants more than $500k they’re gone. Worrisome. But if I’m somehow wrong replacing Severino with Kurt Suzuki and Alberto with–well I don’t know would work. Put your money where your mouth is Elias/Angelos Bros–be creative with Davis’ contract and move him along. Yes Rich Nunez’ future hinges on Mancini’s return. Of course the Yankees will probably sign both Bauer and Realmutto and we’ll bow our heads and proclaim–“baseball, gotta love it”. Oh well.

    • Birdman

      October 14, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Yes, there appears to be something weird, and worrisome, going on with the Orioles financial situation, something beyond just “small-market” status. The team owner is supposedly worth $2 billion, yet personnel decisions now seem focused not on performance, but on saving peanuts on coaches and very low paid players. This does not bode well.

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm

        The primary reason the team owner is worth $2 billion is the baseball franchise at the front and center of his portfolio. If that asset fails to make money, that’s a very big problem. Unless another Mesothelioma outbreak happens, the Angelos are going to feel some serious financial heat.

        I’ve been saying they were in trouble before the pandemic. Now, immediately on the heels of the MASN decision cutting into their TV revenues, those revenues are halved and stadium revenue shut off completely? That’s not good.

        • Phil770

          October 14, 2020 at 6:56 pm

          Exactly. Plus, none of us know the impact of estate taxes when PA passes. You can be worth a lot, but cash poor. When that happens, lenders are not as interested in lending money to cover operational cost shortfalls.

          • Bancells Moustache

            October 14, 2020 at 8:04 pm

            Been saying that for a while too. The sons are gonna get pulverized by Uncle Sam when the old man goes, which at this point is any minute now.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 14, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Excatly the team owner is worth 2 billion but saving pennies on a pitching coach and possibly not signing Iglesias at a bargain by MLB standards. I personally would let Nunez and Serverino go and trade Alberto. Adley should be brought up in May or June he’s older then Soto and Tatis already. Davis has to be cut and one more year of Cobb then our payroll could the lowest in all baseball. Just look at the Rays you don’t need big money payrolls but you do need good coaches and players who are not just one dimensional

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 14, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Orial ……”be creative with Davis’ contract’?

      What the heck would you have them do? They owe him what they owe him … nothing short of the guy going down in a plane over the Pacific will change that ….

      Eat the contract. Pretend that this is still a major league market.

      • Bancells Moustache

        October 14, 2020 at 4:09 pm

        I don’t know that it is a Major League market.

    • Tileman

      October 15, 2020 at 9:55 am

      Businesses operate on leverage. The team is worth a ton of money. Cash will not be an issue but cash flow could.

  5. PrayinForReign

    October 14, 2020 at 9:42 am

    Hmmm. Trevor Bauer in a Yankees uniform. And just when I though I couldn’t dislike either of them any more than I already do…

  6. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 14, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    I wonder what Justin Timberlake would be willing to pay Hanser?

    • CalsPals

      October 14, 2020 at 4:10 pm

      🙂

    • Phil770

      October 14, 2020 at 7:14 pm

      Nashville will be one of the two expansion franchises that MLB envisions adding (Portland and Las Vegas are possibilities in the West). Tampa Bay is considering a move to Montreal. MLB will resist the O’s moving. The Marlins and Royals have both pursued low payrolls.

    • Raymo

      October 14, 2020 at 7:19 pm

      Boog, this went right over my head. Would you mind explaining your comment? I’m a little slow on the uptake.

    • Raymo

      October 14, 2020 at 7:24 pm

      Never mind… I googled it and now I see the connection.

  7. WorldlyView

    October 14, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    If the Angelos clan cannot afford to field a “reasonably” competitive Major League team, they should consider selling the O’s.

    Rich, may I pose some technical questions. Am I correct in assuming that if a player and club go to arbitration, the club and player are obligated to sign a contract equivalent to exactly what the arbitrator decided upon, i.e. no wiggle room? Once an arbitrated contract is signed, could the team then trade the player involved (presumably better for the club than simply releasing him)? If a player is released prior to arbitration, could the team then resign him at a non-arbitrated salary if the player cannot sign elsewhere?

    Finally, you said that Nunez might be “among the top 22 percent of players who have between two and three years of service.” Top 22% as measured by what?

    I feel very old–never heard of Trevor Bauer, but remember HANK Bauer as player and manager.

    • CalsPals

      October 14, 2020 at 4:11 pm

      One of the favorites for NL CY …go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 14, 2020 at 4:15 pm

      Steve, in arbitration, the player and club submit figures. The arbitrator picks one of them. The answer to your other two questions is yes, and it’s the 22 percent with the most service time.

      • WorldlyView

        October 14, 2020 at 6:17 pm

        When the arbitrator picks the dollar number (and length?) for a contract, are both player and club formally obligated to sign on the terms selected by the arbitrator?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 14, 2020 at 6:43 pm

      The club and player agree to abide by the arbitrator’s decision on salary. It is for one year.

  8. dlgruber1

    October 14, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    Someone explain to me why the O’s would trade Alberto. Last season he DIPPED to .375 vs LH, he DROPPED to .283 overall (well above league average I’m sure), struck out twice as much as 2019 (tho still less than average MLBer) and although he’s never gonna win a Gold Glove he certainly isn’t embarrassing himself defensively. So, it must be that he’ll probably receive a raise to between 2.5-3 million dollars (which is still well below league average of about 4.5 million). If the club trades him (no doubt for much cheaper salary player) and doesn’t accept the option for Iglesias the club can’t be taken seriously.

    • WorldlyView

      October 14, 2020 at 4:12 pm

      One possible explanation would be that ownership feels the need to place its highest priority on having the lowest possible payroll. Think of all the inexperienced Caribbean teenagers we could get in return for Alberto.

  9. CalsPals

    October 14, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    O’s picking 5th in the draft, anyone care to take a guesstimate at the
    pick…go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      October 14, 2020 at 9:37 pm

      The club is SO used to getting PTBNL I hope they don’t get confused on draft day and ask for one.

  10. 33d St

    October 14, 2020 at 11:20 pm

    I wonder if there will be more nontenders across-the-board this year. Arbitration numbers are based on history. But next year looks like a total crapshoot as far as income and how many games will get played. Maybe guys aren’t worth as much to teams in that environment. If so it doesn’t make much sense to base salaries off performance from 2018, 2019 etc.

    A lot of teams may want to just let these guys hit the market and sign them late as the covid situation plays out, rather than pay historical Arbitration prices on a season that may not be a full one.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 15, 2020 at 7:49 am

      I believe there will be more nontenders this offseason, 33rd Street.

  11. Mickraut

    October 15, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    In addition, the Angelos sons have the misfortune of living in Maryland… the ONLY state in the Union that taxes the estate AND the inheritance.

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