Expectations will be higher for Orioles in 2021 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Expectations will be higher for Orioles in 2021

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

In last week’s video conference call, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias raised expectations for the team when he said he felt there were “not a lot of holes right now.”

Next year will be the third in Elias’ tenure and, although the team was not in the 2020 playoff hunt, the Orioles were just a game under .500 (20-21) more than two-thirds into the 60-game season.

No one knows if teams will be able to play a full 162-game season in 2021 but, even if they don’t, a better winning percentage is expected from the Orioles.

In 2018, when the Orioles went 47-115, they had a winning percentage of .290. In 2019, they had a 54-108 record and a .333 percentage. This past year, the 25-35 record gave the Orioles a .417 winning percentage.

The season before Elias arrived, the Orioles had the worst record in baseball. In 2019, it was the second worst. This past year year, they were tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for fifth worst.

Elias has said in the past that the win/loss record isn’t necessarily linear. What was different this past year was that the Orioles began to show signs of a brighter future through the play of Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins and the pitching of Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and Tanner Scott. More promising players are in the pipeline.

Elias acquired second baseman Yolmer Sánchez, who won a Gold Glove in 2019, and picked up the option on shortstop  José Iglesias’, whose stellar play was restricted by injuries in 2020.

They also will be getting back their best player, Trey Mancini, who was treated for colon cancer this past year.

The Orioles might try to add depth to their starting pitching, which finished with a rotation of John Means, Alex Cobb,  Jorgé Lopez, and rookies Akin, Kremer and Bruce Zimmermann.


Except for Rylan Bannon, whom the team didn’t promote in 2020, there aren’t any internal options at third base other than Rio Ruiz. Bannon, who played more second base at last month’s Instructional League, has played second and third in the minors and joined the group at the alternate site in Bowie for the final weeks of the season.

Ruiz has been acceptable as a placeholder at third but has a .229 batting average and a .692 OPS in his two seasons. Elias also must make a decision on second baseman Hanser Alberto, who is eligible for arbitration. He might have tipped his hand with the addition of Sánchez.

MLBTradeRumors.com recently published a list of its 50 top free agents and their projected destinations. The Orioles weren’t seen as the landing spot for any of the 50.

Looking back to their list of 2019, Iglesias, who had a .373 average and .956 OPS in 39 games, didn’t make TradeRumors’ top 50 list even though he’s had a solid major league career.

Elias waited until early in January and then signed Iglesias to a one-year $2.5 million contract with a $3.5 million option.

With the market expected to be flooded with free agents, the Orioles probably will wait out the market and perhaps sign some infield and starting pitching insurance at low cost.

The free-agent market has started slowly. Toronto re-signed left-hander Robbie Ray to a one-year, $8 million contract over the weekend.

This normally would be the week when the general managers would meet. Agents typically make their rounds, and the market begins to settle. Without the physical meeting and no Winter Meetings next month, it will be interesting to see how other clubs and the Orioles gauge the market.

Mountcastle will be eligible in 2021: Mountcastle, who wasn’t a finalist for American League Rookie of the Year, received a third-place vote in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Seattle centerfielder Kyle Lewis was the unanimous winner. Chicago outfielder Luis Robert was second and Houston right-handed pitcher Cristian Javier finished third

Mountcastle was one of nine players who received votes and the only one from an American League East team.

Because he had 126 at-bats, four short of the 130 that end rookie status, Mountcastle will be eligible for the award in 2021.

Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena, who was a postseason sensation, didn’t receive any votes and also will be eligible for Rookie of the Year next season.

No Oriole has won the award since Gregg Olson in 1989.

Manager of the Year will be announced Tuesday, Cy Young on Wednesday, and Most Valuable Player on Thursday.

Note: The Orioles promoted Mike Hoppes to senior vice president, chief financial officer. According to the team, “ Hoppes will oversee the organization’s finance and accounting functions, including the team’s financial reporting with Major League Baseball and the Commissioner’s Office.”

Hoppes has been with the Orioles since 1986.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Schwarzstop

    November 10, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Best part of a rebuild is when you start to see trophies in the future. We are still several years away, but I’m starting to see the trophies sparkle in the summer sun!

    Real nice tribute to Alex yesterday by you and last night before the show

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 10:34 am

      Thank you, Schwarz.

  2. The Cartoon Bird

    November 10, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Another decision that I am interested in is whether Renato Nunez is offered arbitration or not. He’s been better than a placeholder. Unfortunate that circumstances out of his control will decide whether he is worthy of returning or not.

  3. Orial

    November 10, 2020 at 8:25 am

    Not a fan of Alberto at 2B but his natural position is 3B. So ya never know. Rich you listed positions that could be addressed but not catching. Would love to add a veteran defensive/pitcher friendly one to work with the somewhat young staff. Kurt Suzuki? Farm system looks healthy and holds a 10-12 place ranking in most periodicals but wait till the International signees catch on. Look at the top systems and they all seem to be laden with foreign talent. Lot to look forward to.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 10:36 am

      Orial, I want to see if the team offers Severino arbitration before looking further at catching. The only reason they kept Holaday was the roster was at 28 last season. They couldn’t have afforded to spend a roster spot on a third catcher with 26. Not sure if that will be the case in 2020. A veteran catcher will probably be added to the mix nonetheless, but not sure if it would be more of a Suzuki-type or Holaday-type.

  4. Bhoffman1

    November 10, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Rich I’ve read if the O’s keep Alberto he could be a option at 3rd base. Ruiz as DH. If that makes any sense

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Bruce, we’ll find out by December 2 if the team will retain Alberto. After they make that decision, we can reassess.

  5. willmiranda

    November 10, 2020 at 10:05 am

    We’ve had lots of questions about the intersection of money and roster. Any chance, Rich, you’ll
    be able to interview the horse’s mouth, Mike Hoppes?

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 10:38 am

      Maybe I should Hoppes to it, Will.

  6. Bancells Moustache

    November 10, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Progress is good and should continue to be demanded. The ‘win/loss isn’t always linear” comment is unsettling, but it is what it is. Sometimes it seems like Elias primary function is expectation management. Count me among those who doesn’t view the Yolmer Sanchez move as anything interesting at all. The team has a large list of issues to address, and defense at the keystone sack is way down towards the bottom of that list.
    Mixed feelings on Mountcastle’s eligibility. On one hand, now the guy has expectations on him so anything less than him setting MLB on fire and winning the ROTY would be considered a letdown. On the other hand, if Mountcastle is the caliber of player we think he is, this is a challenge he should be expected to answer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 10, 2020 at 10:42 am

      Steve, it seems that whenever we speculate about “Rookie of the Year” candidates ahead of time, we’re always wrong. Mountcastle and Arozarena will be two names mentioned often, and sure enough, there’ll be other names we didn’t think about.

      My first reaction was that I thought it was 130 plate appearances as the dividing line. With so much attention on on-base percentage, and plate appearances used as for eligibility for the batting title, it should be the same for ROY. But, it’s not.

  7. WorldlyView

    November 10, 2020 at 2:39 pm

    Picking up on Bancells’s observation, Elias is very, very good at “expectations management.” Elias proclaims that the O’s will be LESS BAD, and there is joy in Birdland. Bah Humbug.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 10, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    “Expectations will be higher” … really? Somebody has a grasp for the obvious today!

    After the tank job Elias has put the loyal fans of the Baltimore through since his arrival, you’re gosh darn straight that the expectations ‘will be higher’. The man has set the bar so low that where the heck else does the team have to go but up?

    • WorldlyView

      November 10, 2020 at 3:35 pm

      In theory, the team could go down in terms of wins and losses.

    • CalsPals

      November 10, 2020 at 5:55 pm

      :)…go O’s…

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