Spring training is just over a week away, and it’s time for our monthly mailbag. Questions have been edited for length and clarity.
Question: Hi, Rich, was wondering if you could explain how team control works and when a player is no longer under team control in terms of service? I believe Trey Mancini is still under team control even though he has been with the team for a number of years. From Michael Fleetwood via email
Answer: Michael, a player has at least six seasons under club control. Mancini first came to the Orioles in September 2016, but partial seasons aren’t counted.
Mancini is also credited with a year’s service time despite missing last season because of colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
He’s entering his fifth full season with the Orioles and will be eligible for free agency after next season.
After a player’s first three seasons, they’re eligible for arbitration. Mancini is in his second season of arbitration eligibility.
Question: Rich, with all he’s been through this past year and the fact that he’s beloved in Baltimore, do you believe the O’s would trade Mancini this season if they felt the right offer came along? From: David Gruber via email
Answer: David, a healthy and productive Mancini, which I think we’ll see in the first few months of 2021, would certainly make him a more attractive trade commodity.
Along with Anthony Santander, who lost his arbitration case on Friday and will receive $2.1 million, Mancini is a valuable player, and I think they would trade him if the right offer came along.
Question: Is there a reason we’re not getting more pitching in these trades? From: Woodrow Rodgers via Facebook
Answer: Since Andrew Cashner was dealt in July 2019, the Orioles have gotten seven pitchers in their trades involving major league players. They got left-hander Kevin Smith from the New York Mets in the Miguel Castro trade last August and two right-handers from the Los Angeles Angels, Jean Pinto and Garrett Stallings, for José Iglesias in December.
In December 2019, they got four right-handers — Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich, Isaac Mattson and Zach Peek from the Angels for Dylan Bundy.
The Orioles received 11 position players and seven pitchers in these trades. On a conventional 26-man roster, 13 players are pitchers, and 13 are position players.
I don’t think the percentage is terribly distorted, Woodrow.
Question: Where will the O’s be drafting in this year’s amateur draft? Thanks. From: Timothy Stahm via Facebook
Answer: The Orioles, who tied with Arizona with a 25-35 record last season, will pick fifth in the draft, which will be held in July for the first time.
And, Timothy, I don’t know who the Orioles will pick.
Question: Who will be the player that forces his way onto the Opening Day roster? Are fans being allowed to attend spring training games? Will there be a time this season that the starting rotation will be Means, Akin, Kremer and two other young pitchers? From: Tom Duffy via Facebook
Answer: Those are all good questions, Tom. With regard to the Opening Day roster, my guess is that it would be one of the two Rule 5 pitchers, Mac Sceroler or Tyler Wells.
I’m thinking that fans will be allowed at spring training games. My guess is that somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 fans will be allowed at home games in Sarasota.
Later in the season, it’s entirely possible that the Orioles’ starting rotation consists of John Means, Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and perhaps a mix of Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann.
Question: I ask again about the number of minor league contract signings that you have reported. Given the under-performance of this group, do you have any insights as to how many of these guys declined offers from other teams to join the O’s? Are we the team of last resort? Also, do you have any info on how many free agents seeking to sign with us were rejected for lack of potential? From: Worldly View via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Steve, there’s no way of telling how many minor league free agents signed with the Orioles after declining offers from other teams. Nor do I know how many free agents were rejected by the Orioles. Offers aren’t recorded.
I do know that Freddy Galvis said in his Zoom call that he had other offers, but those teams wanted him as a utility player, and the Orioles offered him the opportunity to play every day.
Many of the minor league players who sign with the Orioles are attracted by the opportunity to play regularly because it’s there with the Orioles and isn’t with other teams.
Players are signing for the 2021 season, but they’re also playing for a contract, in Baltimore or elsewhere for 2022 and beyond, and playing time is a key reason they sign with the Orioles.
Even during the good times, 2012-2016, it was hard to attract free-agent pitchers to Baltimore because the AL East is difficult and Oriole Park is a difficult place to pitch.
Question: Hey, Rich, I’ve got an Orioles question for you. Recently O’s signed [shortstop] Maikol Hernandez out of Venezuela. How soon do you see him joining our top 30 prospect list? Maybe [catcher Samuel] Basallo joins him too? Thanks. From: Tommy Walters via email
Answer: Tommy, both Hernández and Basallo were highly coveted prospects signed by the Orioles last month, and it wouldn’t surprise me if both made either the MLB Pipeline or Baseball America Top 30 prospect lists relatively soon.
Question: For what season will they field a major league-caliber team? From: Curtis Dalpra via Facebook When do you see the Orioles contending? From: Christian Evans via email
Answer: Curtis and Christian, I think the loss of a minor league season definitely set the Orioles back. But I think 2022, when some of the top pitching prospects and players such as Adley Rutschman and Yusniel Diaz could be on the team, the Orioles will show some definite improvement.
Question: Any update on a new lease at Camden Yards? From: Vince Celano via Facebook
Answer: No, Vince, but I think there should be news on an extension soon.
Question: Going on the assumption that there’s not a trade or an injury, the Orioles look to be pretty set on what should be the starting outfield to start the season with Ryan Mountcastle in left, Austin Hays in center and Anthony Santander in right. Of the other outfielders, who’s likely to take the biggest step forward? Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, Ryan McKenna, Yusniel Diaz, or someone I’m forgetting? From: Jeff Hobson via Facebook
Answer: Jeff, the Orioles appear to have some depth in the outfield, but an injury or two could challenge that depth. Mullins and Stewart have a good chance to break with the team.
I think the Orioles would like to see Diaz and McKenna play some in Triple-A before they come up to the big leagues. Two non-roster players, Steve Wilkerson and Chris Shaw, could get some playing time later in the season.
I think Diaz might have the most impact, and the Orioles would like to see him get regular playing time when he’s called up.