It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten lots of good questions, and this is the second part. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: I’ve found myself following Ryan Ripken at Triple-A and wondering if he will ever get a shot at the big-league club? When Ryan Mountcastle got hurt recently, I was surprised that the O’s called up Tyler Nevin over Ripken. What are your thoughts? Will we ever see another Ripken playing for the Orioles? From: Robert R. via email
Answer: Tyler Nevin was called up because he was on the 40-man roster and Ryan Ripken wasn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ripken was called up at some point. It would provide some needed fun for Orioles fans.
Question: The Orioles have made many trades over the last several years. Can you show me one trade that makes sense? From: John Flato via-email
Answer: John, you listed many trades made in 2018 by Dan Duquette and a number made by Mike Elias since he took over later that year.
It’s still too early to evaluate some of the trades the Orioles made in 2018. The Manny Machado trade brought three players who are still with the organization, Rylan Bannon, Yusniel Diaz and Dean Kremer. In a year or two, we’ll have a better idea about those players.
The trade the Orioles made with Atlanta did send Kevin Gausman there, but it also gave the team substantial salary relief when the Braves took an expensive Darren O’Day contract. The Orioles got Bruce Zimmermann and others in return, and Zimmermann is showing promise.
As for Elias’ trades, his deal in December 2019 that sent Dylan Bundy to the Los Angeles for four young pitchers could be a good one. Kyle Bradish, who’s at Norfolk, is pitching well, and Isaac Mattson has already pitched for the Orioles.
Ask me this question again a year from now, and we may have a different answer.
Question: Rich, could you remind us how/when the clock starts on a player toward arbitration/free agency? I’d like to see Adley Rutschman behind the plate this year. Would that proverbial cup of coffee burn a year? From: OrioleMaze from BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Both OrioleMaze and Bob Lawrence, among many others, are eager to see Rutschman this year. If the Orioles promoted Rutschman later this year, it probably wouldn’t affect the clock on arbitration or free agency, which could change beginning next year when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement takes effect. That issue might be part of the negotiations.
If Rutschman were promoted late this year or began 2022 with the Orioles, he’d be eligible for arbitration after the 2024 season and for free agency after 2027, assuming the current timetable remains.
However, the Orioles might not want to put him on the 40-man roster this year to not only save space for another promising player but to make sure he can play in the event of a labor dispute to begin 2022.
Players not on the 40-man roster would be able to continue to play minor league ball if the major leagues had a work stoppage.
Question: At Triple-A Norfolk, who has the more famous dad, Zach Jarrett or Ryan Ripken? From: Derek Roberts by email
Answer: Zach Jarrett is the son of famed NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett. Around here, there’s no question that Cal Ripken Jr. is more famous, but in the Southeast, I’m sure there are many more NASCAR fans than in Baltimore.
Question: Would the Orioles consider bringing back Matt Wieters to help with the young pitching staff? From: Dave Robinson via email
Answer: No, Wieters was one of the best catchers in Orioles history, but he was a free agent over the winter and went unsigned. He was also recently cut from the U.S. Olympic baseball team, so I think the Wieters ship has sailed.
Question: Any word on whether the media will travel with teams this season? From: Bobbymac824 from BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Some radio broadcasters have begun to travel. The Indians’ radio crew was in Baltimore this past weekend.
A number of print and digital outlets traveled last year and this year. As for myself, I’ve been to fewer road games than in the past because of restricted access but still have been to Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and Nationals Park this season.
Question: I’m old enough to remember the glory years. The thing we always heard back then — how a small-market upstart team could dominate for a solid 20 years in the AL East — was that they had a coherent approach that was taught and followed at every level of the organization: The Oriole Way. I know the game has changed and many of our problems might be a result of the Orioles not changing with it.
But I’d sure like to see more emphasis on pitching and defense. And more fundamentally, is there a New Oriole Way, a baseball method, that the Orioles’ organization is developing and planning to implement from A-ball on up to the show? From: Ben Schenck via email
Answer: Yes, Ben, the Orioles are teaching pitching and hitting the same way throughout the minor leagues. Their pitching coach, Chris Holt, also carries the title, director of pitching, and he was the minor league pitching coordinator in 2019 and 2020. Their hitting coaches work collaboratively, too.
Question: Why don’t teams bunt against the shift? If the defense is going to leave areas of the field undefended, why not take advantage? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: I agree with you, Seth, but hitters are convinced they’re paid to hit the long ball and not singles. I love it when a batter goes the other way. Yes, they’re not going to hit home runs, but they would profit from it because the defense would play them straight up.
Question: What is the tipping point at which the losing goes from being part of the rebuild to concern? From: @SabresFanJan8
(This was tweeted before the end of the 14-game losing streak)
Answer: I know many fans are losing patience and expected a better won/loss record by now, but I don’t know many observers who thought the Orioles would have a much better record than they do now. I think next year and 2023 will be critical. Progress should be apparent by then.
Question: How much longer are we going to keep playing Maikel Franco at third base? We aren’t getting much from him on the offensive side. Is there any help coming soon? From: Jay J. via email
Answer: Jay, Maikel Franco has been offensively disappointing. Last year, Franco hit .278 with a .778 OPS in 60 games for Kansas City, and his numbers this year aren’t close to that.
The Orioles don’t have a third baseman at Norfolk who’s ready. Rylan Bannon, who’s on the 40-man roster, is out because of an oblique injury. One of the reasons the Orioles have drafted so many infielders is that they know the quality of the major league infielders is wanting. I would say Franco is the third baseman for 2021.
Question: Who are the Orioles most likely to be dealt before the trading deadline? What is your opinion about the possibility of trading Trey Mancini or Anthony Santander? From: Jeff Hobson via Facebook
Answer: I would think Santander is the most likely to be traded. A team would be getting nearly 2 ½ seasons of club control before he’s eligible for free agency. He missed a month because of a sprained ankle, and his numbers aren’t what they were a year ago. The trading deadline isn’t until July 30th, so there’s plenty of time for him to put up bigger numbers.
It’s my hope that the Orioles don’t trade Mancini. I think he sets a great example for players in the clubhouse, and he’s one of the few who fans identify with.
Paul Fry and Freddy Galvis could be useful to contenders and could also be trade chips..
Question: I know many players have two-way contracts that pay them one amount when in Baltimore and a lesser amount when in Norfolk. My question is for the players filling the rosters of the lower minors: Do they get a raise when going from, say, Aberdeen to Bowie? From: Dave Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, the minimum monthly salary for rookie and short-season ball is $400. It’s $500 for Single-A, $600 a month for Double-A, and $700 a month for Triple-A. Teams can pay more than the minimum.
Question: Would you explain the difference between a player being waived and one designated for assignment? What are the specifics to the limited options rule? The O’s are recalling and optioning the same player multiple times.
I guess I am still hung up on how the taxi squad functions, despite your dealing with this more than once. On days when the O’s taxi squad is on duty, does that mean Norfolk has only 23 players available for their game? From: Steve Cohen via email
Answer: Let’s deal with the first two together. A player who joins a 40-man roster has three options. A club may option a player multiple times in any of those three years.
A player is designated for assignment if he has used up his three options and can’t be sent to the minor leagues without passing through waivers or, if they have options and the 40-man roster is full. A team has seven days to trade, waive or release a player after they have been designated him for assignment. It’s rare that a player is simply released without an attempt at compensation.
This year, Triple-A teams have 33 players on their roster and a five-man taxi squad for each game. Since the start of the minor league season, the requirement for major league teams to carry a taxi squad has been dropped, and the Orioles didn’t have one on their most recent trip to Minnesota and Chicago.
Question: The debate about Pedro Severino and particularly pitch-framing sparked my interest. What is the metric for determining a catcher’s ability regarding framing? Apparently there’s even a Statcast rating for pitch-framing? How are framing skills evaluated? Who evaluates and codifies such information? It seems like a soft skill (thus difficult to evaluate) and not a black and white sort of thing to me. From: Icterus Fan via email
Answer: Marty, Statcast breaks down the catcher’s view into eight zones around the strike zone and, in their words, the rating “shows the called strike percentage of all non-swings in that zone.” Their strike rate is the cumulative total of all zones. Runs from extra strikes converts strikes to runs saved.
José Trevino of the Texas Rangers is the leader. Chance Sisco was 56th and Severino was 58th and last. Austin Wynns hadn’t appeared in enough games to be evaluated.
Question: Isn’t Sisco going to have to be remembered as a major disappointment from the previous administration? All we heard was a great hitter who needed a position. From: Neil Cashen via email
Answer: Neil, Chance Sisco is still part of the Orioles’ organization since he’s on the 40-man roster and could return to the team if there was an injury. He was a second-round draft choice in 2013 and has a .199 average in parts of five seasons.
It would be in his best interests to go to a different organization. Because he’s a left-handed hitting catcher, and still only 26, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity elsewhere to see if he can prove himself to be a quality major leaguer.
Question: The Orioles recently have seemed to model their game after the Rays by their willingness to use bullpen days and openers. Oriole manager Brandon Hyde’s quick hook has often been criticized on this site. Is that a result of trying to mirror the Rays? Is this a sustainable practice or is it more a result of young pitchers? Any news about labor talks for 2022? From: Dave Hersl via email
Answer: Dave, I haven’t heard anything about labor talks, which I suppose is a good thing.
The Orioles are trying to conserve innings with their younger pitchers because they’re concerned about the effects of the shortened 2020 season,\ and they want to try to get their pitchers through an entire season without breaking down. That’s the case for many major league teams.
I’m sure the Orioles would like to mirror the Rays’ success, but they don’t yet have the talent.
Question: I know the Orioles need starting pitchers, but after watching Matt Harvey this season, would they at some point consider using him as a closer? It seems to me that his first-inning ERA is much lower than subsequent innings, and if he was used this way, it could be a showcase for a trade later in the year. From: Scott Scheer via email
Answer: Scott, finding good starting pitchers is the first priority for the Orioles. Having a good closer on a non-competitive team isn’t as important because there aren’t regular save opportunities.
Harvey’s first-inning ERA is 6.00, and his best innings are the third (4.09 ERA) and fourth (2.00).
It’s not out of the question that Harvey might be considered as a reliever at some point in his career, but I think the Orioles, especially with John Means on the injured list because of a strained left shoulder, need starters first.