It’s time for our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten a lot of good questions. This is the second part of this month’s questions. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Is it just my imagination or do Oriole starters have more success with Austin Wynns catching? Does Wynns do a superior job of calling/managing the game? From: Dean Wilyman via email
Answer: Dean, when Austin Wynns catches, the Orioles have an ERA of 7.00. Their record when he starts is 5-15. When Pedro Severino catches, the Orioles’ ERA is 5.20, and their record is 29-42. Under Chance Sisco, the ERA was 5.64, and their record was 4-15.
You can draw your own conclusions.
Question: What does Ryan Ripken’s potential look like? Can he make his way to the MLB roster at some point? He is older and getting there on play alone is something I am curious about but haven’t seen much news on him. From: Tom Oswald via email
Answer: It’s certainly possible that Ryan Ripken could make his way to the Orioles, Tom, but he plays first base, and the Orioles already have Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle there. Adley Rutschman also has been playing some first base when he’s not catching or being used as a designated hitter.
Tyler Nevin, who was obtained by the Orioles in the Mychal Givens trade from Colorado last year, also was up briefly, and he plays first and is on the 40-man roster. Ripken is not.
In previous years, when rosters were expanded to 40 in September, Ripken might have joined the Orioles, but with just two additional spots coming next month, it will be hard for him to make it in 2021.
Question: Do the Orioles plan on bringing back FanFest? From Gman via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Gman, I’ll admit I was disappointed when FanFest was discontinued before the 2020 season. The guess here is that it won’t be back.
The Orioles organized a caravan in February 2020, and it visited sites in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s and Washington counties, as well as York, Pennsylvania. There were no stops in Baltimore City or on the Eastern Shore.
I covered an event at the White Marsh Mall that was well attended, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the caravan returns and adds some stops. Hopefully, there will be a convenient one for you.
Question: I would appreciate your opinion on the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the Cubs and Nationals trading multiple stars for the proverbial pack of prospects. I think this while realizing that neither team is in playoff contention. Still, it’s got to badly hurt them in the short term and perhaps longer if most of the prospects don’t live up to their promise. Plus, their fans can’t be too pleased. From: Steve Cohen via email
Answer: Steve, I haven’t seen the Cubs play in person since 2017 when the Orioles last played them but see the Nationals each season when they play the Orioles.
I don’t think Mike Rizzo had much choice. The Nationals had a terrific run from 2012-2019 when they won the World Series. They tried to extend the run, but I think that after the Orioles swept them just before the trade deadline, they were convinced they had to rebuild.
The Nationals’ farm system was ranked 30th in baseball. Because of their success, the Nationals drafted low and used many of their better prospects to replenish their farm system.
If they hadn’t made these moves, Max Scherzer would have probably left after this season, and Trea Turner after 2022. They’re still left with an onerous Stephen Strasburg contract.
As you know, with prospects you can’t tell for at least three years, but I applaud Rizzo for acting decisively.
Question: Rich, can you help us understand why the pitching dropped off so badly this year? The whole idea was to bring up Chris Holt, who had such success at Bowie. But he’s not been able to replicate the success. Is it a metrics problem? From: @SRQOs
Answer: Before this season, his first as pitching coach, Chris Holt was the Orioles’ minor league pitching coordinator in 2019 and the organization’s director of pitching in 2020. His work was focused on all the minor league teams, not just Bowie.
There have been injuries that cost John Means, Bruce Zimmermann and Hunter Harvey long stretches of the season. Among others, they’ve also lost relievers Tanner Scott and Tyler Wells.
Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, who showed well in a handful of starts last season, haven’t been able to duplicate their success.
Many of the pitchers acquired on waivers or signed to minor league contracts haven’t added much.
Question: Rich, this is not an O’s question so I’ll understand if you don’t answer it. Why wouldn’t Kumar Rocker sign with the Mets? I understand Scott Boras is his agent and probably tried to get him over slot money but now he’s rolling the dice with his future and many bad things could happen. I just don’t get it. From: David Gruber via email
Answer: Dave, it isn’t an Orioles question, but there were a number of fans who wanted the Orioles to draft Rocker with the No. 5 pick and were disappointed when the team opted for outfielder Colton Cowser.
From what I’ve read, the Mets were concerned about Rocker after a physical and didn’t make him an offer. According to the New York Post, the Mets and Rocker agreed to a $6 million bonus, pending the physical. His future is uncertain.
Question: Where do the Orioles stand in terms of their major league payroll budget? How bad is it if you subtract the salary of Chris Davis? Regardless of how much talent we accumulate in the minor leagues, I don’t see how we will compete with the other teams in the American League East if the team is unwilling to spend. From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Orioles had an Opening Day payroll of $57 million. Davis’ salary is $23 million, which includes $6 million of deferred money.
The Orioles’ $57 million isn’t far from the $66.7 million spent by Tampa Bay, Glenn, though I think the Rays have added to their payroll with the acquisition of Nelson Cruz.
Yes, the other teams in the AL East have much larger payrolls, but if the Rays can play in the World Series and be competitive annually, the Orioles could, too, but would have to hit on draft choices, international signings and make shrewd trades.
Question: Rich, considering that the Orioles are improving but still behind in drafting and developing the international signees, do you think that will coincide with this team’s return to relevancy? Seems the successful teams have an influx throughout their systems. In other words–it’s nice to draft well but do they need those Sotos/Tatises/Guerreros to get them over the hump? From: Alan Reister via email
Answer: Alan, in order for the Orioles to compete they’ll have to draft well and hit on international signings. It’s easier to turn things around with the draft when you’re selecting 21-year-old college players than it is depending on 16- and 17-year-old international players.
You mention three outliers. Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladmir Guerrero Jr. were at the top of their signing classes and made their debuts at 19 for Soto, and 20 for Tatis and Guerrero. Those players are few and far between, and the Orioles can hope they’ve found one that good.
While a college player can debut three years after he’s drafted, it might take an international player signed as a teenager five years or more to make it to the majors.
Question: Seeing the inductees to the Orioles’ Hall of Fame this year, I was wondering what the selection process for it is and whether you think Gary Thorne might be inducted after 13 seasons in the booth? From: Michael Fleetwood via email
Answer: On Saturday, there was an outstanding class inducted — J.J. Hardy; Mike Devereaux, who was selected by the Veterans Committee; Joe Angel, who was the winner of the Herb Armstrong award for non-uniformed contributors to the team; and the late Mo Gaba, who won the Wild Bill Hagy award for special fans.
According to the Oriole Advocates and Orioles Hall of Fame bylaws, nominees for the Hall of Fame, players, coaches, managers and Herb Armstrong candidates must have been with the Orioles for at least three years.
“A select committee of Oriole Advocates (who created and oversee the HOF process), media and Orioles officials vote on a veteran and Armstrong Award winner. They also set a ballot of 4 candidates for the regular HOF selection, which then goes to a vote of a wider panel of Advocates, media and Orioles officials plus all living HOF and Armstrong award winners.
“Regular candidates must be retired from playing (including minors, independent and internationally, i.e., Japan, Korea) for 3 years and remain on the ballot for up to 15 years, as long as they receive at least one vote. After that, they go to the veterans ballot for a period of 15 years.
“Candidates for the Wild Bill Hagy Award are vetted and presented by the Orioles for a vote by the select committee.
“Elections used to be held every year, but are now held periodically, with team reunions interspersed in certain significant years.”
I certainly think Gary Thorne could be considered not only for the Orioles’ Hall of Fame but for the Ford Frick Award presented by the Baseball Hall of Fame each year.
Question: How is the draft budget decided? Do all teams have the same amount? Is that money a signing bonus, salary or both? What constitutes a team getting a compensation pick, and how is the round decided?
I’m trying to understand more about how spending less on the first picks helps with other picks. Are there players who won’t sign even if you draft them? What happens then? Do they have to sit out the rest of the season? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Seth, the Orioles drafted fifth this year and they could have spent up to $11,829,300. They spent nearly all of that. The worse your record, the more money you get to spend. That money is for signing bonuses, not salaries.
The 10 lowest-revenue clubs and clubs from the 10 smallest markets are eligible to participate in the Competitive Balance Round. Round A follows the first round, and Round B falls between the second and third.
A formula that combines winning percentage and revenue decides if your club picks in Round A. The Orioles picked in Round A in 2020, and in Round B in 2021.
It’s part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires on December 1st and must be renegotiated for next season and beyond.
Teams use underslotting to pay their first-round pick less and subsequent draft picks more. It’s used to convince a high school player to forego college by paying them more than the amount slotted for that pick.
Some high school players don’t reach agreement and go on to a four-year college and won’t be eligible for another draft until they have attended college for three years.
A college player who doesn’t reach agreement can return to college for another year, if eligible, and take his chances the next year—or he can play overseas or in independent ball in the U.S.
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Conner Greene, who was designated for assignment on Saturday, was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. … Delmarva right-hander Jean Pinto was named the Low-A East Pitcher of the Week.