It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag. We’ve gotten a lot of excellent questions, which is why we’ve divided them into two parts again. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: I’m curious about why the Orioles do spring training in Sarasota. Is there some sort of link there or is it just a financially good deal? From: Marcus Walfridson via email
Answer: Marcus, the Orioles moved to Sarasota from Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and have a 30-year lease. Sarasota is a terrific place with lots of good restaurants, beaches and cultural activities, and it’s centrally located.
There are nine teams within 90 minutes — Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Minnesota, New York Yankees, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Toronto.
The Ed Smith Stadium complex has four full back fields, a large number of pitching mounds and a fine spring training ballpark.
Question: I’m curious about the status of negotiations on a long-term lease for the Orioles. I am worried, having been an O’s fan since 1958 and learning from Irsay and the Colts’ move that the economics of MLB moving the Expos and “small market” baloney could leave us without the Orioles.
I know what John Angelos said about Fort McHenry and all that, but not hearing anything about a long-term lease agreement bothers me. I believe if/when there’s an agreement, even during the rebuild, fans will start coming back. From: Bill Aversa
Answer: Bill, I wouldn’t be worried. The Orioles signed a two-year extension earlier this year, and I would expect a long-term extension in the next year or so.
The Colts moved because Memorial Stadium was inadequate for football and there was a city, Indianapolis, with a stadium that had just been built to lure an NFL team, and there were other cities eager to build one. You also could add to the mix an unstable owner in Bob Irsay, a deterioating relationship with the city and media, and the NFL’s inability to stop Al Davis’ Raiders from moving from Oakland to Los Angeles two years before.
None of that applies to the Orioles. Oriole Park is still a wonderful facility, and when there is a long-term extension, there will be enhancements to update it. After all, it will be 30 years old next season.
Major League Baseball doesn’t want Oriole Park to be empty, and there are two other older and inadequate stadiums, Oakland and Tampa Bay. MLB has encouraged the Athletics to look elsewhere to help force the stadium issue.
There are no new major league baseball stadiums ready in Charlotte, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Montreal, Nashville and Portland, so there’s really no one to lure the Orioles away.
Question: In retrospect, it seems like two of the O’s biggest blunders in terms of decision-making were investing in the long-term potential of Chris Davis over Nelson Cruz, who is still a force of nature, and underestimating the potential All-Star talent of Mike Yastrzemski, who is leading the Giants to one of the best records in baseball. From your perspective, what do you think led to the O’s making these horrible decisions?. From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, Cruz wasn’t signed after the 2014 season because Dan Duquette, who was the general manager at the time, thought Cruz’s numbers wouldn’t hold up for the length of the four-year contract he was seeking. Obviously, that was a mistake, along with not re-signing rightfielder Nick Markakis, whose long-term health was an issue.. Both moves were unpopular with fans.
Davis’ re-signing was in large part to make up for not signing Cruz and Markakis, and it was a popular move at the time.
I will give Mike Elias a total pass on the Mike Yastrzemski trade. Nothing in Yastrzemski’s minor league numbers could have predicted the success he’s had with the Giants. He was left unprotected three times in the Rule 5 draft and wasn’t taken by any of the other 29 teams.
Duquette, who had drafted Yastrzemski, never called him up, not even when the team lost 115 games in 2018.
In the spring of 2019, the Orioles had many young outfielders to look at: Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart, Yusniel Diaz and Ryan McKenna. Yastrzemski’s minor league numbers weren’t as good as theirs.
Of course, in retrospect, Elias would love to have that move back, but he was new to the team, and there was nothing to indicate that Yastrzemski would become the excellent player he has become.
Question: Whose decision is it when there is a player transaction on the O’s when someone is called up from the minors or sent down? Do Elias and Hyde discuss what they want to do together or is it strictly an Elias thing? From: David in Parkville via email
Answer: David, Mike Elias has the final call on transactions. Brandon Hyde has input, but Elias makes the decision.
Question: If there is an approved payroll floor, how do you see the Orioles making up the difference in their salaries? Free-agent signings or some extensions … maybe Mullins, Mancini, Means, Mountcastle? From: Nathan Greiss via email
Answer: Nathan, you’re referring to a proposal in the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that would implement a salary floor, requiring teams to spend a minimum amount on salaries. Dean Wilyman had a similar question.
One area that players have issues with is that they feel some teams, including the Orioles, aren’t spending enough money to put competitive teams on the field.
The owners have proposed a salary floor. It’s very early in the negotiating process, but I’m optimistic that a deal will be struck because at least areas of concern are being addressed.
I don’t know if there will be a floor, but it wouldn’t be likely to be implemented instantly. More likely it would be phased in.
Extensions for some of the players you mention could be part of the floor as well as maybe some free-agent signings.
Question: With the CBA set to expire on December 1st, there’s a good possibility of a work stoppage. I don’t think either side wants that, and I know it won’t be good for the sport. Having said that, how long does it typically take to come to an agreement and a contract to be written? If December 1st comes and goes, is it possible to have an agreement by the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training? From: Barstool Sleeper via email
Answer: Dave, I’m hoping there’s not a work stoppage because, as you write, it wouldn’t be good for baseball. I think there’s plenty of time and willingness to negotiate an agreement, but talks are not likely to intensify until after the World Series.
If there’s not an agreement, there is time to negotiate one between December 1st and February 15th, but let’s hope for an agreement.
Question: I think management needs to bring in some veteran starting pitchers during the offseason to pave the way so that DL Hall, etc., will not be rushed. They could use a season in Norfolk. But management has to do something to help the parent team. This season has been awful. Do you have any idea if they plan to spend money on the parent team? From: ODU Mike via email
Answer: Mike, I think they will consider bringing in some more accomplished veteran starting pitching, but because the team hasn’t been competitive, and the American League East is difficult, it’s a tough sell.
While Oriole Park is a great place to watch a game, it’s not friendly to starting pitchers, so the Orioles would have to overpay for veteran starters, and I don’t think that’s going to happen.
What I think they should do is to spend on an accomplished reliever or two to mentor the younger pitchers and provide stability. That would have been useful this season.
Question: Is there a top five of international players that the Orioles signed, and when can we expect them to play in America? From: Tileman via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments.
Answer: Tileman, I would say the top international prospects are shortstop Maikol Hernandez, catcher Samuel Basallo, outfielder Luis Gonzalez, pitcher Luis Ortiz and outfielder Wilmer Feliciano.
Gonzalez and Ortiz have already played in the Florida Complex League. Hernández, Basallo, and Feliciano played in the Dominican Summer League this season.
Perhaps you’ll see some of those who signed in 2019 at Delmarva next season.
Question: Who do you see as 40-man roster additions and subtractions in the offseason? From: @NTom35
Answer: David Evans also submitted a similar question, Tom. I think that pitchers Kyle Bradish, DL Hall, Kevin Smith, infielders Patrick Dorrian and Terrin Vavra, and outfielder Robert Neustrom have the best shot at being added to the 40-man roster.
Pitchers Gray Fenter, who was taken in the Rule 5 draft by the Chicago Cubs and later returned, Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock, who was eligible last year but not taken, will also get consideration. So will infielder Adam Hall, the second-round pick in 2017, but he has yet to play above High-A Aberdeen.
Matt Harvey, who was signed as a free agent, will come off the 40-man roster. I don’t see the Orioles retaining Pedro Severino because his salary would be problematical for a backup next year.
Jorge López is an interesting case. He’s eligible for arbitration, and the Orioles like what they’ve seen out of him in the bullpen.
Paul Fry is also eligible for arbitration, and the Orioles could decline to offer him a contract or trade him.
There are a large number of players on the 40-man roster who have questionable futures, and the last weeks of the season are crucial for them.
Question: Lately there has been talk suggesting that the Orioles may be more active in the free-agent market. Rich, is there any indication what that increased activity may look like? Related, with the CBA set to expire on December 1st, do you expect teams like the Orioles will wait until there is a new deal before signing free agents? From: Cedar via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Cedar, you raise a good point. I don’t know if teams will move aggressively to sign free agents before the CBA expires or wait until after it, and I don’t know how agents will advise their players.
It probably wouldn’t matter to the Orioles, who even if they’re more active in the free-agent market, aren’t likely to sign players outside their organization to contracts longer than a year or two.
Question: I assume it’s a long shot, but do you think there is any possibility that MLB will go to some rotation of division membership, so that the Orioles are not perpetually stuck with the Yankees and Red Sox in the East? From: Birdman via email
Answer: Joel, I think Major League Baseball would like to expand to 32 teams after the new CBA is signed. It would provide healthy franchise fees for the 30 current owners and 52 new jobs for players.
With 32 teams, scheduling would be easier, and that would be the best chance for realignment.
There’s been lots of loose chatter about realignment for years, and expansion could create eight four-team divisions. Keep in mind that the Orioles’ best draws at the box office are the Yankees and Red Sox, and it wasn’t that long ago that they finished above both in the standings.
Question: Rich, If the future second baseman, shortstop and third baseman of the Orioles were brought up tomorrow, who would they be? From: PC in OC via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments.
Answer: PC, I think Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg are the best shortstop and third base prospects in the organization, though I’m not sure who plays where.
Henderson is at Aberdeen and Westburg is at Bowie.
Connor Norby, who was their second-round draft pick this year, is their top prospect at second base. He’s at Delmarva.
Question: How long do you have to wait so a player’s time does not start counting toward his service time. Would it not be wise to bring up your best prospects after that time next year? From: Navy 8049 via email
Answer: As with the salary floor, this is another area that I think could well be changed in the new CBA. The players have long accused the owners of manipulating service time, and the owners have reportedly proposed making players free agents at age 29 1/2, regardless of service time. I’m sure that the current service time rules, which allow free agency after six major league seasons, will be altered in 2022.