It’s time for our monthly mailbag, and we’ve gotten lots of excellent questions. This is the second part. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: The ownership of the Orioles negotiated an agreement on the ownership of MASN, and the Nationals agreed to it. I know the current dispute is about broadcast rights fees but Major League Baseball should not be involved, especially when they are biased against the Orioles. Can you explain why MLB is taking the approach it is taking? Is it because they have a grudge against Peter Angelos for negotiating a good deal for the Orioles? From: Mike Beale via email
Answer: Mike, the Nationals contended that they should be paid $475 million for TV rights from 2012-2016. They were paid $197.5 million. A panel of baseball executives ruled in 2014 that the Orioles should pay the Nationals $298.1 million.
That ruling is being appealed, and even when it’s settled the rights fees from 2017 through the present have to be settled.
Rights fees for sports grew at a higher pace than expected when the Nationals arrived in 2005, and they wanted a piece of that. With cord cutting and smaller audiences, I’m not sure how they would calculate current rights.
I know that MLB and the Orioles haven’t agreed on many issues, but in February 2020, commissioner Rob Manfred said that he was in regular communication with the Angelos family and that he had a good relationship with them.
The dispute has gone on far too long, and I’m not sure when it ends, but I think the uncertainty has hurt the franchise.
Question: Hi, Rich. First off, thanks for your coverage this season. Do you think Ryan Mountcastle will be the long-term plan at first base and Trey Mancini filling in at designated hitter or will they alternate the two? From: Michael Fleetwood via email
Answer: Michael, I think the Orioles see Mountcastle as their first baseman and Mancini as the DH. Mancini hit .295 as the DH and .220 when he was playing first. Mountcastle hit .264 as the first baseman and .235 as the DH.
Question: What are the rules for protecting players on the 40-man roster to prevent a player from being taken in the Rule 5 draft? Is it age, years with the team, years in pro baseball? From: Barry Culman via email
Answer: Barry, a player needs to be protected on the 40-man roster if he was signed at 18 and has played professional baseball for five years or signed at 19 or older and played for four years.
Question: I’d like you to research where some local high school and college ball players have signed and how they did this year and maybe in recent years. From: JerryTerp via email
Answer: Good question, Jerry. This season, 14 Marylanders played in the major leagues, including the Orioles’ Bruce Zimmermann.
Four Maryland Terrapins — Tampa Bay’s Brandon Lowe, Toronto’s Kevin Smith, Oakland’s Adam Kolarek and San Francisco’s LaMonte Wade Jr. played in the majors this year. Kolarek (Catonsville) and Wade (Baltimore) are from Maryland. Lowe is from Virginia and Smith is from New Jersey.
This year, there were three Baltimore-area players taken high in the draft. San Diego selected two: Jackson Merrill, a shortstop from Severna Park High; and outfielder Robert Wood, who’s from Olney but went to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The Los Angeles Dodgers selected Gilman’s Peter Heubeck, a right-handed pitcher in the third round.
Merrill hit .280 with 10 RBIs in 31 games. Wood hit .372 with three homers and 22 RBIs in 26 games. Heubeck pitched four scoreless innings. All three played in the Arizona Complex League.
There are at least two Marylanders who were drafted recently. Infielder Jeremy Arocho, from Old Mill High in Millersville, was taken in the 2017 draft by the Dodgers and is now in the Angels’ organization. He hit .305 at three levels this year. Isaiah Pasteur, from Carroll County, is an infielder who was drafted by the Yankees in 2019. He hit .159 this year in High-A.
Question: I realize that you are a firm believer in the historic value of Camden Yards and that Major League Baseball will be hard-pressed to ever allow the team to leave Baltimore. However, the ballpark is in need of upgrades, including short outfield dimensions that make it nearly impossible to recruit talented starting pitchers, more fan-friendly viewing areas and game sightlines, lack of cover from rain and the elements, outdated JumboTron and sound system.
It would seem to me that they should bring back Janet Marie Smith to work her magic again on the ballpark. These issues must be addressed. From: Baltimore Castaway via email
Answer: Mike, when Janet Marie designed the park, it was far ahead of its time but as we both know times changed, and while 30 years later it’s still a great ballpark, it does need updating.
Around 2012, Janet Marie served as a consultant when the roof deck and some other alterations were made. I think major changes will occur after a long-term lease is signed. You are correct, the scoreboard and sound system are badly outmoded, and fans who are at concession stands can’t see action on the field. In many newer parks, they can.
I’m not sure if changing the outfield dimensions or increased protection from the elements are in the plans, but I’m sure once the lease is signed, those plans will become public.
Question: What is the status of the injury-plagued Yusniel Diaz and do you feel he is still in the O’s future plans? From: Steve “Richards” Leibowitz
Answer: Steve, as you may have read, Diaz will be going to the Arizona Fall League, and I think the Orioles want to do anything they can to help him. I think he needs a big 2022 to become part of the Orioles future.
Question: When will 40-man rosters be set? When will the Rule 5 draft be held? After failing on his first five Rule 5 draft picks and finally getting it right on the sixth try (Tyler Wells), do you think that with the first pick Elias has finally figured it out and will make another successful pick in the Rule 5 draft? From: Bill Dowd via email
Answer: Players from within the organization must be added to the 40-man roster about two-to-three weeks before the Rule 5 draft, which is on the final day of the Winter Meetings, which would be December 9th.
Player transactions can take place until the draft, and I think the Orioles will enter it with two open spots on the 40-man roster. The Orioles have first choice, and they’ll hope for another Tyler Wells.
Question: Who do you think could be in the O’s rotation for 2022 and 2023 besides John Means and Grayson Rodriguez? From: Gary G from Towson via email
Answer: Gary, the Orioles have a number of candidates for the rotation for next year and perhaps the year after. Besides Means and Rodriguez, DL Hall should make his debut. The other candidates are familiar names: Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann.
From the Triple-A roster, Kyle Bradish and Kevin Smith will get a look, and I’m sure there will be a couple of free agents signed to challenge for the rotation.
Question: Which starting pitchers do you think the O’s will target and what price do you think they would be able to sign them at? From: David E. via email
Answer: David, I think the Orioles will target second- and third-tier free agent pitchers—if their price comes down. I don’t think they’ll spend major money on starting pitchers this winter. It’s more likely they’ll spend on veteran relievers, but I think they’ll sign a starter or two at a lower price.
Question: What are the chances that the O’s Opening Day 2022 outfield is already set as McKenna, Mullins and Hays? From: Martin Bakner via Facebook
Answer: Martin, I think that Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins will be in the Opening Day lineup along with Anthony Santander. I think Ryan McKenna is useful and he projects as a fourth outfielder.
Question: Are the Orioles grooming Buck Britton to be the next manager? From: Patrick Higgins via Facebook
Answer: There’s an excellent chance that Buck Britton will replace Gary Kendall as Norfolk’s manager, Patrick, but Triple-A is a long way from the major leagues.
The Orioles also jumped Kendall from Bowie to Norfolk, and he was never promoted to the Orioles.
Britton has had success with younger players at Delmarva and Bowie, and it will be interesting to see how he does with more experienced ones at Norfolk.
Question: If you were a betting man, putting this in three categories, who would you put in the A) definitely will be on the Opening Day roster; B) may be on the Opening Day roster, or C) will not be on the Opening Day roster. From: John from New Jersey via email
Answer: John, the machinations of the 40-man roster will be interesting. That will help determine who will be on the 26-man roster on March 31st. Christián Sena, from the Dominican Republic, asked a similar question.
I think that Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander will be in the outfield. Ryan Mountcastle will be at first base and Trey Mancini will be the designated hitter. I think that Adley Rutschman will start the season as catcher. I’ll also guess that Ramón Urias will in the lineup, probably at shortstop.
John Means will be the Opening Day starter, and I’d guess that from the bullpen Cole Sulser, Dillon Tate and Tyler Wells are the surest bets to return.
The rest of the lineup, rotation and bullpen is fluid with plenty of candidates, and I think there will be many additions from outside the organization.
Question: Were the 2021 Orioles really a disappointment or were they what we expected (even if we don’t love the results)? There are several other teams that had greater expectations but were unable to make a playoff run … Angels, Phillies, Mets and Padres to name a few. Is the future brighter for Orioles fans vs. the Diamondbacks, Pirates or Rangers? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Seth, I thought the Orioles would win 12-to-15 games more than won. That would have been between 95 and 98 losses, so I think they were a disappointment with 110 losses. I expected better performances from pitchers Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer, in particular. Still, 98 losses wouldn’t have been a good performance.
The teams you named have much larger payrolls and more skilled veterans than the Orioles, and I think it’s fair to say they were disappointments to their fans.
I don’t know enough about the farm systems of Arizona, Pittsburgh and Texas to make a guess about their prospects.
Question: How would you compare John Angelos’ managing style to his father’s? From: Larry Schultz via email
Answer: Larry, I think John Angelos’ style is more hands-off than his father, Peter, who has been in declining health for several years.
I think general manager Mike Elias has much latitude to operate the club in the way he wants to, and he’s emphasized that he’s gotten the support he’s needed from management.
Question: How should we as fans feel about this team? Coming off of a 110-loss season, there were a few bright spots in the “M” players and we have the top-rated farm system. However, I feel as if this team has a very long way to go to be competitive in the division. All four teams won 90-plus games and they’re all poised to reload next year. From: Dave Hersl via email
Answer: Dave, I think 2022 is an important year for the team. Mike Elias has said he expects the team’s record to improve and, if it does, then perhaps the distance between the Orioles and the other four American League East teams won’t feel as great as it does now.
Question: What position does Kyle Stowers play? Do the O’s have anyone in the minors to play second, third and shortstop? They seem to have many outfielders but no infielders
Can Rylan Bannon be the answer at third or second base? I thought I read that he was only 5 feet 7. Is that accurate? From: Dominic Tibaldo via email
Answer: Dominic, the Orioles have made infielders the second pick in each of the last three drafts: Gunnar Henderson (2019), Jordan Westburg (2020) and Connor Norby (2021).
It’s possible that Henderson and Westburg could play for the team in 2022. They have drafted a number of other infielders high in the last three drafts because they recognized they didn’t have enough infield prospects.
Stowers has played each of the outfield positions in the minors, but most often he’s been in right field.
Rylan Bannon, who’s listed at 5-8, was a disappointment in 2021 at Norfolk, and I think the Orioles will give him another chance to prove himself in 2022.
Note: The Orioles re-signed outfielder Cristopher Cespedes, right-handed pitcher Ofelky Peralta and left-hander Nick Vespi to minor league contracts for 2022.