It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag, and we’ve gotten lots of excellent questions. I answered many of them on Tuesday, and we’ll have more in December. Questions are edited for clarity, length and style.
Question: Given all the holes the O’s need to fill (backup catcher, infielders, starting pitchers, relievers), does it seem possible they will become competitive in tough AL East anytime soon? Before 2025? From: Bob Stier via email
Answer: A similar question was posed by Jay Demarest, so Bob and Jay, I think it’s possible that the Orioles could be significantly improved by 2023 if their young talent pans out. I’m not sure about contending.
The division will be tough, but it wasn’t so long ago, 2012-2016, that the Orioles managed to compete successfully with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays, so I don’t see why they couldn’t again.
Question: Does the Severino move indicate the Orioles are thinking of starting the season with Rutschman on the roster? From: @JamieHarrison
Answer: Jamie, the Orioles weren’t going to pay Pedro Severino $3 million to be a backup catcher to Adley Rutschman. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement may decide whether the Orioles begin the season with Rutschman as their catcher or whether he’s there shortly after the season starts.
Question: Will the Orioles’ management spend more cash this offseason? No matter how good your minor league teams are the name of the game is money and how much you are willing to spend to win. From: James Warren via email.
Answer: James, I expect that the Orioles will spend a little more than they have in the last few years, but I think their free-agent signings will be more modest than you’d like.
Your analogy of spending to win is imperfect. According to Spotrac, four of the highest-spending teams (New York Mets, 3rd; Philadelphia Phillies, 6th ; Los Angeles Angels, 7th; and San Diego Padres, 8th) didn’t make the playoffs, but the Milwaukee Brewers (19th) and Tampa Bay Rays (26th) did. Spending more on free agents does show the fans that a team is trying to be aggressive but spending wisely is better.
Question: There are two stud catchers in this year’s MLB Draft — Georgia Tech’s Kevin Parada and Arizona’s Daniel Susac. If Baltimore did take him at Number 1 in July, Parada would be the one of the Oriole top three hitting prospects in addition to playing a position where he could spell Adley Rutschman. So both guys would be fresher throughout the season, and there would be little drop-off defensively. And both bats would be in the lineup to hit for at least 150 games. Do you think the Orioles could take a catcher? From: Patrick from Towson
Answer: Patrick, there was speculation that the Orioles would consider Henry Davis, a catcher from the University of Louisville, as their pick in the 2021 draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him first overall. Initially, I figured there was no chance of that happening, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for a team to have two excellent catchers simultaneously.
In the mid-1950s, when the Yankees had a dynasty, they signed Elston Howard, who would become their first Black player even though they had baseball’s best catcher, Yogi Berra.
In his early years, Howard played some catcher behind Berra and played first base and the outfield. As Berra aged, Howard caught more while Berra played more first and the outfield. This strategy helped extend the Yankees’ run into the 1960s.
I know the Orioles will consider many players for the No. 1 pick, and while it’s unlikely they’d pick a catcher, I wouldn’t dismiss it.
Question: I’m wondering why Drew Rom doesn’t get much hype. I don’t expect him to get Grayson Rodriguez or DL Hall hype. But he has put up nice numbers. Is it because he doesn’t throw as hard as the other two? From: Aaron Greenfield via email
Answer: Aaron, I’ve been aware of Drew Rom since I saw him pitch well at a game in Delmarva in 2019 and, you’re right, it doesn’t seem as if he gets much attention.
Rom is a left-hander, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2018. This past season, he was a combined 11-1 with a 3.18 ERA with Aberdeen and Bowie. He struck out nearly five times as many batters as he walked, and averaged fewer than eight hits per nine innings. If he keeps up those stats, you’ll be hearing a lot more about Drew Rom.
Question: Do you think if Peter Angelos passes on, the team would be ripe for a sale? I know people like Larry Lucchino would be quite interested in being part of a group to purchase them. From: Ed Charik via email
Answer: Ed, I don’t know the answer to this question. Baseball teams are rarely sold. There have been just three teams sold since 2013: Miami, Kansas City and the New York Mets.
Some teams in major league sports are sold because of tax reasons, others because the current owner no longer wants to own the team and there is the potential for a large profit. Some teams are sold when the principal owners dies. In other cases, they remain in the family.
Question: Rich, I see where attendance for MLB games was at an almost 40-year low and TV viewership was way up this year. Obviously, it was the Covid effect, people stayed away from large crowds which made them watch more games on TV. With attendance down, does that favor the players in the negotiations? From: David Gruber via email
Answer: David, attendance was restricted in many places, including Baltimore, so it’s no surprise attendance was low. However, TV ratings were only up against record-low figures in 2020. The 2021 World Series had the second-lowest rating in recorded history.
You’ll be reading a lot about the negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the next couple of weeks, but I don’t think either side is negotiating from a position of strength.
Question: If the Orioles move on from Brandon Hyde, what are the chances of Buck Showalter returning as manager? From: Perry Campanaris via email
Answer: Perry, Buck would like to manage again, but it won’t be with the Orioles. I don’t see any possibility of a future Showalter-Orioles reunion.
Question: Every baseball fan knows the O’s need some experienced starters for 2022. The Elias team has acknowledged this fact. Given the frugal spending habits on free agents and what any potential experienced starters was paid in 2021 and will cost in 2022, how do you see those starter spots being filled? From: Dean Wilyman via email
Answer: A similar question was posed by Mark Cooper. Dean and Mark, I think the Orioles will try to sign two or three starting candidates from the long list of both major league and minor league free agents.
The guess here is that the Orioles will wait until later in the free-agent signing season and avoid participating in bidding wars.
Question: I’ve been surprised how much chatter around the next CBA has been focused on anti-tanking measures. One thing that has stood out is the MLB proposed $100 million floor for roster salary. Is there any chatter if measures like this will actually be adopted? From: Robert Ricketts via email
Answer: Robert, there has been a lot of talk about a proposed salary floor. If there was a salary floor, it would probably be phased in. There’s so much speculation about the CBA, and I’m not sure what’s possible and what’s not.
Question: When Adley Rutschman eventually reaches the majors, how do you think the Orioles will try to balance getting his bat in the lineup with the arduous nature of the catching position? What impact in terms of playing time might this have on Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle? Does this make Trey expendable? From: Steve from Monkton
Answer: Steve, Adley Rutschman started 80 games at catcher for Bowie and Norfolk, played first base 28 times and was the designated hitter 14 times.
Because of the minor league schedule, which always had Mondays off in 2021, Rutschman’s playing time could be more easily regulated than it could be in the majors where there isn’t a set day off.
Catching is arduous, and I think at first the Orioles would want to see how Rutschman is adjusting to the big leagues, but I think there are enough reps for Mancini, Mountcastle and Rutschman to coexist.
Question: If Rutschman experiences a rookie slump or hits the wall, what strategy does the team have? I’m not suggesting that he’ll be a bust or even a disappointment, but everybody hits bad spots, and there has to be a reaction. Stick it out? Send him down for seasoning? A few days off? From: Will Miranda via BaltimoreBaseball.com comments
Answer: Will, that’s really getting ahead of ourselves. Early in the 2021 season, there was some talk that the Orioles would send Ryan Mountcastle down because he wasn’t hitting. Instead, they stuck with him and were rewarded. They have a lot of faith in Rutschman and believe he’s mentally tough, so I’m sure they’ll stick with him in a rough stretch.
Question: Jim Palmer used to tell this story: The offseason before Zack Britton became the closer, he went to California and worked out with Brady Anderson using a weighted ball. Zack developed the best sinker in baseball. I haven’t heard about any of the current staff working on their own time to improve their repertoire. From: Oliver Dorman via email
Answer: Oliver, it’s been reported that John Means has gone to a facility in St. Louis to work on his mechanics and pitches, and Matt Harvey spoke about going to one in New Jersey. The Orioles have encouraged these trips, and it seems likely many other members of the pitching staff have done that.
Question: With the available payroll, excellent but unproven prospects, and too much losing for many fans, Baltimore needs to invest wisely in a proven starting pitcher or two. Why not bring back Kevin Gausman instead of letting him go to Toronto? From: Mike Beale via email
Answer: Mike, MLBTradeRumors.com ranks Kevin Gausman as the fifth most attractive free agent in baseball and predicts he’ll get a six-year, $138 million contract to re-sign with the San Francisco Giants.
I can’t see the Orioles spending that kind of money on an established starter, and I can’t see Gausman leaving a team that won 107 games for one that won 52.
I don’t know where you’ve seen Kevin connected with Toronto, but he’ll have a large number of suitors this offseason. The Orioles won’t be one of them.
Question: Having already forecasted which players are most likely to advance to the major leagues in 2022; which players do you expect to join the Orioles by 2023? From: M Tucker in Mesa, Arizona
Answer: This is a question for November 2022, but if Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg don’t debut in 2022, then I think that they’re prime contenders for 2023. Drew Rom, who was mentioned earlier, and Colton Cowser, their top draft pick in 2020, could be right behind them.
Notes: Centerfielder Cedric Mullins, the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, was named a winner of the Silver Slugger award, the first Baltimore player to win one since Mark Trumbo in 2016. … The Orioles have reached agreement on a minor league contract with right-handed pitcher Spenser Watkins, who was 2-7 with an 8.16 ERA. Orioles broadcaster Melanie Newman was first with the news.