Answers to your Oriole questions, Part 2 -

Rich Dubroff

Answers to your Oriole questions, Part 2

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Here’s the second part of our final monthly mailbag of 2021. Thank you for all the good questions, some of which have been edited for length, clarity and style.

Question: In light of the Orioles’ starting pitching situation, how do you think management came to the conclusion that it was a good move to let Chris Ellis become a free agent? From: Lcbjmn via email

Answer: I was as surprised as you were when Chris Ellis was taken off the 40-man roster, and I wrote that. While I think that the team has several others who have more promise than he does, I thought he should have been kept as a depth piece.

Ellis had a 2.49 ERA in six starts with the Orioles, and the team won five of those six starts. But he wasn’t in the game long enough to record a victory in any of those starts, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio wasn’t very good. (16 strikeouts, 13 walks in 25 1/3 innings).

Question: What are the odds the Orioles start the season with an all left-handed rotation of John Means, Keegan Akin, Alexander Wells, Zac Lowther, and Bruce Zimmermann? From: Damon Stout via email

Answer: Besides Damon, @SJ69569741 asks what I think the 2022 rotation will be.

The Orioles reached an agreement with right-handed starter Jordan Lyles just before the lockout. It’s not official because Lyles hasn’t passed a physical, which will occur when the lockout ends. Lyles slots in as the second starter behind Means, so there won’t be an all left-handed rotation.

While there are four other left-handed candidates, there’s also Mike Baumann, who only pitched in relief last season, and Dean Kremer and potentially Spenser Watkins, who was re-signed to a minor league contract.

The Orioles are likely to sign at least one other starting candidate as a free agent once the lockout ends.


Question: I think Brandon Hyde has done what he can with the roster he’s been given. With his recent promotion do you think Buck Britton gets a shot at the big league job at some point? From:  @MichaeFleetwood

Answer: The Orioles think highly of Buck Britton, who has moved up from Delmarva to Bowie, and now to Norfolk, but they also think highly of Brandon Hyde, who has managed the team well under difficult circumstances.

I’d like to see Hyde get a shot with a more talented team, and I think the Orioles would like to see how Britton handles a team with more veterans at Norfolk. I know he’s highly thought of around the game.

Your thoughts about Britton are shared by many fans, but let’s see how the Orioles do in 2022, and perhaps Hyde will be the manager for the long term.

Question: Any word on how players with Oriole connections are doing in the winter leagues? From: CEP_Observer

Answer: Alan, thanks for the question, and I enjoyed researching this one. How else would we have known that Radhames Liz, Felix Pie and Alfredo Simon were still playing in the Dominican Winter League?

There are many other former Orioles, including Fernando Abad, Hanser Alberto, Dusten Knight, Jimmy Paredes, Joey Rickard, Henry Urrutia, César Valdez and Gabriel Ynoa, playing there, and I found a few current players doing well.

Through Saturday, Kelvin Gutiérrez is batting .417 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games for Gigantes del Cibao; Marcos Diplán has pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for Aguilas Cibaenas; and Félix Bautista has 2 1/3 hitless innings for Leones del Escogido.

Question: I’ve read about Endeavor for the last few days in your writing and others. Do you think it’s good for minor league baseball to have one company with all that influence and power? I got a bit concerned when I read about it. From: Jeff Maynard via email

Answer: Jeff, I don’t think it’s a great thing when a large entity has so much power, and the reports I’ve read suggest that Endeavor, which has just announced plans to buy eight minor league teams, could purchase as many as 40 of the 120 affiliates.

Obviously, they think that owning minor league teams is a good investment, and I hope there’s still room in minor league baseball for smaller operators.

There have been good things about the minor league consolidation (increasing pay and better working conditions), but it’s taken minor league baseball away from smaller and rural communities around the country at a time the sport needs to grow everywhere in the United States.

Minor league teams don’t supply players, the major league teams do, so I don’t think it will hurt competitively. Endeavor purchased minor league teams from some of the strongest major league organizations economically (Yankees, Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Braves), and I’ll be interested to see if they reach out to any of the smaller-market teams.

Question:  What’s the worst thing in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that could impact the developmental progress of the Orioles in fielding a competitive team in the near future? From: Glenn Fuller via email

Answer:  Good question, Glenn. Many of the points being argued about in the talks affect the Orioles. Fans who want to see the team spend more on free agents are hoping for a minimum salary requirement for teams. They also want to see an end to service time manipulation so that there’s no excuse for not starting catcher Adley Rutschman in the majors next season.

If things aren’t changed in the agreement, the Orioles will pick first in the draft, but there’s some sentiment for making sure a team doesn’t pick in the first five in consecutive years. (They’re set to pick in the first five for the fourth straight year.)

Players are also arguing for reducing the time it takes to qualify for free agency from six years to five. That could hurt teams like the Orioles because they might trade players more quickly.

Increasing the number of playoff teams to 12 or 14 from the current 10 might also make the Orioles competitive more rapidly.

Question: As much as teams care about the service time factor (and, hopefully, it gets fixed in the new CBA), how important is it for Adley Rutschman to start the season with the O’s? From: @Karks88

Answer: Eric, both you and @RaubPhil are eager to know about Rutschman’s start date. Phil wants to know under the current CBA when Rutschman could begin with the Orioles without it costing the team service time.

I hope that Rutschman starts the season with the Orioles, but that might depend upon changes to service time in the CBA. If the regular season is delayed because of the lockout, Rutschman would likely begin the season at Triple-A because he’s not on the 40-man roster and he could keep playing.

According to the just-expired CBA, a player needs 172 days of service time to be credited for a full season of service. The 2022 season will be 186 days long so, in order to avoid being credited for a season, a player would have to stay in the minor leagues for at least the first 15 days of the regular season, which begins March 31st.

Hopefully, the loophole gets changed because it’s not good for anyone.

Question: Who are the free agents that the Orioles are interested in? Who will they actually sign? From: Paul D

Answer: Paul, I’m not sure which free agents the Orioles are interested in, but they can’t sign any to major league contracts until after the lockout. I think they’d like another candidate for the starting rotation in addition to Jordan Lyles, perhaps another relief pitcher or two, and certainly another catcher, and perhaps a veteran outfielder.

I assume most of the signings would be to minor league contracts, and those signings can continue through the lockout.

Question: With no catchers currently on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, is it more likely that they trade for one or sign one in free agency? From: David in Parkville

Answer: David, I think either is possible, and I think it’s also possible they select one in the Rule 5 draft. There aren’t many major league free-agent catchers available, and they’ll need at least another catcher in addition to Jacob Nottingham, who signed to a minor league contract last week.

Question: Do you know if the Orioles have any intention in dabbling in the overseas Asian market for free agents? From: Tyler Kappen via email

Answer: Tyler, under Mike Elias, the Orioles haven’t participated in the Asian free-agent market. They haven’t been a team to get into a bidding contest with other teams, and the best Asian free agents are sought after by multiple teams. I don’t think their strategy changes.  

Question: Has anything come from the two different baseballs that MLB used last season? I read that MLB and the commissioner’s office claimed two different balls were due to not enough of one being manufactured in time because of the pandemic. Did MLB at least keep stats or do any studies between the different balls? From: Dave Hersl via email

Answer: I read the story, Dave, and can’t add any additional information. Players and fans would  like to see the stats on the different balls, and so would I.

Question: The Orioles offered contracts to Trey Mancini, John Means and Tanner Scott as part of the arbitration process. Can you tell us how much each of the players were offered? From: K. Bishop, 55+ year O’s Fan in Rochester, New York.

Answer: The amounts offered to Mancini, Means and Scott weren’t released, but if they go to arbitration, the numbers asked for by the players and offered by the Orioles would be available.

Question: Who are the pitchers who come to mind when the system is criticized for lacking depth beyond the bigger names? From: @Eric_Birdland

Answer: Eric, I don’t think specific pitchers are being criticized. I think it’s just being pointed out that beyond Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, there aren’t any top-rated pitching prospects in the system.

Mike Baumann, Kyle Bradish, Drew Rom and Kevin Smith are also considered good prospects, but aren’t rated as highly as Rodriguez and Hall.

Remember that John Means was never considered a top prospect when he was in the minor leagues, and rankings of prospects are subjective.

Question: What member(s) of the 2021 draft class do you see making it to Bowie or perhaps Norfolk by the end of the 2022 season? From: teebeach via email

Answer: I think the Orioles’ first-round pick, outfielder Colton Cowser, who starred at Delmarva, could jump two levels to Bowie and perhaps Norfolk by the end of 2022.

Their second-round pick, Connor Norby, a second baseman, also did well with the Shorebirds and could make it to Bowie and perhaps even Norfolk next season, too.

Outfielders John Rhodes, their third-round pick, and Dontá Williams, picked in the fourth round, have the potential to reach Bowie by the end of the season, too.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. Orioles20

    December 13, 2021 at 9:48 am

    I don’t see how they fix the service time issue. It’s a subjective thing. If it’s based on how many days your on the roster and that’s based on the calendar of the season how are you possibly fixing that? A team can always say a player needs to work on things like defense and plate discipline and unless a team comes out and says oh we’re just holding him down for service time manipulation like the Mariners did with kelcnic no one is going to know the real reason there down there. We all might think we know it is and it’s obvious in some cases but I don’t see how they fix it.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 13, 2021 at 10:03 am

      The owners have proposed free agency at 29 1/2, which would remove service time as an issue. Players argue that Soto, Acuna and others who come to the big leagues at 20 or 21 would go eight or nine years before they’d qualify for free agency.

      • Orioles20

        December 13, 2021 at 10:28 am

        I don’t see how that works either because that guy that come up at twenty five because he’s truly not ready would only be getting four years. Don’t see how their is a solution to that at all.

  2. Baltimore Castaway

    December 13, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Good questions and good answers this morning.

    – Hoping that the Commissioner and the Owners are smart enough to act with dispatch to get a new CBA signed. They are “whistling past the graveyard” if they believe that they can take their sweet because it’s the off-season. The dwindling number of true fans that MLB has is watching things closely.

    – Like others, I wonder(ed) about Elias not drafting Starting Pitching at the top of the Draft Board. Have now come to believe that he is onto something; Draft more reliable talents at the skill positions, accumulate an abundance of them and trade the excess talent for Pitching from another organization. It might be a helluva better idea than the traditional approach. Look at the time, money, and goodwill wasted on the likes of Bundy, Harvey, Sedlock, Akin, Dietz, Brian Gonzalez, and Pat Connaughton (oyyyy…..) –among others.

    I will say this again; Elias strikes me as a bit of a conceited guy, but he is OUR conceited guy. His acumen in building and shrewdly accumulating a strong baseline of talent is now proven–and I think that he is just getting started…they are just beginning to establish themselves in the International Markets, they have the first pick in the very deep and talented April Amateur Draft, etc.

    All the best to the colorful characters of the BaltimoreBaseball Tribe.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      December 13, 2021 at 4:12 pm

      BC..your man crush on Mikey is more than obvious. I honestly hope you see something in him that I can’t quite make out …. yet.

      Last week he was ‘heroically’ leading our merry band of losers. This week he’s “shrewdly” accumulating talent. While I would never use such glowing adjectives when speaking of a GM that’s personally responsible for tanking his way to more losses than the New York Generals over that same stretch of time, I CAN see where there is a possibility that after the better part of a decade, we might have a very,very good team!

      All Mikey has to do now is build a pitching staff, which you believe will arrive via the way of the trade market. That would indeed be shrewd if he pulledi it off.

      But with pitching staffs comprising 50% or more of your entire team, do you really think that developing your own staff isn’t a necessessity?

      • jimcarter

        December 13, 2021 at 7:06 pm

        New York Generals So many won’t get it!

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          December 13, 2021 at 8:19 pm

          The target demographic will.

      • Baltimore Castaway

        December 13, 2021 at 9:17 pm


        Elias is doing a very good job of bringing in MLB Level talent. If you have a lot of skill position players and need skilled starting pitching players you should be able to trade one for the other.

        As a very small example, I went to see the BaySox in a League Championship Playoff game against the Cleveland Guardians AA team in September. They had a Pitcher named Peyton Battenfield going for them. That guy SHUT DOWN a loaded BaySox lineup w relative ease. Looked this Battenfield guy up and lo and behold he was acquired from the Rays earlier in the Summer for some talented position players.. If you have a strong baseline of highly talented guys who are shortstops and center fielders you can trade some of them for talented starting pitching. I like the idea actually, as drafting pitchers from HS and college is a real gamble what with injuries and developmental risk.

        No one is happy with how long this is taking. You are not alone..

        When this whole thing does come together–and it will, we will all be very happy with the strength of this system and and its sustainability.

        That’s right–I said it…

        • WorldlyView

          December 13, 2021 at 10:31 pm

          Castaway, Mike has brought in Castoffs. IF he has done a “very good job” of bringing in MLB talent, how come we have been, and will be, losing 100-plus games a year? How bad and for how long will our favorite team have to be non-competitive before you lambast the level of MLB talent our GM has amassed?

  3. Orial

    December 13, 2021 at 11:12 am

    Help me out here Rich but everyones’ yearning for a change in the Service Time Clause so we can see Rutschman here on opening day but isn’t that also shortening his time towards Free Agency which would ironically be his ticket out of Baltimore that much sooner? As far as minimum salary–I’m for it(kinda) but wouldn’t that give the Angelos Sons a reason to throw in the towel about the O’s feasibility in Baltimore? A couple of fine lines if you ask me.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 13, 2021 at 11:40 am

      If the rules stayed the same, and Rutschman began the season with the Orioles, they’d have him for six seasons, through 2027 before he’d be eligible for free agency, Al.

      If they kept him in the minor leagues for a short time and called him up later, they’d have him through 2028 before he’d be eligible for free agency.

  4. Buzz1979

    December 13, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Watkins??? You must be joking! J McEnroe!

    • JerseyO

      December 13, 2021 at 2:10 pm

      Yea, I thought the same.

  5. WorldlyView

    December 13, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    Rich, Two questions. Are you joking about Watkins being a rotation candidate, or is the starting pitching pool really so shallow that we have to use him? I lean to the latter explanation.
    Second, you said you thought most of the O’s free agent signings would be to minor league contracts. Is that because you think the shrewd front office wants to get a jump on other clubs while the lockout bars signing major league free agents? Or is it because those willing to sign with us are so unproven that they do not merit major league contracts? I lean to the latter.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 13, 2021 at 8:52 pm

      I’m not joking, Steve, but he’s truly a long shot.

      As I’ve written before, the lockout may convince some second and third tier free agents who can’t sign major league contracts to sign minor leagues deals.

  6. Buzz1979

    December 13, 2021 at 9:02 pm


  7. TheGreat8

    December 13, 2021 at 11:22 pm

    Rich – love these posts. Really appreciate you taking the time to answer (and answer again) our q’s! It makes it feel like we’re a part of the conversation.

    My stupid hypothetical question – could a team sign an player to a minor league contract now with the obvious intention of adding to the 40 man post lockout? Carlos Correa to the tides for $300 million??

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 13, 2021 at 11:30 pm

      A top tier player isn’t going to sign a minor league contract, but theoretically it could happen, but won’t.

      • Rich Dubroff

        December 19, 2021 at 8:38 am

        For the record, any player who was on a 40-man roster at the end of the season can’t sign a minor league contract. Only minor league free agents can sign contracts during the lockout.

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