Oriole pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report a week from now to Sarasota, Florida, though there are no signs that spring training will begin any time soon because of the Major League Baseball lockout.
When spring training begins, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias fields questions from the reporters who cover the team. Here are some questions I might ask him:
Does the Jordan Lyles agreement mean that the Orioles will begin spending more on free agents?
Lyles and the Orioles have an agreement, worked out just before the lockout began on December 2nd, on a one-year, $7 million contract. The 31-year-old right-hander must pass a physical before the contract becomes official.
Lyles and John Means appear to be the only two assured of a spot in the starting rotation.
Holdovers Keegan Akin, Mike Baumann, Dean Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Bruce Zimmermann will contend for spots, but it seems likely that Elias will still sign a free-agent starter, probably to a minor league contract, by the time camp open or in its first few days.
You said last September that you expected the team to get continuously better. What are realistic expectations for the 2022 record?
No general manager will get specific on a team’s record, but after a 110-loss season, fans are getting antsy.
Last week, FanGraphs’ initial projections for the 2022 season, which seem incomplete because so much work needs to be done between the time the lockout ends and spring training begins, have the Orioles with the worst record in baseball with 98 losses.
I don’t know how anyone can predict records with so many free agents unsigned.
Is there pressure on manager Brandon Hyde this season?
Elias has never commented on his manager’s contract and has acknowledged the difficulties he’s worked under.
Hyde was hired after the December 2018 Winter Meetings, had little time to assemble a coaching staff or offer input on the roster. In 2020, he did well managing the team through a pandemic. Last year, the team was still devoid of starting pitching.
If there’s a shortened spring training, which seems likely, and a truncated season, which seems possible, that’s just another handicap for Hyde.
I’d like to see him get a 162-game season with a conventional spring training, a full offseason to prepare and then have him manage some of the Orioles’ top prospects before a judgment is made on him.
Has there been any serious consideration of an extension for Trey Mancini? How about Cedric Mullins?
The Orioles are fortunate that two of their best players, Mancini and centerfielder Cedric Mullins, have been so forthright about their medical struggles.
Mancini, who missed the 2020 season after colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy, won three American League Comeback Player of the Year awards and finished as the runner-up in the Home Run Derby.
Mullins, who disclosed that he had intestinal surgery for Crohn’s disease after the 2020 season and lost 20 pounds, became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season after becoming a full-time left-handed hitter. He kept his medical issues private until tweeting about them last week.
Mancini’s situation must be resolved soon. If he has a strong first half, the first baseman/designated hitter would be a valuable trade chip, but the respect his teammates have for him should be considered.
Mancini and Mullins shouldn’t be extended just because of how they handled difficult medical situations, but their presence in a young clubhouse can be a valuable thing.
Law rates Orioles 10th: Publications that rate minor league prospects and organizations differ in their view of the Orioles’ system. Last summer, MLB Pipeline rated the Orioles’ farm system first. Last week, Baseball America ranked it fourth.
According to the calculations of The Athletic’s Keith Law, the Orioles’ farm system ranks 10th. A year ago, Law rated the system 18th.
“This is about as good as a system can get with no contributions from the international side and very little from the trade market,” he wrote. “The Orioles’ top nine prospects all came through the draft, and they’re all very good, as the team has done well with first-round picks, spread some money around to go over slot later in the draft and already has one of its first big developmental success stories in [infielder] Joey Ortiz. The lack of major league talent to trade for prospects hasn’t helped, although the front office did very well in the Mychal Givens and Dylan Bundy deals, and the Orioles finally showed up in Latin America, handing out the first million-dollar bonuses in the team’s history in 2021 to two prospects who debuted in the DSL [Dominican Summer League] that summer. What’s in the system now remains heavily skewed toward position players, as that has been this front office’s strong preference in the draft, so once this core of hitters arrives the Orioles will need to go outside to fill out the rotation behind Grayson Rodriguez et al.”
Ebel wins award: Orioles head athletic trainer Brian Ebel has been named a 2022 recipient of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Most Distinguished Athletic Trainer Awards.
Question time: I’ll be answering Orioles’ questions later this week. Please email your questions to: [email protected]. You also can leave them in the BaltimoreBaseball.com Facebook page comments section.