It’s time for the second part of our monthly mailbag. The first part ran on Tuesday. Questions may be edited for style, clarity and length.
Question: What happens when Robinson Chirinos catches and Adley Rutschman is the designated hitter and Chirinos gets hurt? I know you lose the designated hitter. Is that all that happens? From: Ray Kowatch via Facebook
Answer: Ray, you’re correct that the Orioles would lose the designated hitter in that instance, and the pitchers would have to bat for themselves. At the moment, the Orioles don’t have a third catcher, and if both got hurt, I would think the likeliest candidates to catch is Rougned Odor. Odor hasn’t caught in a game, but he’s warmed up pitchers between innings.
Question: At what point do the Orioles stop trading proven players for prospects? It seems that prospects many times haven’t yet proven they can play in the majors, and many never do. It seems like a gamble to me. From: Scott Smolen via Facebook
Answer: Scott, I think under Mike Elias, the Orioles will often be aggressive in the trade market. Many of the prospects they’ve traded for under Elias are very young and aren’t close to the majors. It’s possible that the Orioles may have a different strategy this time, but if they’re not going to re-sign veterans, they’ll probably continue to seek to trade them, especially for pitching. Trades are always a gamble, but I think if the Orioles continue to improve, that strategy may be altered over the winter and into next season.
Question: In the past couple of years, some of the prospects started to perform really well, and then got traded away. Are they going to keep these guys performing this year or are they going to trade them away? From: Rick Fox via Facebook
Answer: Rick, I’m not sure who you mean about prospects who were traded away. Under Elias, he’s not started to trade any prospects, but I think he may bundle some outfielders or infielders in an attempt to acquire pitching. We’ll see if that’s a strategy he uses in the coming weeks, or waits until the offseason or a year from now to do that.
Question: Is it my imagination or are the Orioles playing more small ball this year? I’ve noticed more bunts and steals. If this is a trend, then aren’t analytics gurus like Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal frowning upon small ball? From: Stephen Brady via Facebook
Answer: Stephen, the Orioles have played some small ball. Last week, Anthony Santander bunted for a base hit for the first time in his career, and Cedric Mullins has four bunt hits.
Overall, the Orioles don’t bunt much. They have just seven sacrifice bunts, but Mullins and Jorge Mateo have combined for 39 steals. Both Mullins (18-for-22) and Mateo (22-for-25) have excellent stolen base percentages, and if they can keep those percentages up, that’s smart ball, not small ball.
Question: It’s amazing to see the Orioles continually pick up pitchers off the scrap heap and they turn into 1-2 inning shutdown relievers. When/if they start to flail, adjustments are made and they recover. In your opinion does this have more to do with their analytics use or excellent coaching? From: Larry S. via email
Answer: Larry, I would say it’s a combination. I’m not privy to the team’s analytics, but they attempt to identify pitchers who they can improve by both coaching and analytics. One example may be reducing a pitcher’s reliance on a pitch they think isn’t working or using an underutilized pitch more.
Question: It looks to me like the Orioles are going to have quite a team by 2024, perhaps as early as next year.
Rutschman catching, Mountcastle at first, some combination of Henderson, Mayo, Westburg, and Vavra at 2B, SS, 3B, some combination of Mullins, Hays, Santander, Stowers, and Kjerstad in the OF. Plus the possibility of Norby, Prieto, Ortiz, Mateo, Cowser, Diaz, and Mancini if not traded. Starting pitchers are some combination of Means, Wells, Rodriguez, Kremer, Watkins, Hall (although I am very skeptical of him unless he can somehow cut his walks way down), others on the staff now, and perhaps a free agent or trade. I won’t list relievers, although it seems they should be well-stocked, recent failures notwithstanding.
What do you think? Am I too optimistic to think they will contend in the tough AL East? From: Michael Steinberg via email
Answer: Michael, you’re assuming that many or most of the players you list will play to what you think is their potential, be healthy and not be traded, all hard assumptions to make.
The Orioles have improved greatly this year, and have shown to be much more competitive, and if they continue to improve they could challenge the leaders in the division in the next year or two, but surprises, both good and bad will occur.
Question: What did we get out of the Manny Machado trade? Did we get stiffed? From: Tom via email
Answer: Tom, the Orioles received outfielder Yusniel Diaz, who’s still in the minors, infielder Breyvic Valera, who played briefly for the team in 2018, pitcher Zach Pop, now with Miami and infielder Rylan Bannon, who played four games for the Orioles this season.
The best player in the deal could be Dean Kremer, who’s been an effective starter this season. If Kremer continues to pitch well, you could say the trade worked out well for the Orioles.
Question: Here’s what I’m always curious about – the logistics of getting players back and forth between Norfolk and Baltimore. Do they make them get there on their own? Is there a ride service? do they charter small planes? Also (without giving up privacy info), are they on their own in downtown hotels, or do the Orioles have some sort of housing for them nearby? The life of the “shuttle player” is interesting to me, especially since these guys aren’t making a ton of cash. From: Tom Paullin via email
Answer: Tom, players called up by major league teams receive first-class airfare from wherever they’re playing to the city they’re reporting to. In the Orioles’ case, if they’re in Norfolk, players often choose to drive themselves so that they’ll have their own cars. Many times Norfolk is playing elsewhere, and they fly to Baltimore or where the Orioles are playing.
Generally, hotel rooms are paid for by major league teams for a period of time until players can find their own housing.
Question: What do you make of Kyle Stowers not rated a top 100 prospect? Should this concern us about trading Anthony Santander at deadline? Are Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad still at least a year away? From: @RaubPhil
Answer: Phil, the Orioles have five prospects, including Colton Cowser in the top 100, and it’s an imperfect measure. Trey Mancini, John Means and Cedric Mullins weren’t top 100 prospects and they turned out to be excellent players.
If the Orioles trade Anthony Santander, I think Kyle Stowers will get a chance to play, and yes, Cowser and Kjerstad probably won’t be with the Orioles until next year at the earliest.
Question: Why are the Orioles not using an OPACY 30th anniversary commemorative baseball this season when playing at home? From: Kevin Chaney via email
Answer: Kevin, Major League Baseball would have to approve the use of a 30th anniversary ball, and they like to reserve special balls for landmark occasions. Teams celebrate anniversaries with patches on their sleeves, but changing a ball needs more justification than a 30th anniversary of a stadium.
Question: Which of the two is the better defensive shortstop, Gunnar Henderson or Jordan Westburg? Which is better suited for third? If Elias opts to keep Julio Mateo at shortstop when these two are eventually ready, can Westburg play second base? From: Craig Russell via email
Answer: Craig, the purpose of moving Henderson and Westburg around is to see which position they’re best at. Westburg has played about the same number of games at second, shortstop and third base, so they’ll see if he’s suited to be a major league second baseman.
Question: Are the Orioles going to keep DJ Stewart and Yusniel Diaz on the roster? From: Mark Cooper
Answer: Mark, DJ Stewart is no longer on the 40-man roster. Yusniel Diaz is. If Stewart remains on the minor league roster at the end of the season, he can be a free agent, and I think he’ll look around for another team. The Orioles have been patient with Diaz, and if he stays healthy, perhaps he’ll get an opportunity to play in the final weeks of the season, but if he’s not healthy, they could move on from him.
Question: Are other MLB clubs & players noticing the Orioles’ current level of play? From: Giles Nowak via e mail
Answer: Giles, the Orioles’ winning streak has certainly heightened their profile around baseball. Teams that have played them are absolutely noticing them.
Question: On the names of former players coming, I do not see the names of Cal/Billy Ripken, Adam Jones, & Nick Markakis. Were they invited? From: David Denham via email
Answer: David, I’m sure they were invited, and I’m sure that there will be more players at the 30th anniversary celebration than were originally listed, but I don’t know if those you name will be there or not.
Question: Is there a possibility that some players will be more interested in coming to Baltimore now that the team is playing better and not in last place? From: Seth Mendelsohn via email
Answer: Seth, the Orioles’ competitiveness is a selling point for free agents, so I think you could see a higher caliber of free agent signing with the Orioles in the offseason.
Question: Do you have any idea insight into how the Orioles annual player payroll level is determined (negotiations between Elias & John Angelos, a cap level provided to Elias by Angelos?). Do you think there is any likelihood the level will go up in the next few years with the MASN & Angelos Family legal battles now underway so that we could realistically compete with the other payrolls in the AL East? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, I don’t have any insight into the interactions between Mike Elias and John Angelos though Elias has said repeatedly that he’s happy with the relationship, and that he’s been able to get what he’s asked for.
The team has shown in recent weeks that it’s competitive. I don’t think the payroll will get much larger for a couple of years because while some of the young veterans (Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins) may see their salary rise because of arbitration eligibility, many of the younger players (Félix Bautista, Adley Rutschman, DL Hall, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez and Jordan Westburg) will be under club controlled contracts for the first three years of major league service.
Question: With the All-Star game approaching, do you see the Orioles hosting the game any time soon? From: Dave Lingman via email
Answer: Dave, a similar question was submitted by Mike Beale. Seattle has been awarded the All-Star Game next year, and Philadelphia will get the 2026 game.
I would like to see the All-Star Game in Baltimore, too. I think it would be great for the city and the ballpark, but I think that as long as the MASN dispute lingers, MLB won’t award the game to the Orioles. I also think that MLB may want to wait a few more years until the major improvements approved by the Maryland State Legislature are made to the stadium.
Question: Despite the recent success, I still think the Orioles should be sellers at the trade deadline. I’m still keeping my eyes on 2024-2025 as the timeframe when they’ll challenge. Your thoughts? From: Patrick Tracey via email
Answer: Patrick, you don’t get many shots in life at the brass ring. BaseballReference.com lists the Orioles’ chances to make the postseason as 15.4 percent, which isn’t high, but 10 days ago, those chances were less than 1 percent.
I think the Orioles will reassess their chances after the 10-game stretch against the Rays and Yankees, and I think they could try to acquire players who could help not only this year but possibly next year, too. If the opportunity is there, they should seize it.
Notes: Left-hander Kyle McCarty, who was acquired off waivers from Cleveland on July 6th was reclaimed by the Guardians. McCarty was designated for assignment when right-hander Louis Head was claimed off waivers from Miami on Tuesday. …Tyler Wells starts against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night. Dean Kremer starts Saturday. Sunday’s starter has not been decided.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB