It’s time for our monthly mailbag, the first of the offseason. We had many excellent questions, and I’ll be answering more of them on Monday. Some questions may be edited for style, clarity and length.
Question: Do you see Jorge Mateo as the 2023 starting shortstop or as a trade chip? I think he was a key part of the Orioles’ improved defense and associated record improvement. From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill, we received several questions on Mateo. @belairmickeyfan wants to know if he’ll stay at shortstop. Bob Bethards wondered if he’d go to a hitting coach in the offseason. Robert Stein wanted to know why he doesn’t bunt more.
Let me try to answer each of them.
I think Mateo will stay at shortstop, and the guess here is that he’ll begin 2023 at shortstop but may not end it there because there are a number of candidates in the minor leagues who could play there.
Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg are possibilities to play there, but Westburg could get a look at second.
It’s certainly possible that he could go to a hitting coach. His plate discipline needs improvement. Mateo struck out more than five times more often than he walked, and that’s not good.
Obviously, his defense was good, and was the main reason his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) was 3.3, which trailed only Adley Rutschman, Cedric Mullins and Ramón Urías.
Mateo attempted to bunt for a hit seven times and was successful just once. I think if he was successful more often, then he’d bunt more.
Question: Do you see the Orioles locking up the key young guys, Rutschman, Henderson, Grayson, like the Braves have done or will we see a repeat of the 2018 fire sale in five or six years? From: @GeoffreyFoxWV
Answer: Geoff, this was another popular question. Mike Davis also wonders about locking the younger players up.
It’s hard enough to predict the offseason without trying to look ahead five or six years.
I think the Orioles would like to extend Rutschman, but at last week’s season-ending press conference, Mike Elias said that “It takes two to tango,” and that he wouldn’t telegraph his moves.
It certainly makes sense to try to extend Rutschman early, but the Orioles haven’t done that with anyone. Henderson is represented by Scott Boras, who is not a fan of players signing long-term contracts early in their careers.
Rodriguez has yet to throw a big-league pitch, so let’s wait a while for that one.
Question: What do you think about bringing back Austin Wynns as Rutschman’s backup? From: Scott Smolen via email
Answer: There’s a lot of interest in Rutschman’s backup. Pius Dominguez wonders about Jacob Nottingham, who was at Triple-A Norfolk this year.
Scott, I think if the Orioles wanted Austin Wynns as Rutschman’s backup, they would have retained him after last season.
Besides Robinson Chirinos, who will be a free agent after the World Series, they currently have two other catchers, Anthony Bemboom, who began the season with the Orioles and was outrighted to Norfolk after Rutschman arrived and Cam Gallagher, who was claimed off waivers from Kansas City on the 40-man.
Bemboom was recently added to the 40-man roster to prevent him from filing for minor league free agency. Nottingham may soon do so. It’s not crazy to think he could be back with them on a minor league contract next spring, but he may want to look elsewhere, and the Orioles may look for another backup candidate or two as well.
Question: It’s obvious that Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal are vital to the Orioles. How long do their contracts run? From: Larry Schultz via email
Answer: Larry, unlike many organizations, contract lengths aren’t disclosed by Elias and the Orioles. I don’t know if Elias has been given an extension, and I don’t know whether Mejdal, whose title is assistant general manager for analytics, has a contract that runs concurrently with Elias.
Question: How did the Orioles’ pre-season trade of Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser work out for them in 2022 as Miami Marlins? From: Glenn Fuller via email
Answer: Glenn, Scott was 4-5 with a 4.67 ERA in 67 games for the Marlins. He saved 20 games in 27 opportunities. Scott struck out 90 and walked 46 in 62 2/3 innings.
Sulser was 1-4 with a 5.29 ERA in 39 games with two saves in four chances. He missed more than two months with a lat injury.
Question: When are the Orioles going to release statistics on how many home runs were lost or saved because of the left field wall move? From: Scott Little via Facebook
Answer: Scott, according to Jason Bernard, Manager, Baseball Research and Development for Major League Baseball, there were 57 balls hit this year that would have been home runs in 2021, and 31 of them were hit by Orioles.
Trey Mancini lost six home runs, Ryan Mountcastle lost five, and Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo each lost four.
Orioles pitchers surrendered 155 home runs at home in 2021 and gave up fewer than half that many, 74 in 2022. On the road, they gave up 103 in 2021 and 97 in 2022.
I think moving back the wall helped the pitchers’ confidence and may entice free agents to sign with the Orioles. Overall, it was a huge plus.
Question: What is the probability of Carlos Correa in an Orioles uniform in 2023? There seems to be interest from Correa considering his comments this season and the Orioles have a good, young bat for every other position. It seems to make sense for both sides. From: @JTrea81
Answer: Jonathan, I think the Orioles will be more aggressive in the free agent market this offseason, but I don’t think they’ll spend the kind of money necessary to lure Correa or any other big ticket free agent to Baltimore.
Question: If the Orioles are going to trade young talent to bring in a proven veteran, which prospects are most likely to be moved? From: Kevin Gish via Facebook.
Answer: Kevin, this is another popular question. @NTom35 asks which infielders or outfielders may be traded. Scott Shindell is also wondering which of the prospects could get traded.
The Orioles have selected lots of infielders and outfielders in Mike Elias’ four drafts, and I think because there are a number of talented infielders who may be ready for the majors in the next season or two, those might be the logical candidates.
The most popular names are Darrel Hernaiz, Connor Norby, Joey Ortiz, César Prieto and Jordan Westburg, though I think they would have to be overwhelmed to move Westburg, who was their minor league player of the year.
Question: Prediction on biggest free agent signing? Any $100+ million multi-year deals? From: @MikeTheBike1817
Answer: Mike, I would be surprised if the Orioles signed any free agent contracts worth $100 million just yet. I’m guessing their deal or deals might be lower than $100 million.
Question: What do you think the biggest need is for the Orioles? From: @ddehart13
Answer: Dennis, I think the biggest need is at least one more reliable, veteran starting pitcher, and if they don’t re-sign Jordan Lyles, perhaps two.
Question: What do you want/think the Orioles will do this offseason (in terms of signings and trades)? From: @TMartin8910
Answer: Todd, I think the Orioles will try to add a starting pitcher or two, perhaps a veteran middle infielder, a backup first baseman and another backup catcher candidate. I wouldn’t be surprised if they add some more relievers, too. The guess here is that it will be a combination of free agent signings, trades, waiver claims and a Rule 5 selection.
Question: How many players from within the organization must be added to the 40-man roster, and who do you think they’ll be? From: David from Parkville via email
Answer: David, the Orioles are in the unusual position of having more interesting prospects than they can protect. I’m guessing they’ll add five or six. Starters Grayson Rodriguez and Drew Rom and infielder Joey Ortiz are givens. I think they’ll also protect another starting pitcher, Seth Johnson, who they received in the Trey Mancini deal even though he had Tommy John surgery last July.
My guesses as possible out-of-the-box 40-man additions are right-handed reliever Noah Denoyer and catcher Maverick Handley, who were both at Bowie.
The Orioles are likely to lose prospects in the Rule 5 this year.
Question: While the Orioles are looking forward to not having so many games against the AL East next year, wouldn’t it also benefit the other four teams just as much? From: Eric Darr via email
Answer: Eric, I think you’re making an excellent point. The Orioles were 34-42 against the four American League East teams. Boston was 26-50, New York was 47-29, Tampa Bay 40-36 and Toronto 43-33.
The main advantage comes from not wearing the pitching staff out as much facing power-heavy teams like the Blue Jays and Yankees. Next year’s schedule, which features the Orioles and other teams facing every MLB team, is an interesting experiment.
Notes: Right-handed pitcher Jake Reed, who was designated for assignment when the Orioles claimed outfielder Jake Cave off waivers from Minnesota was claimed by Boston. Right-hander Anthony Castro refused an outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and has elected free agency.