It’s time for Part 1 of our monthly mailbag. Part 2 will be on Sunday. Questions may be edited for length, clarity and grammar.
Question: Hello Rich, if you were GM for a day. Would you trade for Ohtani? @blackbirds083
Answer: This is a popular question. It was also asked by Brian Tivnan. The Orioles should be a real contender for the next several years, and while the idea of Shohei Ohtani is enticing, the price for him for two-plus months would be too high for me. They have no chance of signing him long-term, and unless a World Series was guaranteed, which it isn’t, the trade is too risky.
Question: How many of the Orioles’ current starters do you think may be on an innings limit? The O’s have said they wouldn’t move to a six-man rotation but might they consider pairing Grayson Rodriquez with Tyler Wells, Kyle Bradish, or Dean Kremer, where one pitcher throws the first four or five innings and the other throws the final four or five? From: Kevin Gish via email
Answer: Kevin, I think the Orioles are carefully monitoring the innings of all of their starters since only Kyle Gibson has pitched in the postseason. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try a six-man rotation or the piggyback starter option you suggest in September as a way to conserve innings, but they haven’t hinted at that yet.
Question: With Grayson Rodriguez here, why not a six-man rotation? From: John Miller via email
Answer: John, while I think a six-man rotation could be possible in the stretch run, I don’t think we’ll see it soon. A six-man rotation means six or seven arms in the bullpen, not seven or eight, and the way Brandon Hyde uses his bullpen, I think it’s unlikely. When another pitcher is added after September 1st, it could be more viable, but certainly not a sure thing.
Question: Could you explain what happens to Aaron Hicks at the end of the season? Does he become a free agent or do the Orioles control him (at the Yankees’ expense) till his contract expires? Assuming this would apply to James McCann as well. From: Chris Kiyak via email
Answer: Chris, the Orioles only control Aaron Hicks through the end of the season. He then becomes a free agent. The Orioles traded for James McCann, and while the New York Mets are paying the bulk of his contract, he’s under contract with the Orioles for 2024.
Question: How much of a factor is good character and positive attitude when the Orioles draft young players? The camaraderie of the team this season has been excellent. From: Rusty Wallace, Annapolis via email
Answer: Rusty, I think the Orioles are trying to look for players who fit in, and they don’t want players who may cause issues. During Tuesday’s introductory press conference for the newly signed first-round draft choice, Enrique Bradfield Jr., Mike Elias mentioned that he was “an excellent citizen,” which I found interesting and telling.
Question: Has Seth Johnson started a throwing program and can you update us on his status? Do you see him as a possible Arizona Fall League candidate? From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Seth Johnson was one of the pitchers obtained when Trey Mancini was traded last August, and the Orioles knew he was about to have Tommy John surgery. He won’t pitch this season. He’s rehabbing in Florida, and I imagine the Arizona Fall League could be a possibility, but they may just want to look at him in the Instructional League instead.
Question: What do you think the ideal outfield defense should look like now? From: Al Francis via email
Answer: Al, I think Austin Hays in left, Cedric Mullins in center and Anthony Santander in right is the best all-around outfield for the Orioles, but obviously we won’t be seeing Mullins for the time being because he’s on the injured list with a groin injury. For now, Aaron Hicks will probably be in my mix.
Question: Does the home plate umpire inspect the pitcher’s hand and glove every inning or do they just inspect it at random? From: Dennis Littleton via email
Answer: The umpire inspects the starting pitcher’s glove after the first inning and at random after another inning or when he comes out of the game. Relief pitcher’s gloves are generally inspected after an inning. Pitchers who come in for the ninth inning or later have their gloves inspected before they get to the mound.
Question: How do Oriole trades work? Would Mike Elias ask for a specific player or ask for a list of several players and pick one if he’s interested? I just can’t see another Yennier Cano being taken from him. From: Vic Matusak via Facebook
Answer: Vic, I don’t know, but I think Elias would generally ask for a specific player. I don’t believe other teams are necessarily wary of Elias’ scouting abilities. It’s just that teams often have different aims. Some patiently build, like the Orioles, while others are perpetually in “win now” mode.
In the case of Cano, I’m as shocked as anyone by his performance this season. I kept thinking that he was a logical candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster over the winter after I watched him pitch last season. He’s exceeded the Orioles’ expectations.
Question: Why are they not playing Ryan Mountcastle? From: Ray Kowatch via email
Answer: Ray, Ryan O’Hearn has been playing much better than Mountcastle. For now, Mountcastle will start against left-handers and perhaps some right-handers. If Mountcastle gets hot, and O’Hearn cools, then you’ll probably see more Mountcastle.
Question: Who will be the Orioles’ first baseman next season? From: Nathan Mullenax via Facebook
Answer: Nathan, first base is perhaps the most unsettled position on the team. There’s no surefire first baseman in the minor leagues. Heston Kjerstad is considered a better outfielder than first baseman. If Mountcastle hits better in the final two-plus months of the season, he should be back, and Ryan O’Hearn could be back as well. I’ve heard talk about Coby Mayo playing first, but he’s playing third at Norfolk.
They also could look for one via trade or free agency, but it is interesting that with all the strong position player prospects they have, not one is a first baseman.