Here’s part 2 of our first offseason mailbag. Part 1 ran on Tuesday. We’ll have another mailbag next month. Questions may be edited for length, clarity and grammar.
Question: What do you think happens to Kyle Stowers? Do you think that Terrin Vavra and Ryan McKenna’s time on the 40-man roster is over? From: Dan Klein via email
Answer: Good questions, Dan. I think that Kyle Stowers will stay on the roster and get another chance to make the team next spring. Stowers showed some promise in 2022, looked lost early this season, and was hurt after his demotion to Norfolk.
I think the Orioles have enough invested in him that they wouldn’t want to cut ties with a still promising player who’ll be only 26 next spring.
I think Vavra could still make an impact as a utility player and a depth piece, and the same holds true for McKenna. He would have played at least semi-regularly for many major league teams this season. The Orioles just had a lot of depth, and with Aaron Hicks likely gone, there may be an opening for him to return.
Question: What blame does Brandon Hyde deserve for the team’s postseason performance? From: Mike Rodak via email
Answer: Mike, I think Hyde deserves only plaudits for the outstanding job he did during the season and for keeping a positive outlook in the clubhouse during the previous tough years.
It wasn’t Hyde’s fault that Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez had difficult first starts and that Cedric Mullins didn’t hit well. John Means’ unexpected injury hurt them, too.
My only criticism is that I think the team would have been better served with 13 pitchers and not 12. Heston Kjerstad never batted during the ALDS, and another reliever would have helped. But that wouldn’t have changed the outcome.
Question: Considering the hitting woes late in the season and in the postseason, do you anticipate any changes being made with the co-hitting coaches, Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, and Cody Asche, the offensive strategy coach? From: Steve Inge via email
Answer: Steve, Mike Elias never comments publicly on coaching contracts or speculates on the coaching staff at the end of the season and didn’t during last week’s press conference.
While it’s possible that there are changes among the hitting coaches, I think the Orioles overall were happy with their offensive performance.
Question: Why don’t the Orioles bunt more? How about squeeze plays? From: Tommy Shuffler via email
Answer: Tommy, it’s not the Orioles, it’s the rest of baseball. The Orioles had 21 sacrifice bunts this season, sixth in Major League Baseball. The Atlanta Braves, another successful regular-season team, had only two.
Most teams feel they’re giving up an out by sacrificing, and Earl Weaver disdained the bunt, too.
No, you don’t see many squeeze plays, either, and that’s because teams think they can drive a run in with less risk without using the squeeze.
Question: Do you think the Orioles will sign Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson to long-term contracts as Atlanta has done with many of their top players? From: Mike Beale via email
Answer: Mike, David Wade on Facebook also wonders about signing Henderson to a long-term contract. I agree that it would be smart to sign both, but Henderson is represented by Scott Boras, who recommends that his players not sign long-term contracts early in their careers. I don’t know if Rutschman’s agent feels the same.
It would be a happy surprise if either signed a long-term deal with the Orioles over the offseason.
Question: How big of an impact are the Nationals to the Orioles’ revenue? Do you believe it has hindered their spending and will going forward? From: Marty Wilt via Facebook
Answer: Marty, I think the Nationals have had an impact historically on the Orioles’ attendance, but this year, they outdrew the Nats. The Orioles have settled the first part of the MASN lawsuit, but they have to pay the Nationals for additional rights payments in 2012-2016 and may have to pay more for years after 2016.
While the Orioles may not offer huge contracts to outside free agents, I think it’s possible with successful management that they can be a contender for the long term without those. The Nationals shouldn’t be a hindrance, and the Orioles could still sign some of their top young players to extensions.
Question: Do you think there’s still room for Jorge Mateo on the roster, or will he be squeezed out by all the top shortstop prospects? From: Mark Eisner via email
Answer: Mark, Paulius Klimas and Scott Cleaveland also asked about Mateo. Scott also asked about Ramón Urías. I think that Mateo and Urías could both be casualties this offseason. With the impending arrivals of Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby and Joey Ortiz, there may not be room for Mateo or Urías in 2024.
Question: I love you, but I want to drive my work truck into Liberty Reservoir when you say the Orioles aren’t going to spend much in the offseason. We need two top-end starters and Josh Hader, and let’s ball out. Why doesn’t ownership want to win or spend? From: @BmoreJose24
Answer: Jose, I like you, too, but please don’t drive your truck into the reservoir. I can see the Orioles spending a moderate amount on a starter and a reliever, but I can’t believe they’re going to spend a huge amount on relief pitcher Josh Hader. I think ownership wants to win. They just don’t want to spend lavishly. I think the payroll will rise modestly, and hopefully enough to keep your truck out of the water.
Question: I understand that there are a lot of free-agent pitchers available, but who are the best pitchers available via the trade market? From: @blackbirds83
Answer: I think this question is a bit premature. Let’s wait until the general managers’ meetings next month, and then we may have a better idea of who’s available on the trade market.
Question: I expect a lot of people will ask you this: What do you see as our regular day lineup next season, as well as our bench?
We have enough young guys who deserve their shot in the majors, but can you have a team of all youngsters? From: John Miller via email
Answer: You’re right, John. That’s a question I get nearly every month, but let’s focus on your second question, which is an excellent one.
The Orioles are in a unique position because they could staff nearly all the team with youngsters, but they will have some veterans.
Catcher James McCann is under contract for next year. First baseman/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn is under team control, and so are starting pitcher John Means, and left-handed relievers Cionel Pérez and Danny Coulombe.
I would expect the Orioles to sign a veteran starter as well as some veteran relievers. They might even sign some veteran position players to challenge for a bench spot or to serve as Triple-A depth in case of injuries.
I think the younger players will stand out in 2024, but I’m sure there will be at least a handful of veterans on the team, too.
Question: Is there any chance we may add Jonathan Schoop to the team? I think he would be an upgrade to second or third base defensively and offensively, as I expect an offensive revival if he returns to Baltimore. From: Stell Dorsey via email
Answer: Stell, I was a big Jonathan Schoop fan when he was on the team, but I’m afraid he’s regressed, and he didn’t play in the second half of the season.
I’m sure a team will bring him to spring training on a minor league contract, but I think the Orioles have many talented infield prospects, so I doubt it would be them.
Question: Can we talk about who we traded to get Jack Flaherty, how they’re doing now, and the trades we’ve made n the past that contributed to the 101-win season? I know it’s in the past, but I can’t remember who we received for Manny Machado, and a few others we let go. From: Kevin Healy via email
Answer: Kevin, the Orioles sent left-handed pitcher Drew Rom and infielder César Prieto to St. Louis for Flaherty. Rom was 1-4 with an 8.02 earned-run average in eight starts for the Cardinals. Rom’s only win came against the Orioles on September 11th
Prieto hit .270 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 38 games for Triple-A Memphis.
The Orioles received Dean Kremer in the Machado trade, and I think that fans are happier with the Machado trade now than they were a few years ago.
Kyle Bradish was acquired in the trade for Dylan Bundy in 2019, and Ryan O’Hearn was acquired for cash considerations at the beginning of the year, so I think those trades were huge helps.
Question: Dick Hall died this past season. He was a rare type of relief pitcher. Basically, he was a long man from the bullpen. He could come in the early innings and get you to the late innings. Basically, that’s what the Orioles need. They do not have anyone who would be considered a middle reliever – a reliever who can pitch two or three innings. But they do have players in the majors and minors that they can develop into these roles. Do you think now is the time to go all out to get this type of pitcher through trades or free agency? From: Mitch via email
Answer: Mitch, Dick Hall was one of the best relievers in Orioles’ history, but teams generally don’t use relievers who pitch more than two innings because those pitchers will have to rest as long as starters do.
Jake Bird of Colorado and Tyler Holton of Detroit led the majors with 84 1/3 innings pitched in relief. In several years, Hall pitched more than that.
Teams would rather have multiple pitchers who can work innings in consecutive games than a long reliever because they’re easier to maneuver than a long reliever, though a good long reliever can be valuable.
Question: My view on why the teams with the byes are losing is not that the five-day rest hurts, but that you will be playing a hot team that had two-to-three games to get comfortable with playoff baseball. So, in a weird way, playing in the three-game wild-card series is not where a team wants to be. but winning this series, coming in hot and used to playoff baseball is a huge advantage. Thoughts? From: Barry Culman via email
Answer: Barry, Scott Meehan also wonders about the effects of first-round byes. In previous years, the Houston Astros made it to the World Series despite the first-round bye.
I find the shorter wild-card and Division Series compelling, and when you add playoff teams and rounds to the postseason, scenarios like the one we’ve seen this season happen.
I think Brandon Hyde was fearful of the layoff, but I’d rather take my chances with a five-game series opening at home instead of a three-game series, where two bad games end your season.
Question: Will Jordan Westburg get a chance to play regularly and not just against lefties in 2024? Will the O’s keep the platoon with Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn at first? From: Ed Heiger via email
Answer: Ed, I think the possible additions of Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby and Joey Ortiz next year will make for an interesting competition.
I think Mountcastle and O’Hearn were a successful platoon this season, and with no obvious minor league first baseman ready to challenge them, I think they’ll run it back with that duo next year.
Question: Do you think FanFest returns this winter? Also, are Cade Povich and Chayce McDermott ready to join the Orioles’ pitching staff? If so, do they start out in the bullpen and work their way into the starting rotation? From: Tom Duffy, Elkton
Answer: Tom, I haven’t heard anything about FanFest returning. I think the Orioles were pleased about the success of their caravan in February, and guess they’ll do that again this season.
I think Povich and McDermott start out at Norfolk in case the Orioles need them for the rotation, and that they’ll stay as starters unless they think they can help them in the bullpen.