In the aftermath of the Orioles’ disappointing performance in the American League Division Series, there has been a lot of chatter about what they need to make a deeper playoff run next season.
There are arguments to be made for a big-ticket starting pitcher and some back-end help in the bullpen while the club awaits the return of injured super stopper Félix Bautista, but they probably won’t pass the perspective test or survive the budget considerations that O’s fans hope CEO John Angelos will throw aside in the afterglow of a 101-win season.
So, yes, it’ll be nice to fantasize about adding a Justin Verlander-type rotation rock and bringing in a quality alternative closer from outside the organization, but don’t set your sights too high.
Youth will be served instead
Not surprisingly, it has been easy for some fans to point to the team’s first series sweep in nearly two full seasons and chalk it up to the youth and lack of playoff experience of this exciting group of emerging players.
Well, I suppose that had some impact, but you might want to check with the 100-plus-winning Dodgers and Braves to see which youngsters they want to blame for their quick exits from the postseason.
The Orioles now have some playoff experience and those players (except Jackson Holliday) will be a year older and wiser next October, so I’m going to wait around for FanGraphs and the Vegas wise guys to predict they only win 83 games next year and bet the over.
I know, I know. Holliday will also be a year older, but the Orioles have appealed his age to Major League Baseball and he will remain 19 years old until he looks at least 17.
Gold Glove complaint
It’s nice to see catcher Adley Rutschman, outfielder Austin Hays and first baseman Ryan Mountcastle among the finalists for the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, but it’s unfortunate that Gunnar Henderson slipped through the cracks because he split time between third base and shortstop.
There is a Gold Glove awarded to the best utility player in each league, but Henderson doesn’t really fit the description. He is a left-side infielder who may or may not shift entirely to shortstop next season. Personally, I think that versatility is a great asset and manager Brandon Hyde should continue to exploit it.
My guess on the other guys
I think Rutschman will be the only Oriole who gets the gold but believe Hays also is deserving. Mountcastle didn’t play in enough games.
The closer conundrum
Mike Elias conceded during his post playoff media conference that the closer situation is the biggest issue facing the team during the offseason, but I think it is really a matter to be decided during spring training.
With a few exceptions, closers are so mercurial that it would be unwise to invest a lot of money in a free agent who isn’t Mariano Rivera. The O’s could make an analytics play on somebody they think can pop in the role, but I’m guessing DL Hall takes the Zack Britton route and completes the shift from promising starter to career reliever. Tyler Wells also remains an interesting possibility.
Why not Cano?
Because a lot of hitters caught up to him in the second half and he was very vulnerable in right-left matchups. Maybe he makes some adjustments between now and Opening Day, but I think the team is better served with him in a setup role.
Note to readers
I’m not sure that this “Random Thoughts” concept will become a regular feature like my “Short Takes,” but you can let me or Rich Dubroff know what you think.