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Here’s Part 2 of our monthly mailbag. We’ll have another mailbag just before the start of spring training. Questions may be edited for length, style and clarity.
Question: What are the top three areas/moves the Orioles want to accomplish to push them to the next level toward a World Series title after last year’s great, surprising success? From: @Dyhard
Answer: Dan, I think the Orioles need a top-of-the-rotation starter. Hopefully, that’s someone already on staff. They need hitters to not fall into slumps at crucial times, as they did at the end of last season and in the Division Series, and they need a lockdown closer. They hope it’s Craig Kimbrel.
Question: Could we see a starting infield of Coby Mayo at third, Gunnar Henderson at shortstop, Jackson Holliday at second base and Ryan Mountcastle at first base with Adley Rutschman behind the plate sometime in 2024? From: Bill Connor via email
Answer: Bill, I think that it’s likely you’ll see that defensive alignment sometime during the season, though I’m not sure if Jackson Holliday starts the season with the Orioles or when Coby Mayo makes his debut.
Question: If we don’t trade any Triple-A guys, do we just keep them down another year? I would rather see them play and trade some of last year’s regulars. From: John Miller via email
Answer: John, if you’re referring to Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo and Joey Ortiz, and perhaps Connor Norby, I think they’re all likely to see substantial time with the Orioles this season. I don’t know if they start the season with them, but I think they’ll all play critical roles in 2024.
Question: I noticed many of these pitchers that the Orioles are pursuing don’t have a couple more wins than Mike Baumann. He won 10 games this past season. I think Baumann should get a shot as a starter. He was a winner as a starter in the minors. The new pitching coach wants 8 to 10 starting pitchers when spring training starts. Shouldn’t Baumann be given a shot? From: Mitch via email
Answer: Mitch, I’m not sure that wins for a relief pitcher is an accurate measure of their effectiveness. Baumann was an excellent reliever for the first four months of the season, but he also benefited from some good fortune. He happened to pitch the half-inning before the Orioles went ahead in the game.
I think he can be a big contributor for the team, but I think he’s more effective in short stints.
Question: Even without any significant acquisitions, I believe this team gets better simply by the younger players maturing. How much more growth do you foresee in our younger players currently on the 40-man roster? Is there a player who has a significant upside? From: Rick Staley via email
Answer: Rick, that’s a good point. I think there are several players on the 40-man roster — Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, Joey Ortiz and Jordan Westburg — who can make greater contributions to the team than what they did in 2023.
Question: What are the chances of a trade for pitcher Jesús Luzardo or a possible reunion with reliever Cole Sulser? From: Michael Shiffler via Facebook
Answer: Michael, Miami’s asking price for Jesús Luzardo, who has three years before free agency, is extremely high. Sulser signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets in November.
Question: Any news on where Trey Mancini may sign for the coming season? From: Javier Oliva via Facebook
Answer: Javier, I haven’t heard any Trey Mancini buzz, though I would think he’d get an invitation to a major league camp from some team.
Question: When you analyze a trade of prospects for a veteran, how do you factor in the years of team control? For example, two years of pitcher Dylan Cease vs. six years of Coby Mayo. From: Charlie via email
Answer: Charlie, team control factors into any move, but the need for a starting pitcher and the potential for a prospect are more important factors.
There aren’t many accomplished starting pitchers with two years of team control available or are there many prospects with as much power potential as Mayo. The Orioles will weigh his potential and his importance to the future of the team before making a move.
Question: The Astros are on the brink of letting three of their best players make it to free agency (Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker). What can Elias and company do to take full advantage of the elite talent they have brought into the organization and ensure they are Orioles for the majority of their prime playing years? I’m a lifelong fan so I will be greedy and ask for Adley, Gunnar, Holliday, Grayson Rodriguez, and Bradish to be signed to extensions well before they are free agents. From: Robby Hoppes via email
Answer: Robby, I think it’s highly unlikely that each of those five players were signed to long-term extensions. It’s just not practical. If they each do well over the next season or two, perhaps they can think about an extension for one or two of them.
Question: Is it that John Angelos won’t allow Mike Elias to spend substantial money in free agency or to lock up younger players, or is it a combination of Elias/Angelos not wanting to spend? From: Darryl Shawgo via email
Answer: Darryl, I’m not sure exactly how that works, but it’s a lot more complex than fans think. Perhaps Mike Elias is given a budget to work with, and he’s given freedom within that budget. At the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras, the agent for Jackson Holliday and Gunnar Henderson, indicated that Elias was interested in extensions. Elias doesn’t comment on negotiations.
Question: Standard Home Run Derby rules. You have Kjerstad, Mountcastle, Henderson and others. Who’s hitting the farthest ball? Not the most home runs but just who hits the farthest shot. From: Cameron Campbell via email
Answer: Cameron, this is a new one on me. I saw Gunnar’s shot in June, but I’m going with Heston Kjerstad. He had some long drives in spring training last year, so I’ll take him.
Question: If the O’s go into the season with their current rotation, one that won or was involved in 86 games excluding Kyle Gibson’s 15 wins, does that mean that they have lost the offseason? Considering that John Means is back at full strength doesn’t that mean he can match Gibson’s output. Isn’t Means a better pitcher than Gibson? From: Joseph Shelton Hall via email
Answer: Joseph, you’re making an assumption that Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Grayson Rodriguez and Means will pitch an entire season without being hurt.
Bradish missed 15 days with a bruised foot, and then pitched the entire season. Kremer, Rodriguez and Gibson weren’t hurt. You’re also assuming that Means will be able to pitch an entire season, and he missed six weeks in 2021.
Question: I keep wondering if the fifth slot in the rotation might be shared by DL Hall and Tyler Wells to help them build up innings and strength for a whole season. From: David Denham via email
Answer: David, it’s not impossible. I think Wells is more likely to be a swingman than Hall. I think Hall would be better off in the bullpen, and better off with the Orioles deciding on a role for him before spring training begins.
Question: The Orioles had very little offense the last few weeks of the 2023 regular season and in the playoffs. Still, they had two hitting coaches and an offensive strategy coach, all of whom are returning in 2024. I figured there might have been changes made in this department. Are all of these coaches necessary, and especially the same three? From: Steve Inge via email
Answer: Steve, you’re correct that co-hitting coaches Ryan Fuller and Matt Borgschulte will return for 2024 along with offensive strategy coach Cody Asche. They’re highly thought of, but I can’t offer any insight on their strengths and weaknesses.
Question: Why reacquire Tyler Nevin considering the glut of corner infielders and outfielders? Does it signal a blockbuster trade or trades? From: Jay Lazrus via email
Answer: Jay, it’s a depth move. If there are multiple injuries to infielders this season, the Orioles may be happy to have Nevin. It doesn’t signal a trade to me.
Question: When will Cade Povich and Chayce McDermott pitch for the Orioles this season? Do either of them have a shot at making the Opening Day roster? From: Tom Duffy via Facebook
Answer: Tom, I think Povich and McDermott have a chance to pitch for the Orioles at some point this season, but I don’t think either of them will be on the Opening Day roster.
Question: The Orioles are sitting in a great position for the future of the franchise. Unfortunately, because of the small-market status, money will always be an issue. Do you think it’s time for baseball to finally put the salary cap rule in place? From: Barry Welty via email
Answer: Barry, the Players’ Association will never stand for a salary cap. It won’t happen, and I don’t think it should. With a salary cap, it would be hard for the Orioles to sign multiple young players to long-term contracts. I think with astute management, any team can win, though it’s more difficult for a smaller revenue team like the Orioles.
Question: Do you think Dave McNally will ever get in the Hall of Fame? From: Dave Burnell via Facebook
Answer: Dave, I don’t think so. McNally did win 184 games, which would be a lot for a starter today, but 50 years ago, it wasn’t a special number. His excellence was concentrated over four seasons, when he won 20 games. McNally won only three games after turning 32.
Note: The Orioles signed outfielder Daniel Johnson to a minor league contract. Johnson played 35 games with Cleveland in 2020 and 2021, hitting .202 with four home runs and five RBIs.
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