Tag Archive | "Chris Davis"

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MASN Money For Dummies (Part 2): Understanding MASN, Orioles history and big money for Chris Davis

Posted on 07 January 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

“When we bought this team we paid $173 million for it and we owe approximately $75 or $80 million on it. In other words, we put up about $90 million in cash and the rest of it was mortgaged – like you get a mortgage on a business or a home or property you might own. We have to pay roughly $9 or $10 million a year in principal and interest on this franchise. And that hasn’t stopped us from being one of the top-spending clubs in the American League or for that matter Major League Baseball. The reason we are is because, basically, it’s the support of the fans that come to see the Orioles. Now in a way, it’s self-perpetuating. If you give the fans, particularly Orioles fans, a winning team, a team that’s competitive you’re going to get supported completely. I believe in that. Along with that ballpark that’s the gem of all ballparks, I believe that if we put a potential winner on that field every year, which is what we intend to do, we will be successful. And eventually we’ll make some money, and also we’ll pay off the mortgage which is also an important proposition.”

Peter G. Angelos

The Barn

March 1997

 

 

SOMETIMES, THE MISINFORMATION AND PROPAGANDA that Peter G. Angelos and his minions at the Baltimore Orioles spin regarding money, affordability and profit seems inconceivable to anyone who has been paying attention for almost a quarter of a century and doing the math.

It’s been a generation of mostly awful baseball and an extremely poor commitment to a winning product on the field for the fans of the Orioles.

Meanwhile, it’s been an absolute goldmine of riches for the Angelos family.

The results, the actions, the promises, the facts, the lies – it all speaks for itself.

The team’s record on the field since 1994 is 1665-1829. That’s four playoff appearances in 22 seasons. The team spent the first decade of the century finishing more than 20 games out of first place in the AL East race every season – and more than 30 games back in five of those 10.

Peter G. Angelos contributed $29 million toward the purchase of the Baltimore Orioles in the summer of 1993. Now, almost 23 years later, the empire has totaled up nearly $3 billion in total value – recent earnings totaling nearly $1 billion plus the current value of the properties.

But it’s almost like following the Donald Trump campaign with a fact checker. For many with a clear view, the “truths” are self-evident. But in the local media, no amount of promises or lies is ever held to accountability. The sports journalism done here is softer than the bottom of the current Orioles 2016 rotation – or maybe even the batting order, for that matter.

In this six-part series, “MASN Money For Dummies,” I’m here to fact check for Orioles and Nationals fans. This is Chapter 2 outlining the history of the local television network and its purpose and links to creating revenue for the local baseball franchises.

Chapter 1 outlines the goal of the series and is available here.

Last month at the team’s Fan Fest, former 50-home run king and current high-ranking Orioles executive Brady Anderson continued to spread the fallacy through the local media that the franchise is a “small to mid-market” team.

That is – very simply – a lie. It’s a myth from another era.

All of the numbers and profits will bear that out.

And if you judge the history of spending, winning, litigating and profiteering – it’s very clear the owner isn’t sincerely committed to winning and competing with other Major League Baseball teams for the best talent available and putting the best players possible into an Orioles uniform each spring.

And why should Angelos spend money or raise the payroll when the real money arrives via the MASN television network long before any commitment to winning is necessary?

In the old days, MLB teams needed to sell tickets and put asses in the seats to make money. Winning and having star players doing it was the formula to making money – or at least the prayer of turning an annual profit on a baseball team.

Angelos is now making between $75 and $100 million in profit per year with the current system of a low baseball payroll for the Orioles and a quiet, widely misunderstood cable television annuity that last year grossed MASN – and Angelos currently owns 83% of that entity – over $200 million from your living room according to SNL Kagan.

It guarantees this to be – by far – the most profitable investment in local sports franchise history.

I’ve done the math. Per Forbes, the Orioles made $197 million in profit between 2005 and 2014. The Angelos portion of MASN has made $397 million in profit since 2009. There was another undocumented chunk between 2005 and 2008 that was at least $100 million in total profit plus the $75 million in cash that MLB gifted him in two payments at the start of the deal.

His initial $29 million personal investment in the Orioles during the summer of …

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Orioles, Nats and MASN Money for Dummies: A complete primer on how Peter Angelos has lied and pocketed your dough

Posted on 03 January 2016 by Nestor Aparicio

“What you can expect, though, that those that comment – putting aside the fellow you mentioned (Nestor Aparicio), who you know is not even worthy of getting into that (chuckles), it really makes no sense to respond to him – the responsible people, who know baseball and who are baseball fans – the writers like you (Stan Charles) – if they want to criticize, they better look at the economics. They owe it to the public to explain to whoever is interested that the problem is disparity in revenues. Now, I have heard some of them mention that this MASN development might really generate some real funds, which would permit the Orioles to spend more money. That’s a pretty strong acknowledgment that the key to all this, to get off the losing years and so on, is more money invested on the field. And obviously, with that becoming available, that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to do that because we are hometown and we are sensitive to what the public is thinking. I know a lot of Baltimore fans, and, just personally, I want them to feel like I am responding to their wishes.”

Peter G. Angelos, May 2006

(as told to PressBox via Q&A)

PETER G. ANGELOS DOESN’T WANT YOU to know about the billions of dollars he has collected, dispensed and quietly usurped from local sports fans from six states via your cable television bill. It’s time for someone who is “responsible” to do the math on where all of that money has gone over the last 10 years as the Orioles. and its spinoff cable TV partner the Mid Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), have become a virtual annuity for the owner here in Baltimore.

Clearly, given the dozen years that he’s fought with his Major League Baseball partners, Bud Selig, Rob Manfred and now Ted Lerner and the Washington Nationals over this incredible sum of “found” money, surely there must some large pot of gold somewhere? The Washington Post wrote that it was $298 million in dispute from 2011 to 2015 after the New York Supreme Court hearing in early November. But that’s just the tip of the financial iceberg – a small number compared to all of the money that’s been flushed through MASN since it was berthed as a olive branch to Angelos by then-commissioner Bud Selig for allowing baseball back into the nation’s capital in 2005.

Over the last decade, I’ve been portrayed as a liar or a heretic by Peter G. Angelos and his media partners. After 21 years with a Baltimore Orioles media credential, my access was taken away by the club in 2007.

However, my track record still stands as unblemished heading into 2016.

I always tell the truth and write the truth. (That’s why you’re here.)

As you’ll see, I’ve put in all of the work for you – a little “term paper” for you oldtimers who spent time with microfiche in a lonely library – so you can learn about this history and realities of how the Nationals came into existence and what it’s meant for Baltimore and Washington baseball and the fans.

This series of facts is presented with two educational goals:

  • Track everything that was said – and very openly in the “mainstream” media – a decade ago when Angelos began this power struggle for the future money of Washington, D.C. and what he considered his market
  • Document everything that has happened since he began this trail of lies in search of all of the money that was designed and originally earmarked to improve the Baltimore Orioles

Everything presented in this series will be linked to major media entities like Forbes, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, The New York Times, ESPN/Grantland, Sports Illustrated, USA Today and various reports with financial annotations. I’ve always been accountable in my work. Meanwhile, accountability is always completely absent from the mind and spirit of Angelos and his …

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Rob Neyer talks the Baltimore Orioles-Chris Davis saga

Posted on 14 December 2015 by WNST Audio

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Next steps all that matter after Orioles pull Davis offer

Posted on 12 December 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Amid the praise being heaped upon the Orioles for offering free-agent Chris Davis a reported $150 million deal, Matt Wieters made the truest statement of all at Saturday’s FanFest.

Asked if the pursuit of the slugging first baseman was a message to future free agents that the organization will spend the necessary money to keep great players, Wieters was complimentary of Davis’ talents and of Baltimore as a place to play while stating the truth about any offseason activity.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to get it done,” Wieter said, “and you’ve got to be able to sign the final contract to say you’ve gone out there and spent that money.”

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette confirmed Saturday that the Orioles had pulled their offer to the 29-year-old who led the major leagues in home runs in both 2013 and 2015.

It’s become apparent that the Orioles aren’t willing to wait around. Whether that means talks will resume with agent Scott Boras remains to be seen, but Duquette made it clear that the organization is exploring alternatives, particularly in the outfield after Mark Trumbo was acquired earlier this month as a viable option to play first base.

The door may not be locked shut for Davis to return, but it appears that Boras may need to use the doorbell to regain the Orioles’ attention if no other club makes a higher offer in the coming days and weeks.

“I’m not exactly sure where that’s going to end up,” Duquette said. “We’ve been very aggressive on that front and that didn’t yield a deal. At some point, we’re going to have to look at some other options. I can tell you this, we’re going to have a good ball club, either way.”

Determining that they’ve reached their spending limit with the first baseman is fine, but walking away from the negotiating table without any alternative already in place feels like a risky proposition. Asked during a fan forum on Saturday whether the $150 million allocated by owner Peter Angelos for a Davis deal is available for other free-agent targets, Duquette said that it was, but the money may not all be spent this winter.

And this is where the Orioles must prove themselves to be serious about doing what it takes to improve their club for 2016 and beyond. To praise the fact that they tried to re-sign Davis is well and good, but it’s meaningless if Duquette and the Orioles do not make any other high-impact acquisitions in the aftermath of Boras and Davis passing on their offer.

If Davis is ultimately deemed too expensive, the organization can’t then say the likes of Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, and Scott Kazmir are too costly as well. Otherwise, it’s just the same old unwillingness to spend for premium talent on the open market after allowing the likes of Davis, Nelson Cruz, and Andrew Miller to depart in recent offseasons.

Did the Orioles make a fair offer to Davis? Yes, but Boras is notorious for waiting as long as he can for the best deal. Duquette had to know this was a distinct possibility and has no excuse not to be prepared.

If the Orioles want to be praised for offering $150 million to Davis, they will turn his rejection into other high-impact additions to help their cause for 2016.

Anything less will make the Davis pursuit feel like it was all for show before ultimately throwing up their hands and saying, “Hey, at least we tried.”

Talking about spending money is one thing.

Actually doing it is another, especially when there are plenty of attractive options remaining on the market not named Chris Davis.

They’ve got to get it done.

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Orioles should only close door on Davis with real alternative in place

Posted on 09 December 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles need to make improvements for the 2016 season.

Contrary to popular belief, they don’t need to re-sign slugger Chris Davis in order to accomplish that.

Of course, it’s exciting to know that the organization has made a reported seven-year, $150 million offer, which would obliterate the previous franchise-record contract of $85.5 million awarded to Adam Jones in 2012. And keeping Davis would make life easier for manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles in trying to compete in the American League East in 2016 and beyond.

But it’s not the only means of building a winner. Re-signing Davis alone isn’t enough as the Orioles finished only 81-81 with him clubbing 47 home runs. They would still have needs in the starting rotation and outfield to address.

Let’s also not forget a 96-66 mark that netted a division championship came during Davis’ worst season in Baltimore.

It isn’t all about home runs as the Orioles have had the major league leader in each of the last three seasons and have just one playoff appearance over that time to show for it. The point is there are numerous ways to construct a winner if you’re willing to put in the work and spend wisely.

According to CBSSports.com, Davis is seeking an eight-year, $200 million contract, which has drawn the ire of many fans believing he’s not worth such lucrative money. It’s an uncomfortable reminder that the market alone dictates what a player is ultimately worth, and as of late Wednesday night, no other club was known to have a better offer on the table, which was good news for the Orioles.

Neither Davis nor the Orioles should take the negotiations personally.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette shouldn’t bid against himself, but super agent Scott Boras knows it’s barely mid-December and the market has been slower to develop for premier position players than top-shelf starting pitchers. It’s well within the interest of his client to wait if he’s looking for the best possible deal — Boras has done this countless times over the years — but the Orioles have no obligation to be the ones on standby for an extended time while alternatives dissipate and Davis continues to seek a more attractive offer.

They just can’t be surprised by this.

Yes, this is where it gets tricky for the Orioles. This is where fans can judge whether the organization is really deserving of praise for their efforts to re-sign the hulking first baseman.

Duquette and Showalter continue to point to the possibility of moving on from Davis if a deal isn’t struck sooner rather than later. It’s sound negotiating, but only if they have a real alternative ready to agree to a contract on the spot. And, no, that doesn’t mean a cheap deal with former Pittsburgh Pirate Pedro Alvarez before making a few other bargain-basement signings and calling it a winter.

The only reason the Orioles should walk away from Davis at this point is if they already have a high-impact agreement with someone like Justin Upton or Alex Gordon or Scott Kazmir or — better yet — with more than one of those names. Otherwise, the act of “closing the door” on Davis while merely talking about alternatives is not only a hollow tactic that burns a bridge, but it wouldn’t help negotiations with other free agents who would then know Davis is no longer an option.

Worst of all, it could become an empty promise to an anxious fan base. Understanding how Boras operates, the Orioles had to know this was a distinct possibility, making cynics doubt their true intentions if they’re to swiftly walk away from negotiations without something else significant already in place.

It means nothing for the Orioles to say they gave it the “old college try” to keep Davis if it’s followed by a return to the operating procedure we witnessed last offseason. A special $150 million investment from owner Peter Angelos allocated for Davis and no one else would make little sense with there being countless other ways — perhaps better ones — to augment the club with that kind of money.

In truth, it may not be wise to give Davis $150 million, let alone to consider offering him an amount even closer to what he wants. Just ask the folks in Philadelphia how the Ryan Howard deal has worked out, and he was a former league MVP who had twice led the majors in home runs. And then there’s that matter of trying to sign Manny Machado to a long-term contract in the not-too-distant future, something that will take even more money to do.

The current scenario with Davis would have been preposterous a year ago with him coming off a season in which he hit .196 and was suspended 25 games for Adderall use. But here the sides are with the Orioles saying they’re willing to give the biggest contract in club history if Davis wants to sign it.

Most fans are applauding the club’s effort, but it won’t mean a thing unless the Orioles succeed in either getting it done or walking away because they’ve made another high-impact move instead. To hastily cut off negotiations without a substantial plan B firmly in place would be questionable strategy and will only lead fans to wonder if they were ever fully serious about signing Davis considering Boras’ normal tactics of waiting it out for other clubs to jump into the mix.

Make no mistake, it’s good to see the Orioles pursuing a high-priced free agent. If a deal gets done, it’s a significant step for an organization with a long track record of being unwilling to spend big dollars. If the Orioles don’t sign Davis, they should be judged based on what happens after that — not praised simply because they tried to keep him.

One can only hope it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition that’s more for show than anything else.

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Orioles acquire Trumbo from Seattle for Clevenger

Posted on 01 December 2015 by Luke Jones

After three-time All-Star catcher Matt Wieters accepted their $15.8 million qualifying offer last month to remain in Baltimore, the Orioles have made their second-biggest move so far this offseason.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette has acquired first baseman and outfielder Mark Trumbo from Seattle in exchange for backup catcher Steve Clevenger. The Mariners also included left-handed relief pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser in the deal.

With 2015 home run king Chris Davis now a free agent and the Orioles also looking to upgrade both corner outfield spots as well as at designated hitter, Trumbo provides another home-run hitting option to add to the mix. After averaging just under 32 homers per year with the Los Angeles Angels from 2011-2013, Trumbo battled injuries with Arizona in 2014 and hit .262 with 22 homers, 64 RBIs, and a .759 on-base plus slugging percentage in 545 plate appearances split between the Diamondbacks and Seattle this past season.

Trumbo’s best asset is his power, but the 29-year-old owns a career .300 on-base percentage and doesn’t walk as much as you’d like from a power hitter who strikes out frequently. The right-handed hitter has averaged 161 strikeouts and only 42 walks per 162 games in his career.

A solid defensive first baseman and a below-average corner outfielder, Trumbo would best be served to split time between the DH spot and first base if you’re trying to optimize your team defense.

Trumbo is projected to make roughly $9 million in arbitration for the 2016 season.

Riefenhauser, 25, went 4-2 with a 2.86 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 games with Triple-A Durham in 2015 and has a 2.77 ERA over 191 career minor league games. In 24 career games in the majors, Riefenhauser has gone 1-0 with a 6.30 ERA in 20 innings of work.

Out of options next season and stuck behind Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph, Clevenger figured to have a difficult job making the Orioles’ 25-man roster this spring. The 29-year-old Pigtown native hit .287 with two homers, 15 RBIs, and a .740 OPS in 105 plate appearances for Baltimore last season.

In isolation, the Orioles are receiving good value in exchange for a backup catcher, but Trumbo should not be viewed as the centerpiece acquisition of the winter and certainly can’t be seen as a straight-up replacement for Davis unless significant upgrades were to be made elsewhere in an effort to improve an 81-81 club. Several reports indicate the Orioles aren’t backing down on their efforts to re-sign Davis, but that is still considered a tall order with the 29-year-old first baseman expected to fetch a nine-figure multiyear contract this winter.

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Machado finishes fourth in 2015 AL MVP voting

Posted on 19 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Despite not being voted Most Valuable Oriole this season, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado finished fourth in the 2015 AL MVP voting, well ahead of slugging teammate Chris Davis.

The only player in the majors to appear in all 162 regular-season games in 2015, Machado received four third-place votes, 11 fourth-place votes, and five fifth-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as he finished behind only winner Josh Donaldson of Toronto, Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout, and Lorenzo Cain of Kansas City. Davis finished 14th despite leading the majors with 47 home runs and being named 2015 Most Valuable Oriole by the local media.

Machado not only proved his worth as the Orioles’ real most valuable player in 2015, but the 23-year-old finished fifth among AL position players in wins above replacement (7.1), according to Baseball Reference. In addition to hitting .286 with a career-high 35 home runs, 86 RBIs, and an .861 on-base plus slugging percentage, Machado also won the second Gold Glove of his career, further proving he has recovered fully from serious injuries to both knees.

Despite not receiving much love from BBWAA voters in the MVP voting, Davis is expected to cash in with one of the most lucrative contracts in free agency this winter. Machado is only entering his first arbitration-eligible offseason and won’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season.

Former Oriole Nelson Cruz finished sixth in the MVP voting after hitting 44 homers in his first season with Seattle.

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Wieters’ decision throws monkey wrench into Orioles’ offseason

Posted on 13 November 2015 by Luke Jones

Matt Wieters acknowledged what we all saw in 2015 by accepting the Orioles’ $15.8 million qualifying offer on Friday, meaning he will remain in Baltimore next season.

Though not yet 30 and still a quality player, the three-time All-Star catcher knew there were too many doubts to net him a contract similar to the ones signed by Brian McCann (five years, $85 million) and Russell Martin (five years, $82 million) in the last two offseasons. Having caught on consecutive days just five times in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, Wieters — and agent Scott Boras — concluded that potential suitors would not have been willing to make such a dramatic investment in him just yet.

And that’s why he accepted Baltimore’s one-year deal and will now use 2016 as a showcase year before potentially re-entering the free-agent market next winter. Wieters will receive a very healthy $7.5 million raise from his 2015 salary of $8.3 million in the meantime.

The decision makes perfect sense for Wieters, but the news likely throws a monkey wrench into the Orioles’ offseason plans after they expected him to reject the offer, which would have netted them a supplemental pick at the end of the first round of the 2016 amateur draft. With the Orioles still having a plethora of needs to address from first base to the corner outfield spots to upgrading the starting pitching, you wonder how much this impacts Dan Duquette’s ability to make other improvements without a sizable increase from 2015’s payroll that was just south of $120 million.

But the Orioles have no one to blame but themselves knowing it was always a possibility that Wieters would accept their offer unlike first baseman Chris Davis and starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, who both rejected theirs on Friday.

With fellow catcher Caleb Joseph playing above-average defense — his 12 defensive runs saved ranked second in the American League this past season — and showing an acceptable bat at the position for a fraction of what Wieters will now make in 2016, the Orioles would have been better served to have forgone the uncertain chance of netting a draft pick to spend that $15.8 million elsewhere. According to Baseball Reference, Joseph was worth 2.2 wins above replacement in 2015 compared to Wieters’ 0.8 WAR in 75 games after his return in June.

Though Wieters has earned a strong reputation behind the plate with Gold Gloves won in 2011 and 2012, the Orioles pitched to a 4.38 ERA with him catching in 2015 compared to a 3.65 mark when Joseph was behind the dish. Baltimore also pitched to a 3.00 ERA with Joseph catching in 2014 compared to a 3.80 mark with anyone else behind the plate.

Simply put, the gap — if there is any — between Wieters and Joseph isn’t great enough to justify spending so much more money on the former when the Orioles have so many other positions to address. It’s money better spent in the effort to try to keep Davis or to sign an impact corner outfielder or starting pitcher this winter.

Of course, we’re also assuming the money now spent on Wieters would have been wisely allocated elsewhere, which was never a given.

For those arguing that Wieters could be moved to first base to replace Chris Davis, a career .743 on-base plus slugging percentage and unknown defensive ability make for an expensive downgrade at the position. Wieters’ offensive value as a catcher all but vanishes when moving him to a offensive-minded position like first base.

In addition, such a move would not be popular with either Wieters or Boras in what will amount to a platform season to rebuild the catcher’s market value.

Considering the lack of offseason activity a year ago as the Orioles were coming off their 2014 AL East championship season, some fans will be happy to know that at least one quality player won’t be departing this winter. At least the organization has already done “something” this winter, right?

But for a club needing to not only stand its ground but to try to improve from an 81-81 campaign and a third-place finish in 2015, Wieters is much more of an expensive luxury than a critical need. And that could hurt the Orioles dearly this winter unless they’re willing to spend more money than anyone is currently anticipating.

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Orioles extend qualifying offers to Wieters, Chen, Davis

Posted on 06 November 2015 by Luke Jones

With free agency officially opening at midnight on Saturday morning, the Orioles face their most critical offseason in recent memory if they plan to remain competitive in 2016 and beyond.

As expected, the club made qualifying offers — one-year, $15.8 million contracts for the 2016 season — to first baseman Chris Davis, starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, and catcher Matt Wieters on Friday afternoon. If any — or all — of the three rejects the offer and signs with another club, the Orioles are then awarded a supplemental first-round pick in the 2016 draft.

A club signing a player who previously rejected a qualifying offer from his original club must then forfeit its first- or second-round pick based on its 2015 record.

The Orioles were always expected to make qualifying offers to Davis and Chen, but there was some doubt as to whether they’d extend one to Wieters. With the 29-year-old catching only 55 games a year removed from Tommy John surgery, some had wondered if the Orioles would refrain in fear of him accepting a hefty one-year salary and impacting the rest of their offseason budget.

However, Wieters’ agent, Scott Boras, has been one of the harshest critics of the qualifying offer system, making it unlikely that he would accept one on behalf of his client. Considering Wieters’ heavy workload early in his career and that he’s one of only a handful of major league catchers to have the serious elbow procedure over the years, it will be interesting to see what kind of market exists for the three-time All-Star selection, especially with a club now needing to forfeit a draft draft pick to sign him.

Baltimore has three other free agents — reliever Darren O’Day and outfielders Gerardo Parra and Steve Pearce — who did not receive qualifying offers, but the club has expressed interest in re-signing all three.

The Orioles also announced on Friday that they had selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Chris Jones from Triple-A Norfolk. The 27-year-old went 8-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 150 innings last season.

“Chris Jones has compiled two good years at Triple-A since becoming a starter and really improved his control in 2015,” executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said in a statement. “By continuing to pitch well in the Dominican Republic this winter, he has earned his spot on the roster.”

This move leaves the Orioles with 36 players on their current 40-man roster.

With a New York state judge throwing out an arbitration decision regarding rights fees owed to the Washington Nationals by Orioles-controlled MASN on Wednesday, many fans hope that means an increase in payroll to re-sign Davis as well and upgrade the starting pitching and outfield situations after Buck Showalter’s club failed to have a winning season for the first time since 2011. However, it remains to be seen if that will have any tangible effect after the Orioles had a payroll just under $119 million on Opening Day, according to Baseball Prospectus.

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Facing many changes, Orioles can only wonder what’s next

Posted on 05 October 2015 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis hit two home runs, Matt Wieters drove in two runs, and Darren O’Day pitched a scoreless eighth inning in the Orioles’ 9-4 win over the New York Yankees on the final day of the 2015 season.

A day earlier, Wei-Yin Chen pitched six solid innings to earn the win.

For their four biggest free agents, the weekend served as a final reminder of just how important they’ve been to the club’s turnaround as the Orioles finished their fourth consecutive non-losing season on Sunday, something they hadn’t done in three decades. Of course, 81 wins in 2015 were disappointing after 96 victories and an American League East title a year ago, but even a .500 standard felt unreachable just five years ago when Buck Showalter first arrived.

Now, it’s considered a failure.

“Every time there’s the first hint of fall in the air, I want people to think about playoff baseball and the World Series,” said Showalter, who managed Sunday’s game after his mother passed away on Saturday. “That’s why we get up in the morning, that’s why you go to spring training, that’s why you do the things we’re going to do between now and next February. We’re not giving in.

“It’s not good enough though. It’s not good enough. [A record of] 81-81 ain’t good enough. We’re trying to win. We want to be the last team standing, the last city standing. Our city deserves that.”

By now, no one should doubt Showalter leading the way in the dugout, but even the most optimistic fans are questioning the future after the Orioles posted the best record in the AL over the last four seasons with a .543 winning percentage. With so many pending free agents and the Orioles’ offseason track record, many doubt whether 81 wins will even be a reasonable goal for the 2016 club without ownership making significant financial commitments.

The general consensus is that the Orioles will survive without Wieters, who still hasn’t proven he can be an everyday catcher again after last year’s Tommy John surgery. For a fraction of the price, Caleb Joseph can provide respectable offense and better defense than Wieters at this stage of his career.

But replacing the other big-ticket free agents is a different story.

Davis just led the majors in home runs for the second time in three years and has clubbed 159 over his four full seasons in Baltimore. It’s the kind of power rarely seen in this pitching-rich era of baseball, but are the Orioles willing to offer a nine-figure contract to even sit down at the negotiating table with agent Scott Boras?

We know what history says until executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and owner Peter Angelos prove us wrong. If not, the Orioles will be allowing a major league home run champion to depart for a second consecutive winter.

Though far from an ace, Chen was the Orioles’ best starting pitcher in 2015 with a career-best 3.34 ERA. The 30-year-old lefty has never pitched 200 innings in a season and will likely command more money than he’s worth as a middle-of-the-rotation starter on the open market, but Baltimore lacks the pitching depth to replace him from within like the best organizations will often do. For a club that finished 14th in the AL in starter ERA and gave up 100 more runs than it did a year ago, replacing Chen will be much more difficult than letting him leave.

And then there’s O’Day, who was claimed off waivers after the 2011 season and has been the backbone of the Orioles’ biggest strength over the last four years. The right-hander just made 68 or more appearances for the fourth consecutive season and lowered his ERA each year. Rarely is it wise to spend significant money on relievers, but the 32-year-old has arguably been the best non-closer relief pitcher in the majors over the last four years. Baltimore has other young relievers such as Brad Brach and Mychal Givens who pitched well in 2015, but weakening the club’s biggest strength would be a dangerous proposition.

The Orioles will also need to make decisions on the likes of Gerardo Parra, Steve Pearce, and Nolan Reimold as they try to fix the corner outfield spots that were a disaster in 2015. Parra disappointed after being acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline while Pearce and Reimold should only be viewed as reserves at most.

Reinforcements in the minors appear few and far between at this point as outfielder Dariel Alvarez and first baseman Christian Walker barely garnered a look in September promotions. Mike Wright and Tyler Wilson may eventually settle into bullpen roles, but neither are viable options to pencil into the 2016 starting rotation if the Orioles have visions of contending. Oft-injured pitching prospect Dylan Bundy is out of minor-league options next year, but to expect anything more than a bullpen role for him to begin 2016 would be foolish.

The harsh truth is that the aforementioned decisions all involve players who were already part of a .500 club. The goal is to be better than 81-81, right?

For example, even if the Orioles were to re-sign Davis, O’Day, and Parra, what do they do to improve their starting rotation and the other outfield spot flanking Adam Jones in center?

Improving from .500 in 2016 will also depend on at least a few incumbents bouncing back from underwhelming seasons. Starting pitchers Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez were clear disappointments while the 24-year-old Kevin Gausman didn’t take the step forward you would have liked to see. Given the track records of the previous three seasons for Tillman and Gonzalez and the potential of Gausman, it’s probably reasonable to expect at least two of those three to be better in 2016 than they were this season.

But that still leaves an open rotation spot and doesn’t even consider the enigma that is Ubaldo Jimenez, who has two years remaining on his $50 million contract. To be serious about contending in 2016, the Orioles need to find another starter to at least slot into the top half of the rotation and should probably add another arm to compete for the No. 5 spot at the very least.

Easier said than done.

More improvement from within is always possible as the Orioles hope that shortstop J.J. Hardy can be better at the plate after playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder all season. Even a return to his 2014 production would be welcomed after Hardy was a liability at the plate with a career-worst .564 on-base plus slugging percentage this year.

Can Jonathan Schoop be even better have improving his OPS from .598 as a rookie to .788 this season?

Is there yet another level for the 23-year-old Manny Machado to climb after he already became one of the best players in baseball this year? It’d be unfair to expect that, but he’s certainly a special talent.

Many questions and few answers for the Orioles as they potentially say goodbye to a number of key contributors from the last four years while exploring ways to not only fill those voids but improve from an 81-81 record in 2015. And that’s not even taking into account the concerns surrounding the working relationship of Duquette and Showalter.

No, the Orioles reaching the .500 mark in Sunday’s finale wasn’t the end goal they had in mind.

But you wonder whether they can even reach that plateau next year with such an uncertain offseason ahead.

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