Tag Archive | "Dan Duquette"

buck

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

Posted on 08 May 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles limping home with an appalling 8-26 record after a winless trip to the West Coast, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Baltimore needs to play like a 92-win club the rest of the way to finish at .500 and like a 97-win team just to get to 85 wins. Even the obligatory Dumb and Dumber reference rings hollow at this point.

2. If you’re seeking any semblance of a silver lining, there shouldn’t be any danger of the organization having delusions of a chance at the trade deadline as it did in 2015 and 2017. Hovering a few games below .500 in late July and not selling would be worse than this.

3. Firing anyone at this point isn’t saving the season and isn’t going to prompt more fans to come to the ballpark. At the same time, nothing should be off the table when an organization is in this kind of a position and there’s so much blame to pass around.

4. As has been discussed by numerous outlets for months, the Orioles communicating and executing a short-term and long-term direction would mean more than firing or trading any individual. Chris Davis remaining the biggest example of long-term stability speaks volumes.

5. Part of that direction is determining how dramatically to rebuild. Trading pending free agents is easy, but will fetch mostly-underwhelming returns. Dealing Kevin Gausman or even Dylan Bundy would be painful, but they’d fetch more talent. Are the Orioles going to contend again before either hits free agency?

6. The organization should be open to trading Manny Machado at any moment, but I’m not convinced the best offers automatically come now rather than a little later. Teams’ needs and their level of urgency aren’t in a vacuum — even if it would be smart to maximize the rental.

7. Jonathan Schoop returning from the disabled list is a welcome sight. The Orioles would be wise to put on the full press to try to extend him over the next two months. If unsuccessful, trading him at the deadline should be a major priority. They shouldn’t repeat the Machado saga.

8. How to proceed with Adam Jones is complicated on various levels, especially since he has a full no-trade clause. However, he’s not going to have any trade value if he continues to sport a .674 on-base plus slugging percentage. He has two walks in 144 plate appearances.

9. The numbers back up how awful the Orioles defense has been as they entered Tuesday ranked dead last in the majors at minus-28 defensive runs saved. Trey Mancini is at a club-worst minus-10 defensive runs saved while Jones sits at minus-seven.

10. Alex Cobb looking much more like Alex Cobb over his last two starts has been encouraging. As was feared a few weeks ago, however, it already appears too late to make a meaningful difference in 2018.

11. No matter who runs the organization in 2019, persuading the Angelos family to reconsider its long-held position on sitting out the international market is a must if the Orioles ever want to build a strong farm system.

12. Nick Markakis owns a .977 OPS and has struck out 13 times compared to 20 walks in the final season of his deal with Atlanta. The 34-year-old hasn’t been great the entire time, but the Orioles could have used his dependability and .362 on-base percentage over these last few years.

Comments Off on Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of nine-game homestand

machado

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Orioles thoughts ahead of West Coast road trip

Posted on 30 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles coming off just their second series win of the season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Dan Duquette said Friday it was a little early” to be talking selling, which is fine considering potential contenders are still evaluating their own rosters. But what’s the Angelos family’s plan? Will Duquette — with his expiring contract — orchestrate trades? Brady Anderson? A new hire? The clock is ticking loudly now.

2. Manny Machado entered Monday leading the majors with a .361 average and his home run, walk, and strikeout rates are career highs thus far. An MVP-caliber start helps his trade value, but failing to re-sign him or secure the optimal return value has been organizational malpractice.

3. Many expected the final two or three years of the Chris Davis deal to be ugly, but Buck Showalter’s comments on Sunday spoke volumes about this nightmare. For context, he’ll remain under contract as long as the just-drafted Lamar Jackson — assuming the Ravens exercise his fifth-year option.

4. Pedro Alvarez being pushed into last-second duty Sunday and hitting two homers was impressive on Sunday. He leads the club in both homer rate (8.6 percent of plate appearances) and walk rate (15.7 percent). Give him credit after playing most of last season at Triple-A Norfolk.

5. Mark Trumbo’s activation in Anaheim will give the Orioles a fifth player on the roster — Davis, Alvarez, Trey Mancini, and Danny Valencia the others — whose best role would be as the designated hitter or first baseman. Trumbo playing right field certainly isn’t going to help a below-average defense.

6. The suggestion of Richard Bleier closing out Sunday’s win would have been crazy even at the beginning of the season, but the fact that some were clamoring for him reflects how terrific he’s been. He’s second on the club behind Machado in wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference.

7. Orioles catchers have struck out in 36.7 percent of their plate appearances so far this season. I support Chance Sisco playing over Caleb Joseph at this point, but he’s striking out two out of every five times at the plate. That must improve sooner than later.

8. Zach Britton is moving closer to potentially returning in early June, a remarkable recovery from his torn Achilles tendon. Perhaps that’ll be enough time for the former All-Star closer to build enough trade value, but a two-year deal this winter could have made a lot of sense for both sides.

9. This was the first home series win since last August. The Orioles have gone 15-42 since then and are 61-97 since their 22-10 start last season. To recover enough to win 85 games, they’d have to play like a 93-win team the rest of the way. Cue Lloyd Christmas.

10. The Orioles and Kansas City are both in the basement of their respective divisions less than four years after meeting in the American League Championship Series. That feels like a really long time ago, but at least the Royals can take solace in having won a World Series.

11. I’m not sure how many were preparing to stay up late to watch a last-place team on the West Coast this week, but I was disappointed to see Shohei Ohtani’s scheduled Tuesday start pushed back to the weekend after last week’s ankle sprain. His story is incredible.

12. Sunday was the 30th anniversary of the Orioles snapping their historic 0-21 start to begin the 1988 season. I recommend this look back as well as this MLB Network package chronicling that incomprehensible record. The 2018 Orioles are five games better than that club through 28 games.

Comments (1)

Screen Shot 2018-04-02 at 11.03.00 PM

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-1 loss to Houston

Posted on 02 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles losing their third straight game in a 6-1 final at Houston, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The starting pitching has allowed 14 earned runs in 13 innings since Dylan Bundy’s season-opening gem, but Baltimore could have pitched quite well over the last three games and still lost them all with the lineup remaining scoreless in 27 innings against opposing starters in 2018. Absurd.

2. Chris Tillman must start showing meaningful signs that he’s moving closer to being more like the pitcher he was prior to last season. He followed a poor statistical spring with a season debut that looked  like his 2017 body of work. A $3 million leash shouldn’t be very long.

3. His average fastball velocity was 89.7 miles per hour after averaging 90.7 last season. In the process of throwing 84 pitches, Tillman recorded two swinging strikes and not a single strikeout. Again, not good.

4. Pitchers can succeed with underwhelming stuff if they’re able to hit their spots on the edges of the strike zone. Tillman just wasn’t hitting Caleb Joseph’s target nearly enough to expect any prolonged periods of success.

5. Charlie Morton’s transformation over the last couple years has been nothing short of remarkable. The 34-year-old’s fastball velocity has spiked substantially from his Pittsburgh days to go along with a nasty curve that was on full display for the Astros last October.

6. Trey Mancini’s home run prevented the Orioles from being blanked for the second straight game. At least they’re swinging it fairly well in the ninth inning when there’s been next to no hope for a comeback?

7. Derek Fisher’s triple to center in the fourth was a good example supporting those opinions of Adam Jones needing to move to a corner spot sooner than later. He had to run a long way, but that’s one Jones runs down a few years ago.

8. Jonathan Schoop collected his second hit of the season to raise his average to .118. In case you needed a reminder of how meaningless spring numbers can be, Schoop posted a 1.081 on-base plus slugging percentage in the Grapefruit League. Of course, he’s not alone.

9. You can nitpick the location choice on an 0-2 count, but Jose Altuve flicking a 98 mph fastball from Miguel Castro that was seven inches off the outside corner for a run-scoring double was impressive. The Astros second baseman and 2017 AL MVP is fun to watch.

10. We’re clearly looking at very small sample sizes, but only one Orioles regular is currently above the Mendoza line. Six are hitting .118 or worse. Goodness.

11. Dan Duquette may need to start working the phones to trade international signing bonus slots for some runs if this continues much longer.

12. On a brighter and much more significant note, Orioles Hall of Famer and former Astros first base coach Rich Dauer throwing out the first pitch was quite a moment. His presence at Minute Maid Park after what he went through these last several months borders on the miraculous.

Comments Off on Twelve Orioles thoughts following 6-1 loss to Houston

adamjones

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Orioles thoughts on start of spring training

Posted on 20 February 2018 by Luke Jones

With Orioles spring training underway and Grapefruit League action beginning later this week, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. After signing Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman, the Orioles will have an estimated 2018 payroll of just south of $130 million after an Opening Day payroll of $164 million last season, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Explain again why they’re not serious players for Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb?

2. We scoff whenever a free agent says it’s not about the money, but I believe free-agent-to-be Adam Jones when he said the chance to win will be more important than compensation. The 32-year-old obviously won’t play for nothing, but a ring is very important to him.

3. That said, how the Padres perform in 2018 would be an interesting variable to throw into the Jones mix after they signed Eric Hosmer. They have one of baseball’s top farm systems, so perhaps the San Diego native would be intrigued about going home if the Padres show they’re ascending.

4. Not that Tim Beckham has had any leverage in the matter, but I’m impressed with the way he’s handled himself in the wake of Manny Machado moving to shortstop. Showing he can be a solid third baseman would only enhance his value moving forward.

5. Dylan Bundy astutely noted at FanFest that he got away from his curveball and changeup too much down the stretch as he posted a 7.53 ERA in his three September starts. His 2017 workload was a major topic of discussion, so you pray that he has a healthy spring.

6. Chris Davis knows he needs to be more aggressive. His contact and chase rates have held fairly steady since 2014, but he swung at a career-low 60.0 percent of pitches in the zone last year, down from 64.1 percent in 2016 and 72.2 percent in 2015. That’s a disturbing trend.

7. One of Baltimore’s more cerebral players, Mark Trumbo said he was probably too caught up in swing analytics last year. He denied any negative impact from serving as the designated hitter so frequently, but that role sure provides a lot of time to overthink struggles at the plate.

8. A healthy Darren O’Day would go a long way in the bullpen’s effort to endure the extended absence of Zach Britton. Little went right for the Orioles last September, but the 35-year-old quietly posted a 0.96 ERA with 24 strikeouts over his last 18 2/3 innings of the season.

9. If the best Dan Duquette can do in adding a lefty-hitting outfielder is 32-year-old journeyman Alex Presley, the Orioles need to give Austin Hays every opportunity to show he can be an everyday player and this year’s version of Trey Mancini despite lacking the same minor-league seasoning.

10. There’s much evidence supporting concerns about Cashner, but citing his 42-64 career record pitching mostly for bad teams tells us very little about his performance. Pitcher win-loss records are baseball tradition, but they should induce an eye-roll if used in attempts at meaningful analysis.

11. I’m skeptical just how much baseball’s new initiatives to improve pace of play will move the meter, but limiting the number of mound visits is long overdue. You’d think some pitchers and catchers had never met before with how frequently they congregate.

12. Many of the spring training caps introduced around baseball in recent years have been cringe-worthy, but I do like this year’s Orioles version. It was a smart call taking the logo from the deer hunter caps used for “Players Weekend” last summer.

Comments Off on Twelve Orioles thoughts on start of spring training

tillman

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Tillman a fine flier, but Orioles shouldn’t view him as safe bet

Posted on 19 February 2018 by Luke Jones

A reunion with Chris Tillman made sense for the Orioles.

Entering the winter with three vacant spots in the rotation and rarely ever spending extravagantly on pitching, the organization re-signing the 29-year-old as a bounce-back candidate always felt like a likely outcome. Frankly, there are worse ways to spend $3 million, a drop in the bucket compared to the cash wasted on the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, and Wade Miley in recent years.

Given the familiarity and his track record over the five seasons prior to 2017, Tillman is a fine flier with the potential to reap good value if his shoulder issues are behind him and he rediscovers his old arm slot, a problem examined in great detail by Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs last June. However, he shouldn’t just be penciled in as the No. 4 starter if the Orioles are truly serious about trying to make noise in 2018.

Not after Tillman had one of the worst seasons by a starting pitcher in major league history, a significant reason why Baltimore suffered its first losing season and last-place finish since 2011.

That’s why it’s encouraging that executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said the club was still in search of starting pitching after coming to terms with Tillman on Monday. Whether that means only scouring the waiver wire for a fringe minor-league arm or two or still being in play for a legitimate free-agent starter like Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb remains to be seen.

Based on last year’s payroll, the Orioles should still have upwards of $30 million to spend on the 2018 club, but that’s assuming Duquette is working under a similar budget. Baltimore reportedly deferring $3 million of Andrew Cashner’s two-year, $16 million deal is a red flag suggesting that may not be the case.

Finding another starter for one of the top three spots in the rotation would not only improve the context of the Cashner and Tillman signings by moving them to the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, but it would give the Orioles a group more in line with where it stood a few years ago and that’s not factoring in the upside offered by both Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Of course, that still isn’t going to prompt anyone to pick Baltimore ahead of New York and Boston in the heavyweight American League East, but adding Lynn or Cobb would make wild-card discussions more realistic if some other variables were to break the Orioles’ way like in 2012, 2014, or 2016.

No matter what he did prior to 2017, Tillman really shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than a candidate for the fifth starter job competing with Miguel Castro, Nestor Cortes, and others. Both he and the Orioles will try to call last season an aberration, but it still happened as Tillman became the eighth pitcher since 1929 to produce an ERA of 7.50 or higher with at least 90 innings of work, according to Baseball Reference.

Throwing fewer fastballs than ever with diminished velocity, he allowed an obscene 2.3 home runs and 4.9 free passes per nine frames, his highest walk rate since 2010. No peripherals can soften these brutal numbers as he was worth minus-2.2 wins above replacement in 2017, meaning the Orioles could have expected better performance from a pitcher at Triple-A Norfolk.

To his credit, Tillman never used the shoulder problems that began late in 2016 as an excuse and repeatedly insisted he was healthy over the course of his nightmare season. But if all parties are being honest a year later, that hopefully wasn’t the case and perhaps he’s finally right physically.

The Orioles know him better than anyone else, making their reunion a good fit as he tries to get his career back on track and the club tries to improve its chances for 2018. He was never a bona fide ace at his best, but the right-hander was still the backbone of the rotation for the better part of five seasons.

It’s a fine bet at such a low cost to see if Tillman can rediscover his old form.

But the Orioles shouldn’t yet view their efforts to fill the starting rotation as being complete.

Comments Off on Tillman a fine flier, but Orioles shouldn’t view him as safe bet

cashner

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orioles officially sign veteran starter Cashner to two-year deal

Posted on 15 February 2018 by Luke Jones

(Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles)

It may have taken until the first week of spring training, but the Orioles have finally added a veteran to their shallow starting rotation.

Right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner officially signed a two-year, $16 million contract on Thursday. The deal includes performance incentives as well as a vesting option for the 2020 season if he reaches a total of 340 innings over the first two years.

The 31-year-old went 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA in 28 starts covering 166 2/3 innings after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with Texas last offseason. He was able to rebound from the worst season of his career — a 5.25 ERA split between San Diego and Miami in 2016 — with a career-best 4.6 wins above replacement for the Rangers.

In eight major league seasons, Cashner is 42-64 with a 3.80 ERA in 893 innings. He’s averaged 7.0 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings with a very solid 49-percent ground-ball rate over the course of his career. He throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, changeup, curve, and a slider-cutter.

Having arrived in Sarasota with the only definite members of the 2018 rotation being Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Baltimore is adding an established starter to the mix who should be a clear upgrade over the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and last year’s version of Chris Tillman. However, Cashner repeating his 2017 ERA could prove to be a tall order when considering his worrisome peripheral numbers that will remind some of the Yovani Gallardo signing two years ago that proved to be a major disappointment.

Though possessing a fastball that still sat at 94 miles per hour last year, Cashner saw his strikeout rate plummet to a career-worst 4.6 per nine innings as the opposition made more contact than ever against him. That coupled with a career-low .267 opposing batting average on balls in play would suggest the right-hander was very fortunate to post the third-best ERA of his career. His Fielding Independent Pitching mark (FIP) was 4.61 in 2017 while the Steamer system found on FanGraphs projects a 5.40 ERA for Cashner in 2018.

Durability has also been an issue in the past as he’s pitched 160 innings just three times in his career. He had stints on the disabled list last season with right biceps tendinitis and an oblique strain.

Ultimately, the Orioles are adding a legitimate major leaguer to a rotation that had nothing established behind Bundy and Gausman. The cost is reasonable and he brings 2017’s 15th-best ground-ball rate among qualified pitchers to Camden Yards, but this move should really be judged based on what else executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette does between now and the start of the season.

If the Orioles are serious about competing, they’ll add at least one more veteran such as Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn to slot ahead of Cashner as he should be no more than a No. 4 starter on a contending club and ideally would be the No. 5 guy. But if he remains their biggest acquisition and the Orioles fill out the rest of the rotation with internal options or only throw in a Tillman re-signing, Cashner could prove to be little more than a marginal upgrade from Wade Miley in the No. 3 spot for a rotation that finished last in the majors in ERA last year.

Either way, the Orioles will cross their fingers that Cashner won’t be the second coming of Gallardo and is able to outperform his peripherals for a second straight year. Such an outcome would better help them compete or at least provide the club another decent piece to sell off at this summer’s trade deadline.

Comments (1)

duquette

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orioles’ lack of direction taking optimism out of spring

Posted on 14 February 2018 by Luke Jones

Orioles pitchers and catchers have reported to Sarasota and participated in their first workout on Wednesday.

This is supposed to be a warm and fuzzy time for those longing for baseball and warmer weather while reminding themselves that hope springs eternal, right?

You’ve read the primers with the top five or 10 biggest questions going into spring training, but what’s currently happening on the back fields of the Ed Smith Stadium complex feels rather inconsequential. Musings about another left-handed bat, the utility infielder competition, or even the vacancies in the starting rotation simply don’t measure up to the colossal question emanating from this organization.

What the heck is going on?

The Orioles finished in last place in 2017 and posted the worst starter ERA in the major leagues and worst in club history, but the most notable rotation candidate added this offseason has been Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes. The loudest and most consistent buzz about a veteran signing continues revolving around Chris Tillman, who last year posted the worst ERA (7.84) by any major leaguer throwing more than 90 innings since Scott Erickson (7.87) in 2000. His track record prior to 2017 makes him an acceptable flier to compete for the final rotation pot, but he’d currently be penciled in as the No. 3 or No. 4 starter.

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the projected 2018 payroll is currently around $40 million lower than last year’s, but reports and speculation continue to suggest reluctance to commit to long or even medium-term contracts, making one wonder if the decrease is deliberate. Players who’ve meant so much to their recent success like Adam Jones have indicated that the club isn’t even engaging in extension talks. And Baltimore still hasn’t traded Manny Machado as the 25-year-old superstar is now nine months away from walking away as a free agent.

Why, why, and why?

The Orioles certainly don’t appear to be “going for it” with Machado, Jones, Zach Britton, and Brad Brach all scheduled to become free agents at the end of the season and haven’t yet signaled a rebuilding process by dealing any of the aforementioned names. Blame executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette if you want, but both he and manager Buck Showalter are also in the last year of their contracts, only adding to the perceived lack of direction exhibited by ownership.

Do Peter Angelos and family have a plan for 2019 and beyond?

Of course, excuses are there if you want to entertain them. Duquette has regularly conducted business late in the offseason and well into spring training and an abnormally-stagnant market has left dozens of free agents still looking for jobs, but you’d assume that increased supply will be accompanied by more demand from other clubs whenever the thaw occurs.

Perhaps the Orioles will silence critics by still signing an Alex Cobb or a Lance Lynn, but we know they historically don’t win bidding wars and rarely even engage in them. Would such an addition make enough of a difference anyway or only increase the likelihood of the organization keeping Machado and others through the trade deadline with ill-advised thoughts of chasing the second wild-card berth as we saw in 2015 and last year? Those pondering the future should feel conflicted about that possibility since the current club is hardly devoid of talent despite its clear deficiencies.

You could try to argue that the rotation can’t be any worse than it was a year ago and the removal of Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley, and Tillman — at least the 2017 version — is addition by subtraction, no matter who ends up making those starts. Of course, that “glass half full” outlook still doesn’t translate to consistently competing with a group currently comprised of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, and three shoulder shrugs. The bullpen also isn’t as strong on paper with Britton sidelined indefinitely and former All-Star reliever Darren O’Day another year older and having dealt with different ailments over the last two seasons.

Even with baseball’s bizarre market, the organization isn’t proceeding all that differently from recent offseasons, but the reality is that it’s entering the ninth inning of the current era with the same old flaws more magnified than ever. It’s no longer 2012 or 2014 when most of the club’s top commodities remained comfortably under contractual control, meaning there should have been much more urgency.

The organization deserves credit for accumulating the most wins in the American League from 2012-16 and ownership has steadily increased the payroll over the last six years, but frustrating peculiarities have remained such as the philosophical refusal to participate in the international market. The farm system is quietly improving, but the shortage of impactful starting pitching has hindered the major league club for years and crushed it in 2017.

No one will forget the surprising 2012 team, the 2014 AL East champions and Delmon Young’s double, or the wild-card appearance two years ago, but the Orioles are now an unimpressive 113-124 since the 2016 All-Star break and only four games above .500 over the last three seasons. After years of proving naysayers wrong and outperforming projection models, that old mojo feels like it’s on life support at best with the futures of so many key individuals in doubt.

The 2018 club will grind it out to the best of its ability, using the doubts and criticism as fuel for competitive fire. The group will once again be led by Showalter in the dugout and Jones on the field, the two most important individuals in this decade of Orioles baseball. Both will say and do the right things, but they deserve better in what could be their final year in Baltimore.

A last-place team from a year ago begins spring training after treading water all winter, neither making one last big run with the current core nor taking meaningful steps to start building for future success.

The current Orioles, the future Orioles, and those fans typically excited for spring deserve better.

At least some semblance of a direction would be nice.

Comments Off on Orioles’ lack of direction taking optimism out of spring

gonzalez

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Orioles continue leaving their fans twisting in wind

Posted on 11 January 2018 by Luke Jones

The Orioles should probably be thanking the Ravens.

The latter’s embarrassing loss to Cincinnati to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years has kept most fan disenchantment in Baltimore squarely on Steve Bisciotti’s franchise over the last two weeks. Perhaps the Orioles should even take a page out of Buffalo’s book and ship 20 cases of crab cakes to the Bengals to show their gratitude.

Anything to keep the spotlight away from an organization showing no evidence of a plan or a direction despite spring training only being a month away. We’re also two weeks from FanFest, that event designed to spark enthusiasm for the upcoming season and — more importantly — drive ticket sales.

Good luck with that.

Yes, it’s very fair to note the frigid temperature of the “hot stove” this offseason, which hasn’t helped an Orioles club that’s never moved swiftly in the Dan Duquette era and has rarely shown the necessary urgency during most of Peter Angelos’ reign as owner. At the same time, the Orioles are also coming off their first losing season and last-place finish since 2011 and still have three-fifths of their starting rotation to fill. Unlike some recent winters, they don’t have the luxury of pointing to the previous year being competitive as an excuse for not needing to move all that quickly or to do all that much to try to be in contention.

Suggesting bullpen arms or Rule 5 picks could be real candidates to start isn’t a solution; it insults your fans’ intelligence if you’re claiming to want to be competitive.

What is the direction?

Where is the urgency?

Are the Orioles making a final run with the current group, rebuilding, or just doing nothing?

Amidst recent reports of the club being interested in veteran starting pitcher Andrew Cashner — a sign you’d interpret as at least trying to be somewhat competitive, right? — former Oriole Miguel Gonzalez agreed to a one-year, $4.75 million deal to rejoin the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. It’s the latest development making fans shake their heads and ask questions.

To be very clear, neither Gonzalez nor Cashner is anything more than a mediocre piece to help fill out the back of a starting rotation, and these guys aren’t moving the meter in any meaningful way. However, a cheap one-year deal for Gonzalez sounds like a better investment for a team trying to make at least a halfhearted attempt to be competitive for one more season than potentially giving Cashner more money and additional years as some project he’ll command. Despite Cashner’s shiny 3.40 ERA in 2017, his peripheral numbers — a career-low 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a .267 opposing batting average on balls in play — suggest some real regression is ahead. He could be Yovani Gallardo all over again.

If Dan Duquette’s claims earlier in the offseason about the club still wanting to be competitive in 2018 are true, what exactly is the organization waiting for?

If the Orioles aren’t trying to win in 2018, that’s fine. Short of a massive bump in payroll to go sign a couple of high-impact starting pitchers, I’ve already stated my belief that they’re drawing dead in a loaded American League East anyway. Even with a major increase in spending, it’s extremely difficult seeing a realistic path to a division title for this club.

If the plan is to rebuild, then get to it. And, oh yeah, it might be to the organization’s benefit to communicate some semblance of that vision to the many fans doubting there is one. Just use “youth movement” in place of “rebuild” and start pulling the trigger on some deals to inject some talent for the future. That’s better than continuing to do nothing and talking in circles at FanFest two weeks from now. That strategy isn’t selling tickets and creates even more frustration for a fan base already disappointed about the prospects of Manny Machado departing at some point in the next 10 months.

Perhaps the Orioles haven’t truly found a reasonable package in exchange for one year of Machado — notice I said reasonable and not miraculous — but that shouldn’t stop them from pursuing trades for other expiring commodities in the meantime such as Brad Brach. If they’ve thrown in the towel on 2018, keeping Brach to be the closer simply because Zach Britton is hurt is nothing short of foolish.

It’s all one big shoulder shrug.

The 33-year-old Gonzalez signing on the cheap elsewhere is hardly a real issue, but it’s the latest bullet point that makes you ask what the heck the Orioles are trying to do this offseason.

I’m not sure even they know.

Comments Off on Orioles continue leaving their fans twisting in wind

machado

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twelve Orioles thoughts counting down to spring training

Posted on 08 January 2018 by Luke Jones

With Orioles pitchers and catchers reporting to Sarasota for spring training in a little over a month, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. It bears repeating how problematic it is having a general manager whose contract expires in less than a year navigating one of the more pivotal offseasons in club history. The lack of evidence of any direction or long-term thinking from ownership is maddening.

2. That hasn’t been helped by the overall inactivity of the market as MLB Network reported only 31 of 166 free agents had signed deals entering Monday. That sounds fishy, regardless of whether you believe it’s collusion or the effect of the luxury tax and next year’s free-agent class being better.

3. No one’s suggesting the Orioles should just give Manny Machado away, but this is what happens when you punt on the future for so long. This current process should have started from the moment they knew a long-term deal very likely wasn’t in the stars.

4. Speaking of long-term deals, signing Jonathan Schoop to one should be a top priority right now, but you wonder if watching the organization’s handling of his close friend leaves him more inclined to wait for free agency after 2019.

5. Kevin Gausman changing his jersey number to honor the late Roy Halladay is a touching gesture, and the Orioles hope the 27-year-old builds off his 3.41 ERA in the second half of 2017. Home runs remained an issue, but his strikeout and walk rates improved markedly after the All-Star break.

6. Part of that improvement should be credited to Caleb Joseph as pitchers posted a 4.23 ERA throwing to him compared to a 5.60 mark with the departed Welington Castillo. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the staff has usually fared better when Joseph has caught over the last several years.

7. Chris Davis was worth minus-0.2 wins above replacement in 2017, according to Baseball Reference. He’ll only be 32 and can still turn things around, but the seven-year, $161 million deal he signed two years ago is looking more disastrous than many feared it could be at the time.

8. Looking at 2017 batting average on balls in play and remembering the league average is just below .300, Machado is a no-brainer pick to rebound after a career-worst .265 mark. On the flip side, Trey Mancini’s .352 clip makes him a candidate for some regression in his second full season.

9. The club has high hopes for Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro, but the former’s 3.7 strikeouts per nine innings and .263 opposing BABIP are worrisome for projecting future success. Castro’s 5.2 per nine strikeout rate and .231 BABIP should also temper expectations about a possible move to the rotation.

10. Hunter Harvey is a bright spot for an organization still lacking pitching prospects, but you hope the Orioles aren’t so desperate for starting pitching that they potentially compromise the 23-year-old’s health and development. Unlike Dylan Bundy two years ago, Harvey has minor-league options remaining.

11. You’ll hear plenty about Nestor Cortes and other Rule 5 picks over the next few months, but this annual exercise that’s put numerous strains on the roster has netted a total of 1.7 WAR during the Dan Duquette era, according to Baseball Reference. Way too much effort for minimal value.

12. Maybe they’ll prove us wrong in the coming weeks, but the Orioles’ approach to this offseason with a slew of expiring contracts after 2018 feels like a basketball team running a Four Corners offense while trailing by 10 points. Where’s the urgency?

Comments Off on Twelve Orioles thoughts counting down to spring training

duquette

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Orioles select three pitchers in this year’s Rule 5 draft

Posted on 14 December 2017 by Luke Jones

While the baseball world waits to learn the fate of All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, the Orioles’ version of Christmas came Thursday with the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings.

Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette selected three pitchers: left-hander Nestor Cortes and right-hander Jose Mesa from the New York Yankees organization and right-hander Pedro Araujo from the Chicago Cubs organization. All three have been placed on the 40-man roster and must remain on the 25-man club throughout the 2018 season to remain with the organization.

Cortes, 23, went 7-4 with a 2.06 ERA in 104 2/3 innings this past season with most of that time split between Double-A Trenton (52 innings) and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (48 1/3 innings). He averaged 9.0 strikeouts and 2.8 walks despite not possessing overwhelming stuff.

Duquette told reporters in Florida that Cortes could compete for a spot in the major league rotation that currently sports only Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

Mesa, 24, is the son of former Orioles pitcher and All-Star closer Jose Mesa and split the 2017 seaosn between Trenton and Single-A Tampa. The right-hander posted a combined 1.93 ERA and struck out 101 batters while walking 32 in 84 innings.

The 24-year-old Araujo finished the 2017 campaign with a 1.76 ERA in 66 2/3 innings split between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee. He averaged 11.7 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings.

The Orioles must also begin the 2018 season with former Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander on the 25-man roster after the outfielder missed most of last season with an elbow injury. They are now set to take four Rule 5 picks to spring training in Sarasota.

Baltimore did not lose any prospects in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft as only 15 other players were selected by the other 29 clubs.

Since Duquette took over in the fall of 2011, the Orioles have made at least one Rule 5 selection every year, but those picks have combined for only 1.7 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. The organization has often expressed its affinity for this outlet, but the minimal value that’s come to fruition has been accompanied by roster crunches that have frequently hamstrung contending clubs over multiple seasons.

Comments Off on Orioles select three pitchers in this year’s Rule 5 draft