Tag Archive | "manny machado"

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 4-2 loss at Detroit

Posted on 17 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles sustaining their fourth straight loss in a 4-2 final against the Detroit Tigers, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Remember the optimism after the Orioles shook off a 1-5 start to win three out of four at Yankee Stadium? They’ve scored a total of 16 runs while going 1-6 since then. This offense has been downright painful to watch.

2. I don’t dwell on strikeouts nearly as much as some, but the Orioles have recorded more hits than strikeouts in a game just once all season. That’s astonishing. They had twice as many strikeouts (12) as hits (six) on Tuesday.

3. Andrew Cashner has provided everything the Orioles could have reasonably hoped for so far. Even after his rough debut, the right-hander has a 3.00 ERA with three quality starts on the young season. It’s a shame he can’t hit.

4. Much was understandably made about Cashner’s career-worst 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings last season, but he’s now struck out 21 batters in 24 frames. His 7.9 strikeouts per nine rate falls in line with where he was in 2015 and 2016. Missing bats hasn’t been a problem for him.

5. I don’t know what to say about Chris Davis. We’ve seen him go through poor stretches over the years, but the strikeouts are piling up — he has 10 on the road trip — and he’s rarely even making hard contact to point to the shift as an obstacle. He’s slugging .196.

6. Manny Machado is a special talent, but getting thrown out trying to advance to third with two outs in the fifth inning is inexcusable, especially with this offense. He’s been in the majors too long to continue to make these types of baserunning blunders as frequently as he does.

7. Since his electric debut month upon being acquired from Tampa Bay at last year’s trade deadline, Tim Beckham is batting .174 over his last 169 plate appearances dating back to last Sept. 1. His offense is a much bigger concern right now than his transition to third base.

8. Trey Mancini hit his second home run of the season and continues to do a commendable job in the leadoff spot with a .377 on-base percentage. Now, is there a way to clone him?

9. Adam Jones drove in a run and collected two hits to raise his season average to .236. His early-season struggles pale in comparison to several others, but the Orioles desperately need their leader to get going if they’re going to climb out of this hole.

10. Considering his defense is the only thing keeping him on the field over Chance Sisco so far this season, Caleb Joseph simply must block the Mychal Givens wild pitch that led to the Tigers’ final run.

11. After being promoted to the majors for his defense earlier in the day, Luis Sardinas committing a throwing error on his first opportunity was right in line with how this season has gone so far.

12. The Orioles have gone 58-89 since getting off to a 22-10 start last season. Buck Showalter’s club has gone 12-32 since the start of last September. Yes, numerous players have come and gone, but Baltimore hasn’t played an extended stretch of good baseball in a very long time now.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-1 loss to Boston

Posted on 15 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles suffering their third straight defeat in a 3-1 final against the Boston Red Sox, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles led 1-0 three batters into the game and didn’t score again as the bottom six lineup spots were 0-for-20 with one walk and 12 strikeouts. No one expects 10 runs per game with the tough schedule and cold weather they’ve endured in April, but this is ridiculous.

2. Sixteen games into the season, three regulars against right-handed starters — Manny Machado, Trey Mancini, and Pedro Alvarez — have swung the bat well. Two part-timers — Chance Sisco and Craig Gentry — have been OK. The overall performance of everyone else has ranged from poor to below-replacement level.

3. In the four games in which Dylan Bundy has started, he’s posted a 1.40 ERA while the Orioles have scored a total of seven runs. To channel Gisele Bundchen, he can’t pitch the ball and hit the ball. If only he were Shohei Ohtani.

4. Bundy recorded five of his six strikeouts on his slider and has now gotten a swing and miss on 35.3 percent of his sliders this season. That’s up from 24.4 percent last year. Impressive.

5. It’s tough to pitch when you have to get five outs in the sixth inning of a tie game. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to cut payroll by 10 percent without bothering to acquire a real utility infielder. Danny Valencia’s career minus-36 defensive runs saved aren’t a secret.

6. Until this season, the infield had done a good job masking the Orioles’ overall defensive decline since 2014 when they led the American League in defensive runs saved. Baltimore entered Sunday 12th in the AL in DRS and has finished 11th or 12th every season since its division title campaign.

7. I’ve been a Caleb Joseph guy, but he really needs to start hitting. His defense is his strength, but a .286 on-base plus slugging percentage is unacceptable with Sisco behind him. He needs to produce in the neighborhood of what he offered last year (.700 OPS) or 2015 (.693).

8. Richard Bleier pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings isn’t shocking, but registering two strikeouts is rare after having only three in his first 9 2/3 innings of 2018 and striking out only 3.7 per nine frames last season. The lefty sinkerballer is a fascinating contrast to the strikeout-heavy relievers of today.

9. Even before Monday’s postponement, the Orioles were listing Chris Tillman’s turn in the rotation as TBD for the Detroit series. I expect him to receive a few more opportunities, but that’s still pretty telling. Then again, an 8.28 ERA since the start of last year says it all.

10. Jonathan Schoop expressed hope Sunday that he’d only be on the disabled list for the minimum 10 days before returning. I admire his desire, but oblique injuries can linger all season if not handled carefully. I expect the training staff to protect the All-Star second baseman from himself if necessary.

11. Alex Cobb had an awful debut, but overreaction has been silly. There’s much over which to be concerned, but declaring someone who signed less than four weeks ago a bust is a bit much. That said, Baltimore is already running out of time for Cobb to get up to speed.

12. We’re only 10 percent of the way through the schedule, but Sunday was only the third of 11 losses in which the margin of defeat was three runs or fewer, reflecting the struggle to even be all that competitive. It’s going to start getting late very early if this continues.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following Toronto series

Posted on 12 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles enjoying a day off after a series loss against Toronto, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Orioles lineup scoring five runs in Wednesday’s win hardly qualifies as an offensive explosion, but that came after plating only seven runs in the first five games at Camden Yards and opponents twice taking no-hitters into the eighth inning. The bats have been colder than the weather.

2. Thirteen games isn’t a big sample, so how much can the offensive struggles be attributed to tough luck? The Orioles rank 23rd in batting average on balls in play (.280), but they lead the majors in strikeouts, are 25th in hard-contact percentage, and rank 27th in line-drive percentage. Discouraging signs.

3. Chris Davis collecting two hits on Wednesday was encouraging, but the thought of him trying to bunt on a 1-2 pitch in the eighth inning of a one-run game like he did Monday night would have been lunacy a few years ago. He looks so lost at the plate.

4. Coming off a career season, Jonathan Schoop figured to break out eventually, but his start had been brutal aside from a 7-for-13 series against Houston. Before his two-hit performance on Wednesday, Schoop had gone 3-for-40 with no extra-base hits against non-Astros opponents.

5. It’s a shame Dylan Bundy has received such poor run support early. From his sparkling 1.35 ERA and 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings to a .283 opposing BABIP that’s actually higher than last year’s, everything about the start of his season beyond the empty win column has been Cy Young-like.

6. Kevin Gausman turned in a solid performance against Toronto, but his average fastball velocity this season is 92.3 miles per hour, virtually identical to Bundy’s (92.2). For someone who’s consistently averaged 95 mph and frequently reached the high 90s, that’s a potential red flag.

7. The bullpen pitched to an impressive 2.42 ERA over 26 innings in the New York series, but the group sports a 6.21 ERA against everyone else. Wednesday marked the first game in which the bullpen didn’t allow a run, but no one said it would be easy without Zach Britton.

8. Mark Trumbo’s setback that Buck Showalter wouldn’t call a setback isn’t good news, but Pedro Alvarez is currently sporting a .462 on-base percentage. Alvarez isn’t known for his consistency, but the Orioles could have an eventual problem since you don’t want either slugger playing defense regularly.

9. Chance Sisco has had trouble hitting breaking balls, but his throwing has been solid and he’s shown ability to drive the ball the other way. I expect Caleb Joseph to pick it up offensively, but Sisco will push for more playing time sooner than later if he keeps this up.

10. Andrew Cashner has posted a 2.50 ERA, his strikeout rate is up, and he’s missing more bats than he has in a couple years. A few young pitchers have also gravitated to him in the clubhouse, which is a perk as long as he’s getting the job done on the mound.

11. Acknowledging the circumstances that left the bullpen in poor shape at the start of the week, I still didn’t like the Orioles disrupting the start of Hunter Harvey’s season at Double-A Bowie. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about him not making an appearance this week.

12. The offense has been poor, the defense isn’t what it used to be, the bullpen has been inconsistent, and the starting rotation remains a sustantial concern despite having more upside than recent seasons. Beyond singling out Bundy or Manny Machado, what exactly is this club’s strength?

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 8-3 loss to Yankees

Posted on 07 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles seeing their brief two-game winning streak stopped in an 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. This one didn’t look encouraging on paper considering the starting pitching matchup and how short the bullpen was after Friday night’s 14-inning win. Buck Showalter admitted after the game that he wasn’t going to use five relievers. It went how you’d expect.

2. Chris Tillman was OK through the first four innings and missed some bats with eight swinging strikes while throwing some effective breaking pitches, but he faltered in the fifth and sixth. The real problem is this is about the best you get from the right-hander going back to last year.

3. It was apparent that Tillman had lost his command to start the sixth inning after a shaky fifth, but Showalter was clearly trying to steal extra outs with his bullpen so short. Ideally, you could have turned a 3-3 game over to the bullpen to start that inning.

4. Even after falling behind 5-3, the Orioles wasted a golden opportunity in the seventh as Yankees reliever David Robertson struck out Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop with runners at second and third. Baltimore was 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Saturday.

5. Sonny Gray’s curveball was really working as he completed six innings for the win. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy and be consistent enough to realize the enticing potential he showed in Oakland a few years ago.

6. Of course, forcing Gray to throw only 11 pitches over the first two innings set him up for a successful afternoon. Knowing how stretched New York’s bullpen was from Friday night, you’d think Orioles hitters would have tried to make him work more early on.

7. After a huge two-homer night on Friday, Machado followed that with a two-run double into the left-field corner in the third. I guess he heard everyone discussing his lack of an RBI over the first week of the season.

8. The hero from Friday night, Pedro Alvarez walked and hit an RBI double in his first two at-bats, finally giving the lineup some left-handed production that’s been sorely lacking so far. His lack of versatility is clear, but Alvarez can still hit right-handed pitching.

9. We hadn’t really seen Machado shine at shortstop so far, but his backhanded grab off a Tim Beckham deflection and strong throw to get Aaron Judge in the sixth was a beautiful play.

10. Jimmy Yacabonis didn’t make a good statement to stay in the major leagues after allowing three runs in the seventh inning. He couldn’t keep his club close and didn’t provide much length after throwing 27 pitches, prompting Showalter to use Nestor Cortes in the eighth.

11. After some poor baserunning the night before, the Yankees ran into four outs on the bases on Saturday. You’d like to see the Orioles take better advantage of that.

12. Perhaps his hip — which was surgically repaired in 2016 — has hindered his performance, but Colby Rasmus struck out 13 times in 23 plate appearances before going on the disabled list. It’s fair to wonder if he makes it back on the roster after he walked away from baseball last summer.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 5-2 win over Yankees

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles snapping their five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the New York Yankees, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The five runs plated in the seventh inning exceeded the club’s total in five of its first six games and came after the Orioles had only one baserunner in the previous five frames. It was a brutal opening week, but that was a good stop-the-bleeding win to begin the series.

2. After Orioles pitching surrendered an inexplicable 102 runs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium last season, Andrew Cashner set the tone with six strong innings as an Aaron Judge solo homer was the only blemish. It was the first quality start of the season from someone not named Dylan Bundy.

3. Cashner used five pitches effectively with his slider and changeup standing out in key spots. His declining strikeout rate was a major topic when he signed, but he’s struck out 10 in 11 innings. You’ll take that outing against the Yankees lineup any day of the week.

4. Adam Jones continued his hot start to the season with the big two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka to give the Orioles the lead in the seventh. All three of his long balls in 2018 have given Baltimore a lead in the sixth inning or later.

5. Trey Mancini responded favorably to the leadoff spot with three hits, including a two-run single to right off Chad Green to extend the lead to 5-1. In a perfect world, you’d like to keep Mancini in more of a run-producing spot, but he’s the man for the job right now.

6. It was a cold night in the Bronx and Tanaka pitched well over the first six innings, but the Yankees starter still threw some hittable pitches that went unharmed until the seventh. Opposing pitchers continue to give Orioles hitters a heavy diet of off-speed and breaking stuff.

7. A bullpen that’s already carrying two Rule 5 picks and trying to survive without All-Star closer Zach Britton can hardly afford to have Mychal Givens struggling. The right-hander has now been scored upon in each of his last two outings to put further strain on the bullpen.

8. After cleaning up Givens’ mess in the seventh, Darren O’Day found trouble of his own an inning later by issuing a walk and hitting two batters before escaping unscathed. He sure seems to love pitching with the bases loaded, doesn’t he?

9. Brad Brach issued a walk before striking out Brandon Drury and Brett Gardner to collect the save. I do have reservations about Brach as a closer, but some of the reaction to his blown save on Opening Day was over the top. No current options are going to be Britton.

10. Chris Davis collected his second hit of the season in his final at-bat, but he looks lost at the plate right now. You expect him to strike out and to even be victimized by the shift, but he’s not making any hard contact, hitting a slew of weak grounders.

11. Colby Rasmus singled as part of the five-run seventh, but he’s looked as lost as Davis, striking out 11 times in 20 plate appearances. Rule 5 outfielder Anthony Santander did deliver an RBI double, but the Orioles need to start getting something from their veteran left-handed bats.

12. Before going hitless with two strikeouts, Manny Machado reiterated his desire to play shortstop beyond 2018 and took a dig at the New York media about the Aaron Judge tampering controversy. He’s not wrong, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea if he envisions wearing Yankee pinstripes.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts following 3-2 win on Opening Day

Posted on 29 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles recording their third straight Opening Day walk-off victory in a 3-2 win over Minnesota in 11 innings, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. Two days shy of the 10th anniversary of his first game with the Orioles, Adam Jones provided another memory with his game-winning homer in the 11th, his first walk-off blast since 2012. He owns a .341 average with two homers, six doubles, a triple, and eight RBIs in 11 openers.

2. Manny Machado’s future has understandably been the focus for months, but Jones remains the heart and soul of the Orioles. Drafted a few months after the center fielder was acquired from Seattle in 2008, Caleb Joseph described what he’s meant to the organization perfectly:

3. Dylan Bundy didn’t receive the win, but his Opening Day start was exactly what the Orioles envisioned when they drafted him. He was up in the zone early as Minnesota made some loud outs, but he was superb as the game progressed, tossing seven shutout innings on 88 pitches.

4. Twelve of Bundy’s 15 swinging strikes came on his slider, which had terrific downward movement. All seven of his strikeouts came on that pitch. What a weapon.

5. Bundy’s best work came in the fifth inning after Byron Buxton stole second base with one out. That’s when a starter needs to bear down in a scoreless game, and he proceeded to strike out Jason Castro and Brian Dozier to end the threat.

6. The defense didn’t help and Robbie Grossman’s game-tying single was a bloop, but Brad Brach blowing the save doesn’t inspire confidence with Zach Britton’s return at least a couple months away. Going back to last year, Brach seems to fall into protect mode rather than attacking hitters in save situations.

7. Who would have predicted Joseph hitting the first triple and picking up the first RBIs of the season? He’s done a commendable job putting his historically-nightmarish 2016 season behind him.

8. The Orioles scoring two runs while striking out four times in the seventh inning felt very Oriole-like, didn’t it?

9. An 0-for-4 performance in the leadoff spot is nothing over which to fret, but two defensive miscues — including one that started the Twins’ ninth-inning rally — and nearly getting thrown out at second base on Machado’s ninth-inning single made for a forgettable day for Chris Davis.

10. Craig Gentry starting in right field over Colby Rasmus raised a few eyebrows, but watching him rob Eddie Rosario of a home run in the second inning made Buck Showalter look like a genius. That was a tremendous catch.

11. Jake Odorizzi did an excellent job changing speeds and the eye levels of Orioles hitters with his splitter, curve, and elevated fastballs on the inner half of the plate. The Twins starter and Bundy put on a good show.

12. The Orioles have won eight straight season openers under Showalter. It’s one of 162 games, but the manager always talks about wanting to send a big crowd home happy in hopes that they’ll come back, and that’s certainly been the case with the last three openers ending in walk-off wins.

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Twelve Orioles thoughts entering 2018 season

Posted on 26 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With the Orioles about to begin the 2018 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The Alex Cobb signing not only added much-needed teeth to a rotation that finished last in the majors in starter ERA in 2017, but it brings real hope for another fun season if several variables break the right way. That optimism simply wasn’t there a week ago.

2. Cobb’s addition was also a meaningful sign of commitment beyond 2018, something that had been lacking all winter. That’s important when the contracts of your general manager, manager, and several key players are all expiring after this season. I’m intrigued to see what happens next.

3. Cobb and Andrew Cashner hardly make the Baltimore rotation one to fear around baseball, but adding two ground-ball pitchers with a history of keeping the ball in the park certainly makes sense playing at homer-friendly Camden Yards.

4. Anger over how the Orioles have mishandled the Manny Machado situation is completely justified, but don’t let that totally ruin your enjoyment from watching him this season. He’s happy to finally be playing shortstop, and I’m curious to see how that impacts his performance on a daily basis.

5. Dylan Bundy fetching positive results in his final spring outing eased some concerns, but his Grapefruit League numbers were also poor last year. It’s good to see him finally making an Opening Day start after the expectations that have followed him from the moment he was drafted seven years ago.

6. I’d be more worked up about Chris Davis possibly leading off if the Orioles actually had an ideal candidate for that job, but there’s no understating how important it is for Davis to rebound from 2017 to improve the club’s outlook — this year and beyond.

7. I had no problem re-signing Chris Tillman as a fifth starter candidate, but you just can’t stick with him long if he looks like the 2017 version, especially with only a $3 million salary. An 8.03 ERA with eight walks and four strikeouts in 12 1/3 spring innings isn’t encouraging.

8. A reasonable expectation of catching duties — assuming good health — would be Caleb Joseph catching 60 percent of games and Chance Sisco handling the other 40 percent with some occasional designated hitter duties. Of course, growth behind the plate from Sisco could change that ratio.

9. This Q&A was a good look into the psyche of Kevin Gausman as this could be the “now or never” season for him to put it all together or simply remain an average — and frustratingly inconsistent — starter. He posted a 2.62 ERA in 113 1/3 innings with Joseph catching last year.

10. Danny Valencia provides a potent bat against lefty pitching, but a 33-year-old who’s registered minus-34 defensive runs saved at third base in his career and has no meaningful experience up the middle isn’t an appropriate utility infielder. This isn’t a well-constructed bench going into the season.

11. Darren O’Day struck out 10 and allowed only one run in seven spring innings. The 35-year-old providing the durability and consistency he did from 2012-15 would make this bullpen that much better trying to endure Zach Britton’s absence.

12. I don’t see how carrying the out-of-options Mike Wright and two Rule 5 pitchers, Nestor Cortes and Pedro Araujo, will be tenable. Even assuming one of the three goes when Cobb is activated, does the upside justify the lack of flexibility? The irrational Rule 5 fascination lives on.

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2018 Orioles preview: Manny Machado

Posted on 05 March 2018 by Luke Jones

With Opening Day less than a month away, we’ll take a look at a member of the 2018 Orioles every day as they try to bounce back from a disappointing last-place finish a year ago.

SS Manny Machado

Opening Day age: 25

Contract status: Under club control through the 2018 season

2017 stats: .259/.310/.471, 33 HR, 95 RBI, 81 R, 9 SB, 690 PA, 3.5 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Why to be impressed: Much was made about his down season, but Machado still posted a solid .781 OPS despite a career-low .265 batting average on balls in play and an average exit velocity that surpassed his previous two years, reflecting his tough luck. He eclipsed 66 extra-base hits for the third consecutive season, proving he had no issues driving the ball while struggling to be as consistent over 162 games.

Why to be concerned: Machado has an underwhelming .309 OBP and 6.7 percent walk rate since the 2016 All-Star break after posting career bests in those categories (.359 and 9.8) in 2015, making one wonder if the plate discipline shown that season was more aberration than the norm. He also had a brutal .587 OPS last September, which prompted the concerns about his rough first half to return.

2018 outlook: How he handles questions about his future and new position will be interesting, but the three-time All-Star infielder should rebound from 2017 and is still one of the game’s best players awaiting a massive nine-figure deal. Playing shortstop at an above-average level will only enhance his value, but Orioles fans may only enjoy that novelty for a few months before the July 31 trade deadline.

Not-so-scientific projections for 2018: .281/.335/.498, 34 HR, 91 RBI, 94 R, 5 SB, 686 PA, 5.7 WAR

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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.

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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.

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