The ’19 Orioles Prior To Any Acquisitions
New Orioles GM Mike Elias has rightfully articulated that 2019 is primarily about adding talent throughout the organization. The on-field results for the O’s in ’19 is of minimal importance. There is logical understanding that a team which won 47 games in ’18, isn’t going to contend a year later. It’s understood that focusing on wins and losses in ’19 doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The way to measure the improvement of the O’s in ’19, is by evaluating how much team-controlled talent is added, and what development is shown from the players who have a chance to be part of the next quality Orioles team.
That said, the Baltimore Orioles will take the field 162 times in ’19. And if the O’s can walk and chew gum at the same time, I’m all for it. Meaning if the O’s can field a team which isn’t incomprehensibly incompetent – and they don’t sacrifice development of players they will potentially lean on in the coming years to be ‘mediocre’ – I’m all for trying to be better in ’19.
Let me clarify this further.
There is nothing the O’s can realistically accomplish this Winter, which would allow for contention. I think we all know this.
If you are not in position to contend, the best utilization of that time, is to build-up your organization internally, and work on obtaining the assets you’ll need to potentially contend in subsequent years.
The most important assets in baseball are talent, and years of team control.
Due to that, it’s understood you won’t hand 3rd base to Ryan Mountcastle on Opening Day ’19, because what he could provide the O’s in 2026 is more important vs. anything he could provide the O’s in the initial months of ’19.
One way you build your organization internally is by investing throughout Baseball Operations. Increasing the brain power and expertise throughout Player Development, Scouting, and Analytics.
Another way you can build your organization is by giving experience and opportunities to the players who have a chance to be a contributing part of your future, vs. giving extended playing time to those who definitively will not.
Ultimately, I’d rather see 100+ losses in ’19, if that means the O’s are building in a logical manner for the future, vs. finishing .500 if that means the O’s are effectively wasting time.
But…. can you build for the future, while simultaneously making the existing product more watchable?
I’d argue you can.
As a baseline, let’s review what the O’s roster currently looks like before any acquisitions are made.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
As of today, 38 out of 40 spots on the 40 man roster are occupied.
Catcher: Chance Sisco, Andrew Susac, Austin Wynns
Infield: Chris Davis, Renato Nunez, Rio Ruiz, Breyvic Valera, Jonathan Villar, Steve Wilkerson
Outfield: DJ Stewart, Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander
DH: Mark Trumbo
Pitchers: Alex Cobb, Dylan Bundy, Andrew Cashner, Luis Ortiz, David Hess, Yefry Ramirez, Josh Rogers, Dillon Tate, Hunter Harvey, Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, Branden Kline, Cody Carroll, Paul Fry, Mike Wright, Jimmy Yacabonis, Evan Phillips, John Means, Donnie Hart, Pedro Araujo
Some Things I Like Or Interest Me:
– Sisco had a poor ’18. It’s still questionable if his glove will allow him to stay behind the plate. He reached the Majors by hitting his way there. Each year as a professional he’s shown some improvement as a Catcher. That needs to continue. 2019 is huge for him. He has to show improvement as a hitter, and defensively he has to show to be ML caliber.
– I’m not convinced that Stewart and Mullins are guys you are going to want to build around long-term, but I’m excited about both getting extended playing time in ’19. They’ll get the chance to show what they are. The defensive metrics hated Mullins in his limited ’18. Do they improve over a longer sample this coming year?
– Mancini is a legitimate Major Leaguer. Not a star, but a nice contributor, especially while making little. The first half of ’18 was tough sledding for Trey (possibly hurt?); but he looked far better after the AS Break. When going good, I like that he doesn’t give away ab’s, and is capable of making adjustments. In ’19, I’d like to see his BB% increase.
– I’m a believer in Hays, and think he’s going to be a productive ML player. Between injuries and poor performance (the injuries contributing) ’18 was a lost year for Austin. I think if the injuries are behind him, his talent will shine, and he’ll quickly earn his way back to the Majors.
– If the O’s eat some salary, I think Trumbo will prove movable. If he’s traded at some point, I’m hoping to see Mancini at DH, Hays in LF, and eventually Yusniel Diaz in RF. If the O’s eventually bench (or release) Davis; then I’d like to see Stewart at DH, with Mancini at 1st.
– Villar looks to me to be a player you’d eventually move at some point in ’19. As long as he is on the O’s, I’ll appreciate having him around. He’s not blocking anyone, and he has some ability. For me, I’d be using him at 2nd, but it seems like the O’s are currently projecting him for SS.
– Nunez and Ruiz look to be fine stop-gaps until Mountcastle takes over at 3rd. Wilkerson and Valera should ideally be UTI types, but in a year where you aren’t going to be ‘good’, I could live with Wilkerson starting at 2nd. Small sample size and all, but his glove looked excellent in the games he got into with the O’s in ’18. He’s not a legit prospect, and I think his bat will be overwhelmed with extended playing time; but he’d defend like a quality regular.
– There are arms to like among the pitchers on the O’s 40 Man Roster. In-fact I see a lot of guys that could be productive relievers, or league average back of the rotation starters. What you don’t have is that ACE at the top of the rotation, that you know will lead the staff. I say adopt to what you do have, and utilize “Openers.”
Let’s get back to the original premise. How could you improve the existing product, while simultaneously building for the future?
Back in August we suggested Oakland’s Richie Martin as a possible target for SS. Now if the O’s want him, he’s available to the O’s Thursday with the 1st selection in the Rule V draft.
Once a major prospect, he’s supposed to have good athleticism, be outstanding with the glove, and has some promise with the bat. Obtaining him, and seeing if he could handle SS would be fun to me. If he defends at a strong level, and gives you a little pop at no cost; that’s a big win. If you give him that playing opportunity, and he doesn’t perform, you haven’t lost anything.
There is no expectation of the O’s signing Bryce Harper, or having a reunion with Manny Machado – but are there Free Agent’s who the O’s could pursue?
We talked above about one way you can build your organization is by giving experience and opportunities to the players who have a chance to be a contributing part of your future, vs. giving extended playing time to those who definitively will not. So given that, any targets you would have would likely be guys on 1 year make good contracts. Maybe 2 years. Players better than what you have, who you could potentially flip to contenders during the year for assets under longer-term control if they perform.
Here’s a few guys who could fit that criteria:
I’d have some interest in Marwin Gonzalez if you could get him for 2 years, but I expect he’ll get at-least 3 somewhere.
If I was going to invest into a larger deal somewhere, it would be in pursuit of Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi.
Beyond these FA’s, the other thing to look at would be trades. The O’s are well positioned financially in the coming years. They can use their payroll flexibility as an asset, and potentially take on contracts that are not overly attractive, if those contracts also bring back younger talent under team-control.
Something to watch there.
Obtaining assets is what 2019 and the next several years is about, but improving the existing product while not blocking the future is possible.
Chris Stoner founded Baltimore Sports and Life in 2009. He has appeared as a radio guest with 1090 WBAL, 105.7 The Fan, CBS 1300, Q1370, WOYK 1350, WKAV 1400, and WNST 1570. He has also been interviewed by The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Business Journal, and PressBox (TV). As Owner, his responsibilities include serving as the Managing Editor, Publicist, & Sales Director.
You can reach him via email at [email protected].