Cold Start Illuminates Path Forward For The Orioles
Today in Detroit, the Orioles found another way to lose a game. The loss – Baltimore’s fifth in a row – dropped the Birds to 5-13 overall.
It’s April 18th, and after these initial 18 games (11% of their schedule) they are 10GB in the American League East, and 6GB of the 2nd Wild Card.
The only positive of this pitiful stretch to begin the year, is that any ambiguity of what the O’s should be doing this year is being eliminated.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
The worry from many of us entering the year, was that the O’s would be good enough to hang around the periphery of Wild Card contention, but also not be good to be a legitimate playoff threat.
It seems safe to say that worry has been eliminated.
Last year was a notable exception, but typically it takes around 90 wins to obtain the 2nd Wild Card.
Are the O’s better than what we’ve seen so far this year?
They’ve got a .278 winning percentage. That would have them on-pace for 45 wins over the course of a full season.
For reference, the 1988 Orioles – the standard of ineptitude for this organization – won 54 games.
I stubbornly believe the true talent of this ’18 O’s roster is better than what we’ve seen.
My take on the overall talent that if you could play out this 2018 season 1,000 times, that several times they’d be horrible. Several times they’d be true contenders. And typically they’d be right around .500.
But life isn’t a simulation (now proven!).
These players don’t get to play things out 1,000 times.
Life between the white lines occurs once.
In the words of Bill Parcells, you are what your record says you are.
The ’18 O’s record says they are horrible.
At the minimum, we know they’ve dug a tremendous hole.
To put together a 90 win season at this point, the O’s would need to go 85-59 over the last 144 games.
That’s .590 ball for the remainder of the season.
I think this team is better than what they’ve shown.
I think this team will play better vs. what we’ve seen.
I don’t think this team can realistically play .590 ball over the last 144 games.
So, if you aren’t going to contend in ’18, the only way you can make the remainder of this year worthwhile is by preparing for the future.
Some Questions & Thoughts:
1) Does the organization want Duquette and Showalter back in their current roles? Do they want to be back? If the O’s are going to make larger decisions (see subsequent questions) in the near-term, do you want this duo having input on those moves (if they are not going to be back)?
2) The current projection from ESPN’s Dan Szymborski on Machado’s pending contract is 8 years $300M if they stays at SS, and 8 years $264M if he goes back to 3rd. Would the organization give a contract in that range? Would they give Machado multiple opt-outs? Would Machado take deferred money? If the answer to any of those questions is no, then he has to be moved. He probably has to be moved even if the O’s would offer that $, opt-outs, and Manny would take deferred money; because he’s months away from the ability to test the market. At this point, he doesn’t figure to say yes to any offered deal without seeing what’s available elsewhere. Even if you were contending in ’18, I’d hate eventually losing Manny for nothing; but at-least you could argue it would be worthwhile if you got back to the playoffs with Machado leading the charge. If you aren’t going to contend, and he isn’t taken a deal here in-season; then he has to be traded.
3) Without setbacks, Britton will likely rejoin the O’s during the first week of June. That’s plenty of time for him to reestablish value prior to the non-waiver deadline. I’m fine with trading him, and I’m fine with extending him. If you have any interest in extending him, spend some time now figuring out what it would take. Let him get back and perform, and gauge the trade market for him. See what he would bring back from a contender. I could be excited about trading him, and getting back strong talent under long-term team control. I could be excited about an extension which works for both sides.
4) What do you want to do with Schoop? He’s under contract through ’19, so in typical O’s operating fashion they’ll likely enter next year without him having been extended or traded. The O’s should have a decent idea of what it would take (6 years $100M?). Are they willing to do that? If so, push for a deal. If not, move him. If the O’s are willing, and Schoop is not; move him. If the O’s and Schoop are both willing to do a deal; but the O’s are overwhelmed by the possible return in a trade – that’s a harder decision. I don’t think you have to trade him. I think there is talent to move forward with as an organization, and I don’t think you are doomed to years of non-contention. It’s one thing if you don’t lock-up Manny to a $300M deal, it’s another if you can’t retain Schoop. You (the Front Office / Ownership) wants the clubhouse to see you’ll invest in a guy that you developed, has continually improved, and has years of production ahead of him. An extension would be good for the clubhouse, and with the fanbase as a whole. Part of any deal has to be with the idea that the O’s are confident that Jonathan can transition from being one of the younger regulars, to an elder statesman.
5) Will Jones waive his No-Trade Clause? Jones has made clear he wants to win. He’s 33 August 1st. Go to him, and see if he will be willing to waive the NTC. If he is, try and send him to the best situation you can. If he doesn’t want to waive the NTC, and he wants to play out the string; he’s earned that right. Either way, the organization and fan-base should go out of their way to thank-him for the leadership he provided. I’m not overly excited about the prospects of an extension, but if the O’s and Jones discuss a short-term (2 year extension), that discussion should include conversation about Jones being moved to RF.
6) Brach isn’t returning. He needs to be moved. When he gets into a hot-streak, the O’s should be making him available.
7) Trumbo had a career year in ’16, and effectively a career worst year in ’17. The average between the two extremes are basically his career averages. If he’s not in the OF, and he’s putting up his career averages at DH; it’s not as bad a situation as some of made it out to be. Still, if you can eat some money, and move him – that’s probably ideal. Even if the O’s were eating significant dollars, there isn’t much you could expect to come back prospect wise.
8) Mountcastle is working his way back to Bowie after fracturing his right-hand last month. Still a couple of weeks a way. Hays is struggling out of the gate at Bowie. Showalter told them both to spend time this year in the Minors working on their plate discipline. Hopefully they get 6-8 weeks of regular time in the Majors to end ’18. You also want Sisco to go from the understudy in a shared platoon with Joseph, to being the ‘starter.’ The more experience and playing time this trio gets at the ML level this year, the better off the O’s will be in ’19.
9) If you’ve traded Jones, you can consider also giving time to Mullins. Another alternative would be using Hays in CF, and keeping Santander in the Majors in RF.
10) If you’ve traded Machado, Beckham goes back to SS, and you evaluate him further there. With the understanding that the in-season position switch wouldn’t be seamless. You just want to go into the off-season with more information there. Can he be the ’19 SS, or not? (What he’s doing with the bat also matters.)
After 18 games, we’ve got to a point of clarity.
You aren’t contending.
The 2018 season for the Baltimore Orioles is effectively over before the NFL Draft occurs.
Make that clarity worthwhile.
Who is going to lead the organization going forward?
Get younger. Get cheaper.
Gain some payroll flexibility going forward.
Obtain some assets under long-term team control.
Give the options you have internally who could help going forward as much time and experience as you can.
The season might be ‘lost’, but what happens over the next few months and the remaining 90% of this season still matters.
Use the time wisely, and make it count.