Baltimore Orioles: Wrap your presents, Birds fans!

Merry Christmas Eve, Baltimore Orioles fans! I’m going to keep this short and sweet for the next couple of days. Admittedly I’m in holiday mode, as I’m sure are many of you. So why are you reading a baseball column with that said?!

Being of Italian descent, this is “the holiday” in my culture. Christmas Eve is the feast of seven fishes in the Italian tradition. I’m not at all clear what those seven fishes are meant to be, as we’ve Marylandized it a bit. We’ve always done crab cakes, clams oysters, among other things. And plenty of Old Bay!

So what gifts are the Orioles wrapping for fans this year? It’s always tough to say, however I maintain that a playoff birth is one worth mentioning. But that was 2016. What about next year?

Again, hard to say. But I would expect a solution to the perpetual RF/DH situation, as well perhaps as some additional support in the bullpen. Not that the Orioles need it, but depth is always a good thing.

Nevertheless, my wish for anyone reading this is that you have a wonderful Christmas Eve night – regardless of your plans. Just another few short months until Spring Training – and that’s a great gift, for the record!

Baltimore Orioles: Don’t forget about Chris Tillman

In talking about future Baltimore Orioles free agents, Chris Tillman is a guy who’s often forgotten. Tillman will be a free agent in 2018 – a year which is looking to be a red-letter one in terms of contracts being up. So where does that leave the O’s?

Tillman’s the one pitcher in the rotation that’s seemed to work out for the Orioles. So from my standpoint, they can’t afford to lose him. Does that mean he’s priceless? No, of course not. However he is a guy that the Orioles are going to have to pay in order to keep.

It’s not worth getting into dollar amounts now, because we don’t know what the market is going to yield for a guy like Tillman at that point. Heck, we don’t know what kind of season he’s going to have in 2017. However he’ll be due a raise in wherever his next contract is.

Again, Tillman’s not priceless. If he went to other teams he probably wouldn’t be a staff ace, although he wouldn’t be a back-of-the-rotation guy either. So the Orioles do need to keep that in mind, and in fact it can be a shaky slope to walk. Tillman and his agent will probably want ace-type money since Tillman has been the staff ace here in Baltimore. However the Orioles will argue that on other teams he wouldn’t be an ace and so forth.

In essence, we’re talking about the type of ridiculous conversations that occure in arbitration hearings. The team’s actually talking it’s own guy down in a way. But that’s part of the game, and part of the sport.

So if I were the Orioles, I’d try to get this done as soon as possible. Keep in mind that until his contract expires the O’s are the only team with whom Tillman can negotiate. Both sides are a known commodity to the other, given that nobody knows what Tillman’s worth would be on the open market. So there’s that.

Pitching has been a sore spot for the Orioles for years. So Tillman is a guy that they need to find a way to keep. I can’t imagine his price to go way past what’s considered reasonable, so for the team’s sake hopefully they can come to some sort of arrangement at some point. Sooner rather than later, again for the sake of the team. And the fans…and writers who cover it all!

Baltimore Orioles: Does the media want Manny Machado out of Baltimore?

The Baltimore Orioles are starting to hear rumblings about Manny Machado again. Whereas however it used to be teams trying to pry him away from them as a young prospect because of his promise, now he’s wanted because of who he is. And the voices are only getting louder.

Many Orioles fans are starting to say that the Birds should simply trade Machado away now and get a huge return. Now I’ll grant you that he’s probably at his peak value right now (up until the beginning of spring training) on the trade market with two years of team control remaining. However I’m on record as saying that I feel this is an incredibly misguided way of thinking. It would be much better for the Orioles to committ themselves to re-signing Machado as opposed to just giving up now.

However this “story” has started to leak into the national media as well. ESPN’s Buster Olney has addressed it, among others. So…would it be better for the national media if a guy like Machado played somewhere else besides Baltimore?

It goes without saying. For whatever reason, the league doesn’t see fit to give a team like the Orioles a lot of national television exposure. This has nothing to do with success or lack thereof – the O’s have more regular season wins than any other franchise from 2012 onward. But the fact is that we don’t see them in the national spotlight very often…

…and I’m speaking almost exclusively about Sunday Night Baseball. Yes the league has national telecasts on Monday and Wednesday nights on ESPN, and yes there are regional/national games on Saturdays via FOX. But let’s face it; Sunday Night Baseball is MLB’s equivilant to Monday Night Football. And for whatever reason, be it political or due to market size, we don’t see the Orioles on those telecasts too often.

So could the national media perhaps put more of a spotlight on a guy like Manny Machado if he played for another team? Obviously I’m suggesting a team such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles, etc. The answer is yes. And by a longshot at that.

Obviously the national media really has no say in the matter. But it wouldn’t surprise me to start seeing pieces written about how the Orioles should consider trading Machado among other guys, so as to get a big haul in return. If Machado were traded to the LA Dodgers as an example, national writers such as Olney would be able to cover him easier, and make him even more into a household name than he already is.

I’m not saying that any of this is definitely happening. But the fact is that national media members have a stake in where a guy of his caliber plays, because they have a job to do just like the rest of us. And anything that makes that job easier for them is going to be something they’ll want to explore.

Baltimore Orioles: No news is good news

No news can sometimes be good news if you’re the Baltimore Orioles. And let me preface this by saying that you should take that comment literally. I mean…there really is no news about the Orioles right now. Makes my job a lot tougher!

Many fans are still trying to wrap their heads around the Mark Trumbo sweepstakes, and the fact is that he’s still out there on the open market. However that’s part of my point in saying the no news bit – nobody else is doing anything either.

Fans complain that the team isn’t doing anything, and that’s something that I do understand. However right now teams are just trying to jockey their offers and so forth. Would it really pay for the Orioles to make a big splash right now when everyone else is just intent on cruising into the holiday season?

Yes, you might argue that with nobody else doing anything they could go under the radar – for Trumbo or anyone else. However if they wait until after the first of the year, I suspect the price might go down. That’s a strategic mark post of the off season. So if anything making a move now would cost them.

So yes, no news is good news for the Orioles. With regard to other teams signing people, that is. Everyone else seems okay with heading into the holidays and standing pat. The Orioles should as well.

Baltimore Orioles: Are more risks necessary to be taken?

The Baltimore Orioles don’t take risks when it coes to player personnel for the most part. And heres the thing; I respect that about them. These days it seems that playing it safe just for the sake of playing it safe is considered to be bad. People seem to want you to be out there taking risks and putting it all on the line.

And that’s all fine and dandy – so long as it works out. If it doesn’t work out, you’re really up a creek without a paddle. And in case you haven’t noticed, the general public isn’t exactly the most forgiving type when it comes to things that don’t work out.

Basically fans are clammoring for the Orioles to take a risk such as getting a top-of-the-line starter for big money. And in theory that sounds great; why wouldn’t they want to do that? Well, because it’s a risk.

When you look at the likes of Jimenez and Gallardo, those two signings didn’t exactly work out how the Orioles wanted them to. Now they’d be the first to tell you that they’re a far cry from the likes of a top line starter, however you get the point. When you commit that kind of money to a guy and it doesn’t work out, you tend to not want to go down that road again.

Again, I agree with this to an extent. It’s very easy to say this when it’s not your money and you aren’t the one putting your neck out on the line. And it’s not just signing players in and of itself; the Orioles don’t take risks on injuries among other things. Their critiques of physicals is well-known. However they’ve also tended to be right.

But by not taking risks, are the Orioles in a sense running a huge risk? There is such a concept as playing not to lose. In this case, they’re playing not to lose with regard to the off season and with money. They don’t want a player to turn into dead money if he doesn’t work out. But in spending on role players and watching superstars go elsewhere, are the O’s actually running a higher risk?

That might be a bit overly harsh, because the O’s have their share of superstars. But they’re unwilling to committ big money long-term to get a top line pitcher. But does that leave them at a disadvantage? While they’re winning financially, does that lack of willingness to take a risk hurt them on the field?

Tough to say. Again, you only get praised for taking a risk if it works out in your favor. Otherwise it’s a stupid move. Look at Gallardo and Jimenez; those signings were widely praised by writers like me across the local and national media. Howeve suddenly because the players struggled they don’t look so great. Nevermind the fact that they didn’t cost the Orioles too much, but fans are angry that those players are on the roster.

Heck, there are people out there who say that re-signing Davis was a bad move at this point. Mainly because he strikes out so much, however we all know what happens when he gets in contact with a ball. At the end of the day, it’s a catch-22 either way. Which is why the Orioles are probably smart just protecting what they’ve got for the time being.

Baltimore Orioles pull Mark Trumbo offeer off the table

According to multiple sources, the Baltimore Orioles have pulled their now former offer to free agent slugger Mark Trumbo off the table. So officially, the Birds are now out of the Trumbo sweepstakes. However this doesn’t mean that the negotiating is over; often this type of move is simply a negotiating tactic. At least that’s how it was with Chris Davis last year.

Right around this time in fact, the Birds pulled their offer to Davis. He ended up signing anywys, in February. Colorado appears to be another team that has heavy interest in Trumbo, although it’s believed that the O’s had the best offer on the table.

I’ll be honest, I’m a bit surprised that Trumbo’s still out there. I would have thought for sure that some team would have already snatched him up. Towards the end of the regular season I thought it was going to be Boston. With Ortiz retiring I figured they were going to need a DH – and Trumbo would have slid into their lineup almost perfectly.

But if Boston’s kicked the tires on Trumbo at all, it’s been kept under wraps. However I just figured that someone would have snatched him up by now. At what point does the price start to go down a bit?

Again, it’s believed that the Orioles’ offer was the best one on the table up to that point. Obviously Trumbo and his agent feel that if they wait long enough someone (possibly the Orioles) will give them a better offer. It’s almost like a game of chicken in a way.

The Orioles were always going to make an offer on Trumbo, but with him still on the market they started to believe they could get him. So naturally they don’t want to wake up one morning and find out that he signed elsewhere. But obviously a lot of other teams are wary of his age and the potential for reduced production as well. Tie will tell.

I’ll be surprised if Trumbo has to wait until February to find a team like Davis did. I’m still shocked that Davis had to wait that long. But then again, I also thought Trumbo would have signed somewhere by this point. So you never know. Will the Orioles make a new offer at some point? I suspect they will. Does that mean Trumbo will return to Baltimore? That’s still very much up in the air.

Baltimore Orioles: The march to spring training

Let’s keep this short today. The Baltimore Orioles may already be planning for spring training. It’s coming, folks – deal with it!

The Orioles will report to Sarasota approximately two weeks after the Super Bowl. Grapefruit League play will begin approximately two weeks after that. As I said, it’s coming, and the clock is ticking. Have a nice day, folks – big games in the NFL today!

Baltimore Orioles: Are fans themselves unreasonable about Jose Bautista?

A lot has been made about the fact that Jose Bautista is a free agent, and the Baltimore Orioles are looking for an OF/DH. In that sense he would be a perfect fit. However as we know, Dan Duquette allegedly told Bautista’s agent that “Orioles fans don’t like him.”

I still say that while that’s certainly the truth, it’s more code for he’s unpopular in our clubhouse and wouldn’t be well-received than anything else. And that I think that does make a difference. Bautista has antagonized the Orioles for years, and the fact is that you don’t want to pour gasoline on something that’s already simmering.

But while I don’t buy the fact that the fans were the overall reason, the fact is that Duquette was right. In fact, I think that it would be a tougher sell to the fans than it would the players. While he’s seen as a villain in the Orioles’ clubhouse, players also understand that in today’s game guys change teams. The guy you were fighting last year might be your teammate this year. And the fact is that friend or foe, players are a fraternity – no matter how you spin it.

However here’s a question; are fans not potentially doing a disservice in some aspect by “hating” players – even opposing players? Again, guys change teams all the time. It’s part of the game, and part of the contemporary business of sports. But with that narrative out there, might guys think twice about signing with the Orioles in some manner?

It’s entirely possible that free agent players might think twice about signing with the Orioles in the sense that their fans must be tough on them. Now anyone who’s ever played here knows that not to be true – Orioles fans have a reputation for being very passionate but also very respectful. Which is why a guy like Bautista finds it so easy to draw their ire – he himself shows very little respect.

But we’re talking about outsiders in a sense; people (players) who aren’t familiar with the team. It’s an interesting point. In this particular case, I’m not sure if that would be such an issue. Bautista’s reputation as a trouble-maker is well known across the league. So many folks probably know the fans here don’t like him, and with good reason at that. But it’s something to consider moving foward, as free agency gives guys a chance to look at every aspect of the organization – including how he’ll be received by fans.

Baltimore Orioles: Who’s next in the dugout?

Buck Showalter‘s contract with the Baltimore Orioles expires after the 2018 season. So if you’re not a Showalter fan, sorry but you’re stuck with him for the next few seasons. However I suspect that those who fall into that category are few and far between.

It’s unclear right now whether or not Showalter intends to stay for the duration of his contract. Nobody would really blame a guy in his sixties for retiring at his leisure. My Dad’s a few years older than Buck, and I know that topic is starting to cross his mind. However the point is that the Orioles probably want to consider a short list of names to replace him – at some point.

Showalter’s only been in Baltimore since August of 2010, however he’s almost a legacy manager at this point. The organization hasn’t seen this much winning since the heyday of the Earl of Baltimore. When the time comes, he’ll be fondly remembered for sure.

So who would potentially be on that short list? If nothing else, it’s an interesting conversation piece. Here’s one piece of advice I’ll give to the Birds: stay away from promoting an assistant. I’ve seen it happen too many times where a coach leaves and his loyal lieutenant gets the job – only to have little to no success. Mike Davis was Bobby Knight’s assistant coach at Indiana, and he got the top job when the General was fired. While he went to the Final Four, they didn’t have much success after that.

When a coach of Showalter’s capacity leaves, perhaps there is a movement for continuity in a sense. However what you really need is someone of equal strength, or who could be of equal strength. So…does that mean going after a guy who’s managed before?

Preferably, but not necessarily. Ideally you want a coach to stay for some time and thus have a lot of success. So maybe it’s better to find the next up and coming guy who’s hungry as opposed to a recycled manager that’s looking for a job. Maybe, as I said.

For all we know, Showalter might be amenable to an extension after 2018. However as I said, it’s something that the organization has to consider. Because that time will be here before we know it. Incidentally, Dan Duquette’s contract is up at the same time as Showalter’s. So post-2018, we could be looking at wholesale changes in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles sign free agent catcher Wellington Castillo

If you had the Baltimore Orioles signing free agent catcher Wellington Castillo, you won! The O’s have unofficially signed Castillo to a one-year deal worth $6 million for 2017. It includes a $7 million player option for 2018 if Castillo decides to stick around. So all-in-all, the contract is worth $13 million (if he chooses to play for the Orioles for two seasons).

This all but gaurantees that Matt Wieters will not be back. Did Wieters and his agent over-estimate his worth? Tough to say. But all we know is that Castillo is coming to town.

Castillo hit .264 last year with Arizona with 14 home runs. He also got on base at a .322 clip. His fielding percentage behind the plate was also .992, which was a slight touch higher than that of Wieters.

Castillo is only 29 years old, so he has experience and is younger than Matt Wieters. Still however, it’s going to be strange for Orioles fans seeing someone else behind the plate not wearing number 32. Well, for all we know Castillo will be issued that number – but work with me, folks!

It’ll be interesting to see if he’s the true starting catcher, and/or how much play time Caleb Joseph sees. I personally still think that Joseph should be the starter given his time in the organization and what he means to the club. However you don’t sign Castillo to be a backup. He’ll almost surely start come Opening Day. Oh and incidentally, the deal of course is pending a physical. (Had to throw that in!)