The Baltimore Orioles will enter the 2018 season with a lot of questions surrounding them, but perhaps the one regarding Chris Tillman is the most unsung of all. We hear a lot of the likes of Machado, Schoop, and a few others needing to be signed down the road. But we nary hear a lot about Tillman’s situation.
Chris Tillman is in what’s known as a walk year, which in essence means he’s in the final year of his contract. He’s the closest thing that the Orioles have to an ace pitcher. In fact, he’s probably the closest they’ve had to an ace since the days of Mike Mussina (with all due respect to Erik Bedard). So is re-signing and thus retaining Tillman as important as it is to do the same with Machado and Schoop? I say yes.
The Orioles’ issue in 2016 was pitching – this much we know. So it thus becomes imperative for the Birds to keep what decent pitching that they have, all which trying to better themselves. Tillman had a solid 2016 after struggling in ’15. And given the fact that he’ll be in a contract year shortly, odds are he’ll have an even better 2017.
If they don’t re-sign him, the Orioles won’t necessarily lose Tillman. They could make him a qualifying offer next year, which would tax their payroll but if he accepted it he’d remain an Oriole. However I would submit that in the immediacy of today (that being next season), keeping Tillman around should be of supreme importance in the Warehouse.
The contracts of Gallardo and Jimenez will also come off the books after next season. So there’s some money right there that the Birds could put towards Tillman. This is one of the reasons why front office jobs in baseball are so difficult. You aren’t working so much for today as you are a year or sometimes two down the road.
My personal opinion is that the O’s should get Tillman squared away this off season. Right now they’re the only team with whom he can legally deal – they should take advantage of that! But that would also say a lot to Tillman about how dedicated the organization is to him personally, and how much he’s valued. It would say we didn’t want to wait so we wanted to ensure now that you’ll be with us down the road.
That would also give them a chance to open up their time next off season to deal with guys like Machado. You’re only as good as your roster, and if your roster ceases to be what it has been you’ll cease to be as good.