During his annual winter meetings media session Tuesday afternoon, Orioles manager Buck Showalter carefully navigated questions about the future of third baseman Manny Machado — who is now the subject of intensifying trade rumors — while also addressing his long-term future with the club.
The Orioles face plenty of uncertainty after next season, as Machado headlines a group of key players who can become free agents after the 2018 season, and both Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette are in the final year of their contracts next season.
Asked Tuesday whether he’d want to remain the Orioles manager in 2019, Showalter responded by quickly saying, “Sure, sure.”
“There's a lot more people on our club, every club, that don't know what's going to [happen], that life and the season and the game has in store for them each year,” Showalter said. “It's an honor every day I get a chance to do this.”
With the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both hiring new managers, Showalter is the longest-tenured manager in the American League East.
“I haven't thought about it other than knowing how fortunate and lucky I am to be in Baltimore,” Showalter said of his future. “I think everybody knows what I think of the city and the organization and the people that I've come to know. But as every day passes, it's another great honor. So I … stay focused on the day-to-day operations of what my job is and try to stay focused on what we have and making it the best we can be.
“If we can out-relationship people or out-prepare, out-organize, out-taught — you know, whatever. We need to do the things that we can make a difference. What we have to do to make up the difference with some challenges that we have because of the division we play in.”
Bullpen arms receiving deep interest
The Orioles have fielded trade interest in both closer Zach Britton and setup man Brad Brach this week, but the team has also received significant interest in right-handed reliever Mychal Givens, according to sources.
Givens, however, is the relief arm the Orioles are least likely to part with because he still has one season before he reaches arbitration eligibility, so he’s under team control for the next four years. Over the past two seasons, Givens has had a 2.93 ERA, averaging 77 innings and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
“Givens is one of the top relievers in terms of strikeouts,” Duquette said. “He’s one of the top strikeout relievers in the league and he’s young and he’s been healthy, so clubs are always looking for that kind of player. Mychal has had a couple of consecutive good years for the club. He gives us pretty good depth in the bullpen.”
Jones to stay in center
Center fielder Adam Jones — the longest-tenured player with the Orioles — will be in his final year of his contract, and Showalter said there’s no consideration of shifting him to right field.
“Not at this stage,” Showalter said. “I think he's a very capable and solid center fielder for us.”
But Showalter said he’d like to see Jones get more rest next season as he reaches his age 32 season, but he is considering carrying 13 pitchers to open the season, which would mean having a three-man bench. One of those bench pieces would have to serve as a backup center fielder on a bench that already includes Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander, who can only play the corners, for the first six weeks.
“That's the point I'm trying to make,” Showalter said. “Where does that come from? Trey [Mancini] or [Jaycob] Brugman? No. That's why this other piece is very important if you have a decision about how it's going to play out, especially if you look at our schedule.”
Showalter expressed confidence that Chance Sisco, who played just 10 major league games in September, will develop into a role in which he can earn more playing time this season.
“I think that the continued growth as a thrower [is important],” Showalter said when asked what he needs to see from Sisco this spring. “I think he's going to be fine receiving. I think he's going to be fine with his fingers as he grows. But it's a tough place to cut your teeth in the American League East and have that confidence with pitchers that really don't know you and you don't know them in some cases.
Showalter said that learning from catchers coach John Russell and at veteran Caleb Joseph’s side at the major league level will benefit Sisco. Austin Wynns, who was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, will also be in big league camp.
“I don't even think about his bat. That's just — it's catching it, throwing it, fingers, and having the confidence of the pitching staff. We lost a good one in Cassie [Welington Castillo], but through that comes a good opportunity for some guys. I wouldn't underplay Wynns. I wouldn't underestimate Austin. He's got our attention, especially the things he's been able to do recently.”