Is there hope behind the Orioles' uncertainty?

During what might have been Chris Davis's final interview session as an Oriole, he was asked what he would say to fans who fear that a big chunk of the veteran nucleus of the team will not be back next season.

There definitely is an undertone of fatalism among the fan base as Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen and several other players head into free agency, but Davis offered a bit of perspective and hope regarding the future of the team even as he remained noncommittal about his own.


"I think the biggest thing to remember is that there are a lot of really good players on this team … guys who have really bright futures, like Manny and Schoop and obviously Jonesy and J.J. will be back," said Davis, after hitting two more home runs in the Orioles' series-sweeping 9-4 victory over the Yankees. "I don't know what the future holds for me, but I know these last few days I've shared a lot of great memories with them and hopefully it's not the end."

It probably is the end for Davis in Baltimore, but he made a fair point. The Orioles have players that they can build around if the front office and ownership are committed to making sure the team is a contender again in 2016.

Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop are two of the brightest young infielders in the game and both are tied to the team for years to come. Kevin Gausman figures to be a fixture in the starting rotation for at least the rest of the decade. The Orioles discovered a new set-up man in converted shortstop Mychal Givens.

Even if Wieters does not return, the emergence of Caleb Joseph as a solid catcher with some plate presence maintains the strong up-the-middle defense that helped the Orioles lead the American League in fielding percentage and fewest errors.

All that is fine, of course, but it's important to not forget that all of those players and all of the pending free agents were here this year and the Orioles had to win their final five games just to finish at .500.

That means there would have been work to be done this winter even if none of them were likely to leave, which is a sobering thought going forward. The Orioles are probably going to be losing the major league home run leader for the second offseason in a row, and fans can only hope that the front office does not try to replace him with an underachieving former top draft choice who didn't pop in his previous organization.

If newcomer Gerardo Parra also leaves via free agency, the Orioles are going to need two dependable corner outfielders who can produce at the plate. In a perfect world, one of them would have plus speed and leadoff skills.

The starting rotation will take a major hit if agent Scott Boras steers Wei-Yin Chen to another team, especially if baseball operations chief Dan Duquette does a hard sell with the fans that Tyler Wilson is ready to step in and fill the fifth starter role.

Wilson is a nice young pitcher who handled himself very well when called upon to fill in temporarily as both a starter and reliever, but the Orioles badly need one more dependable veteran starter to put at or near the top of the rotation.

Of course, we're talking about a significant amount of money whether the Orioles make a big play to keep some of the departing free agents or try to sign two or three proven players to broaden the talent base in their absense. If history is any guide, it'll be quite a while before it becomes apparent which way, if either, the Orioles will turn.

Duquette has a history of being very deliberate early in the process, which doesn't bode well for Davis' return. He said on Sunday that he will go home, wait out the postseason, and hopefully sign soon thereafter.

The fans who were shouting "We want Chris" while he did a postgame television interview on the field Sunday evening certainly hope that the front office heard them and takes advantage of a fairly-lengthy exclusive bargaining period to make a strong effort to bring him back.

Maybe it already was thinking in that direction. Maybe owner Peter Angelos will be so unsatisfied with a .500 record that he insists that Duquette moves boldly to make sure his team isn't looking up at sea level next year.

Lots of maybes. Lots of questions.


Not a lot of answers.