The Orioles face a busy offseason as they look to rebound from their first losing season since 2011, and even though the club endured a dramatic 14-game drop in wins, core players believe the team isn't far removed from competing for the postseason again in 2018.
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said he's planning to meet with managing partner Peter G. Angelos this offseason to advocate for certain moves, and among them it appears to be acquiring at least one front-line starter.
"We've got so many really good bright spots on this team, so I think if we can get a couple more bigger-name guys to establish our rotation, because obviously that's going to be the focal point of the offseason, I think we can be in good shape going into next year," Jones said last week. "You have Manny [Machado] matured another year, you've got [Jonathan] Schoop maturing another year. And you've got [Tim] Beckham maturing another year. That's three 25-, 26-, 27-year-old middle infielders that, to me, are the people who are going to carry this team next year."
More than most, Jones understands the club's challenges when it comes to competing for the top available free-agent arms. And executive vice president Dan Duquette has said the free-agent starting pitching market is a thin one that holds few value opportunities.
"Obviously, you see every offseason this free agent and this free agent [is being signed somewhere else]," Jones said. "But when the Orioles mention money to somebody, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to mention money to somebody, and historically we just haven't been able to compete in that department. Can we? Yeah, of course we can, but just the economic way, we can't do it. I'm not an economics major, but I pay attention."
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis echoed Jones' sentiments that the club isn't far away from competing again, especially since 2018 will be the final year that this core group is guaranteed to be together — Machado, Jones, closer Zach Britton and setup man Brad Brach are eligible for free agency after next year.
"I don't think scrapping it and starting it from ground zero is the best thing for us," said Davis, who has five years remaining on a seven-year, $161 million deal signed before the 2016 season. "A lot of times when you see organizations do that, you have a lot of young players. They have a lot of depth in the minor leagues they want to groom and bring up to the big league level. I think that we have a lot of guys that are proven, a lot of guys that maybe have a small window of opportunity to be successful together, and I feel like the foundation is there.
"You see the playoff runs [we had] every other year for however many years. I definitely think it's just a step away, and I hope that our ownership feels the same way. I hope they feel that sense of urgency and they feel that we're a lot closer than further away."
The Orioles will have between $55 million and $60 million coming off this season's payroll, so there will be money to invest – and Duquette said some of that will be allotted to starting pitching.
And Jones will be plotting his pitch to Angelos this offseason.
"This offseason I think I'll be an advocate … there's a lot of things, a lot of things that need to be done," Jones said. "We've got a lot of money coming off the books this offseason. We also have a lot of question marks after next year, so I'm going to get away from this game and recalculate how I approach Mr. Angelos."