Wednesday's departures of manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette leave the Orioles in search of a new direction and new leadership as they look to rebound from one of the worst seasons in baseball history.
Before Showalter and Duquette were let go, however, they didn't leave the cupboards barren. The Orioles have plenty of needs, and the way they fill those will likely come from whomever they choose to lead the organization’s baseball operations. But there are a handful of facets in which the Duquette-Showalter era left the club in a good spot.
Here are five areas in which the Orioles are in good shape as they transition into a new era:
1. There are plenty of outfielders to build on
It's no coincidence that the first homegrown prospect to come up through the minors and get a regular major league role after the trade deadline was Cedric Mullins, nor was it by chance that DJ Stewart was the one who followed him.
Over the past few years, the Orioles have amassed plenty of outfield depth that has percolated up to the high minors and will be on the cusp of arriving in the majors next year. Mullins and Stewart already got a taste of the majors this year. Last year, Austin Hays did, and he should be back in contention in 2019 after injuries derailed this past season.
Yusniel Díaz, the top piece acquired in the club’s July trades, will be the top prospect in the system this offseason and has the most upside of any hitter the Orioles have. Ryan McKenna hit his way to Double-A after a torrid start at High-A Frederick and will get a chance in the Arizona Fall League to end his 2018 on a high note.
Even if Trey Mancini ends up back in left field instead of at first base, the Orioles will have plenty of candidates and plenty of space to play them as they look to upgrade their production and defense in the outfield.
2. The farm system lacks impact players, but no longer lacks depth
Only a handful of the minor league players from those July trades — namely Díaz and Dean Kremer — showed the best version of themselves once they joined the Orioles organization. But with 14 minor league players brought in, and a run of deep drafts, Duquette has set the Orioles up to at least not have to worry about the quantity of players in the system.
Dillon Tate, Luis Ortiz, Josh Rogers and Bruce Zimmermann have their faults, but are high-minors starters who filled significant voids in the organization. Rylan Bannon, Breyvic Valera, Jean Carlos Encarnación and Jean Carmona essentially tripled the amount of viable infield prospects in the system. Even Brett Cumberland is a high-minors catcher with some upside, which doesn't exist in these parts. Zach Pop, Cody Carroll and Evan Phillips can grow into useful relievers.
It's not the eye-opening group of talent you'd expect to receive for stars such as Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman, but it filled needs for the organization and will allow whoever takes over the club’s baseball operations to look for more high-ceiling talent in drafts and trades.
3. The pieces are there for another good bullpen
This comes with the caveat that pretty much every player involved needs to perform better, but squint hard enough and there's another good Orioles bullpen somewhere on the organizational depth chart. Part of this is by design, but part of it is owed to the idea that amassing starting pitching prospects in trades or with high draft picks will eventually yield relievers, too.
The undoubted major league pieces on the roster include Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott and Miguel Castro. Paul Fry can be a good situational left-hander, and the group of Pop, Carroll and Phillips can contribute, too. Jimmy Yacabonis might end up as a useful long reliever now that he's stretched out. Factor in the possibility that Tate, Ortiz, Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther and maybe even Hunter Harvey could end up in the bullpen, and those are some significantly talented arms that will make bullpen crises like the one that buried the Orioles this season a thing of the past.
4. They already tried everything with Chris Davis
How is the fact that the Orioles are three years of limited production into a seven-year, $161 million contract good? Well, it's not as if Showalter and his staff left many ideas for a new coaching staff to try without insisting that Davis change something himself.
The Orioles began the year batting Davis leadoff to motivate him and maybe get the best of him early, and it went terribly. They sat him against tough left-handers, and the overall results didn't change much. His .168 batting average was the worst among anyone to ever qualify for the batting title under the current standards, and considering how much money he's owed, it will take a lot for the Orioles to part ways with him.
But considering the accommodations made for Davis that didn't produce much in terms of results, the next voices to try and get through to him will probably do well to start by having him look at what he can change himself.
5. There are a few more trades to be made
A new executive would probably have loved the opportunity at the winter meetings to shop Gausman, a pitcher who everyone in the game saw potential in and would have loved the opportunity to work with, and Schoop, an All-Star who was on his way to a scorching second half after a slow start. The market would have been robust, and the new baseball head could have targeted anyone they wanted.
Instead, they're already gone. And in terms of assets to trade, the Orioles have a few, including Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb and Mark Trumbo. Among those with longer-term control, they could even look to move Jonathan Villar, Mancini, Dylan Bundy or Givens. Cobb and Trumbo will have complicating no-trade provisions, but if any of those names gets off to a good start next year (or in any year in an Orioles uniform thereafter), the club's position will dictate whether it's most prudent to hang onto them or move them for younger players.
Considering everything else we know about where this team is going, things will have to be pretty good for the Orioles to keep them.