Now that we've had some time to move on from the sting of the loss in the wild card game -- just remember the Red Sox won just as many games in the postseason as the Orioles -- it's time to start looking at what moves the Orioles might address this offseason.
There are a few questions facing the Orioles as they enter the offseason, but these are the big ones.
What will they do at the catcher position?
The Baltimore Sun has started their offseason position-by-position breakdown (which you can find here). I found it interesting they started with catcher, because that's the one position with the biggest question mark for the O's.
Matt Wieters is a free agent after accepting the qualifying offer last year. He's unlikely to do that again this offseason, so the team will have to work out a deal if it hopes to keep him.
It will be intersting to see just how much interest Wieters has from other teams. The Yankees apper set with the impressive start of rookie Gary Sanchez who finished with 20 home runs in 53 games this year. And there has long been speculation that the Braves could bring Wieters "home" as they move into a new stadium and continue their rebuilding project.
The injury to Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, who tore his ACL in the final week of the season, could make Wieters' value increase in what is a fairly weak free agent class this year.
Wieters is 30, and hasn't developed into the power hitter the Orioles thought he might be, but he's a solid defensive catcher. Top catching prospect Chance Sisco is probably still a year or two away from being a real option and I'm not sure the team is ready to have Caleb Joseph be the every day catcher either. So the question is, what will it take to bring Wieters back?
Wieters is represented by agent Scott Boras who is known for getting top dollars for his clients. But can the Orioles get Wieters to stay with a two- or three-year deal that falls in the $12 million a year range?
Can they work on extensions for any of the young core players before they become free agents?
The Orioles don't have as many to-be free agents on the roster this year, but they do have several players that are arbitration eligible, and will get heafty raises through that process.
MASN's Roch Kubatko posted the list of projected arbitration figures from MLBTradeRumors.com. The Orioles have 10 players arbitration eligible, and several will see some healthy raises according to the projections. Of course the Orioles have a good history of working out a deal even before going to arbitration, probably due in part to their outstanding record of winning their arbitration hearings against players.
- Chris Tillman: $6.225M in 2016; projected at $10.66M in 2017.
- Zach Britton: $6.75M in 2016; projected at $11.44M in 2017.
- Manny Machado: $5M in 2016; projected at $11.2M in 2017.
- Jonathan Schoop: $522,500 in 2016; $3.4M in 2017, his first year being arbitration eligible.
So much of the money the team will spend this year will be in arbitration, which isn't bad as the 2017 free agent market is rather thin, especially in starting pitching.
But can the Orioles make any headway on signing part of that group that should factor into their long-term plans? The Orioles control most of them through the 2018 season, when several other contracts will come off the books. But can they make some deals now and potentially save some money by "buying out" some of the arbitration years?
The team traded away closer Jim Johnson when they were faced with paying him $10 million. But Britton is certainly another case? But at what point does the cost get too high for a closer, who typically works one inning?
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Machado is one of baseball's bright young stars. It's even hard to imagine just what kind of deal it may take to keep him in Baltiore given some of the mega-deals teams have been giving the young talent in the game.
Are they set in the starting rotation?
The Orioles appear fairly set in the starting rotation, with Tillman, Kevin Gausman (another arbitration elibible player) and Dylan Bundy showing signs of a pretty solid top three. Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo are all under contract for next season and Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright add depth in the minors.
Of course almost every team would love to add a bonifide ace in their rotation, but they aren't available in the free agent market this year. Any acquisition of a front-line starter would have to come via trade, and the Orioles minor-league system probably doesn't have the depth needed to make that happen. Would they consider trading a piece from the major league team -- Britton -- to acquire an ace?
Do they have a shot at keeping Marc Trumbo?
Certainly the Orioles have a shot, but it's unlikely the team will give him the contract it likely will take to keep the major league home run leader in Baltimore. Especially given the financial needs it will take to keep Britton, Machado and Schoop in the future, can they sign Trumbo to a contract and still have that flexibility? Especially given the late season production Trey Mancini displayed and would provide a much-cheaper option.
What will they do to tweak the offense?
Hitting home runs can only take you so far, and you need to have some players that can consistently get on base, or do what it takes to drive in runs. This has been something the Orioles have tried to address for several years, but if they hope to make an extended postseason run, they have to figure out a way to score beside hitting it over the fence.
Hyun Soo Kim developed into the team's best hitter, but can he hit lefties? Maybe Michael Bourn is an option. Joe Rickard showed some promise in that area before getting hurt.
It's going to be another interesting offseason for the Orioles. With much of the team in place through 2018, the window for a push for the postseason remains wide open. Given the Orioles strong performances the past five seasons, what tweaks can they make to take those extra steps for 2017?