The Winter Meetings came and went and here we Orioles fans sit in early-mid Decemberish anxiously awaiting the first real move by Dan Duquette and the O’s Front Office. It’s not like this team doesn’t have holes that need to be addressed this offseason. They could use at least one corner outfielder, a catcher and, as I seem to always say this time of year, the starting rotation could use a little Christmas miracle as well. At least, I’m not as bullish on them as my podcast co-host Jabby Burns.
For some reason, slow offseasons seem to always catch Orioles fans off guard. Why are we so surprised to see the Red Sox move a huge prospect for an ace? Why do we have to pick our jaws up off the floor when the Yankees spend $86 million on a closer? Likewise, why are we so stunned that the O’s have waited out the market, yet again?
This philosophy has become as much a part of the Oriole Way as pitching, defense and three run homers — well, at least the homers part.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about the 2017 Orioles from this offseason, it’s that their organizational philosophy hasn’t changed one bit. This team is going to approach the game the same way they have since Dan and Buck Showalter took the reins in 2010-2011.
And you know what? Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Afterall, this club has been to the postseason three out of the last five years. (Yes, I’m counting 2016).
The strongest news we’ve seen from the Orioles this offseason is their interest in Mark Trumbo. You remember him right? That power hitting corner outfielder with weak defensive skills? Coincidentally, he played right here in Baltimore last season when he led baseball with 47 home runs. And while we’d love to see the O’s get an upgrade defensively, they know what their getting with Trumbo and have had a lot of success with power hitters in the past.
It’s not like the Orioles haven’t opened up Peter Angelos’ check book over recent seasons. Chris Davis signed the biggest contract in franchise history last winter and Darren O’Day made a pretty penny as well, when he inked that four-year, $31 million deal. The O’s have proven that their willing to spend, but it’ll likely be on their own players. Remember, they like their guys — and apparently they like them a lot.
Duquette has talked a lot over the years about improving the on base percentage of his club and, to his credit, he brought in Hyun Soo Kim last year who posted a .382 OBP in a limited role last season. This winter he could really improve that OBP by replacing Trumbo with a more well rounded corner outfielder, a guy who might not mash as much but will score a lot of runs when the other eight guys in the lineup drive him in.
And, we’ve seen the Orioles show how successful they can be when they increase their OBP. In June of 2016 the O’s won a season-high 19 games and they did so by leading all of baseball with a .357 OBP. Of course, you probably only remember that they hit 56 home runs that month, which doesn’t hurt either.
The Orioles clearly like their guys and this mindset has led many fans to wonder why they haven’t been able to hand out extensions to Manny Machado or Chris Tillman. Once again this winter, we’ve seen some stories about their negotiations with both players. In the past, we’ve heard Duquette say that the Orioles are against opt out clauses and appear to at least strongly dislike no trade clauses. Both of which are going to make Machado, who will likely receive one of the largest free agent contracts in history, incredibly hard to re-sign.
Should the O’s get over their hatred of the opt out claus, as it appears most of baseball has, I think they stand a very great chance of retaining Machado long-term. They can ink him for his prime years and allow him to opt out once he’s reached his 30’s and sign a deal with another club who will get the non-peak years of Machado. Honestly, to me it seems like a win-win. You secure Machado for his dominant years and hand him off to a big market club for more money when he declines.
But what do I know?
Because their mindset hasn’t changed this winter, I tend to think Matt Wieters, or at least a Wieters-esque catcher will be behind the plate for the O’s in 2017. They could use a good pitch framer and solid defensive catcher to help their below average starting pitching staff, but it doesn’t appear that they’re linked to any at the time. I feel that the market for Wieters is shrinking and because the O’s know him, he’s likely to be back for a few more years.
This could all come off as negative. I certainly don’t mean it to. The Orioles aren’t going to win the offseason, probably ever, but they’ve managed to finish .500 or higher in five straight seasons. All I want is for them to keep making it to October and giving this team a chance to make a run in the postseason.