Orioles fans don’t need me to sit down in front of the campfire, hold a flashlight under my chin, and tell a story about how their team is doomed. For one thing, I’m pretty sure there’s no need to explain the concept of urgency to them, considering they followed a wandering, emaciated organization that stumbled around for 14 consecutive seasons. For another, it’s folly to predict the fortunes of a team two or three years down the line. The average age of every Yankees team is usually around 54 years old, give or take, but they haven’t finished under .500 since Derek Jeter was drafted. Baseball isn’t as simple as counting a team’s over-30 contributors and extrapolating future doom.
But we can at least guess at a team’s window. That’s sort of the point of knee-jerk analysis, and the Orioles are a team with at least a few red flags. They’ll have five players over 30 in the lineup next year. Their best player is fantastically young and one of the very greatest active baseball players, but he’s also a free agent in two years, and he’ll make about $400 million or so. The 2019 Orioles might get 100 combined home runs from Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, but the odds are against it.
Which means the word of the offseason for the Orioles is “NOW.” Now, now, now. We can’t predict the 2019 team, no, but we can predict the 2017 American League East, and there’s an opening, Red Sox be damned. This is why the Orioles brought back Mark Trumbo, and it’s why they were lucky to do so. They can, once again, send out a lineup that features Davis, Machado, and Trumbo. They’ve brought back roughly the same lineup that hit 253 home runs last year, unless they’ve made it a little stronger. This is a team that should contend, and they should be a lot of fun to watch
If the word of the offseason is “NOW,” though, the remaining question of the offseason for the Orioles is “Now what?” If this seems like a recycled theme, that’s because it is.
Where's the plan? Where's the urgency? Where are the flashing sirens and screaming klaxons after their return to relevance in 2012, when everyone in that front office and ownership group should have thought, "WE DON'T WANT TO WAIT ANOTHER 14 YEARS. WE CAN'T WAIT ANOTHER 14 YEARS?"
For whatever reason, that column was responsible for more hate mail than any other I wrote last year. Yet the Orioles winning 89 games and playing a single postseason game is an argument that supports the perceived urgency, not refutes it. Retaining Trumbo on a smart, reasonable deal is a great start. There just has to be more.
For the fifth offseason in a row, Orioles fans are going to enter February wondering if there’s still a big move left. In 2014, their faith was rewarded with Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. In 2016, their faith was rewarded with Yovani Gallardo. Your mileage may vary with those rewards. In 2013 and 2015, their faith wasn’t rewarded at all.
If you liked the 2016 Orioles, you’ll love the 2017 Orioles! Now with Seth Smith!
That isn’t to say that Trumbo (for three years, $37.5 million) is anything other than a good idea. And it isn’t to say that there isn’t any room for improvement, either. The triumvirate of Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, and Dylan Bundy has plenty of latent potential, with the kind of talent that could make dummies like me write glowing paragraphs in the first week of October. While Zach Britton might give up more than four earned runs next year, the bullpen is still a strength.
Also, the dingers. So many dingers.
This still feels like a team in search of one more big move. Here, follow along with Roster Resource as we run down the roster:
C - Cool
1B - Heck, yeah
2B - Sure
SS - Okay, fine
3B - Oh, hell yeah
LF - Sure
CF - Awesome
RF - Sure
DH - Heck, yeah
Bullpen — Heck, yeah
SP1 - Cool
SP2 - Cool
SP3 - I can dig it
SP4 - Uh
SP5 - Oh, boy
Apologies for the technical sabermetric jargon, and feel free to adjust as you see fit. There’s a lot that can happen to turn a “sure” into an “oh, boy,” just like there’s a lot to turn it into a “heck, yeah.” At the end of January, though, with Trumbo back and the lineup looking as scary as it did last year, your eyes go straight to the bottom of that rotation. Wade Miley is an incredibly poor fit for Camden Yards, and the last time we saw Ubaldo Jimenez, well, let’s take a look at the video ...
Yeah, probably for the best.
As for practical solutions, I’m just gonna duck out the back door. We know there aren’t any free agents left, and they never really existed at all, although there was at least one possibility in November. And not only is the trade market vicious, but Keith Law just ranked the Orioles’ farm system 25th out of 30 teams, even going so far as to address this very point.
The long-term outlook here is much better than the short term, but the short term is where the probability and the trade value lies -- and that’s where Baltimore is lacking, with only catcher Chance Sisco and lefty Chris Lee both close to the majors and bringing high enough floors that they could return a significant big-league piece in a deal.
Just eyeballing it, it looks like Sisco would be the prize. In my official capacity as Baseball Writer Who Parachutes In And Thinks About Your Favorite Team Every Month Or Two, I would like to put this [reads index card] Chance Sisco on the trading block. I don’t know if that would force the White Sox or A’s to return their calls, but they have to at least consider getting rash and unpredictable.
If not, maybe there’s a depth trade to make for someone like Junior Guerra or Ervin Santana, something that’s less sexy than Jose Quintana, but would allow them to put Miley and/or Jimenez in a glass case. This is the kind of situation that GMs and front offices spend 13 hours a day on, and it’s time to start thinking about 28-team trades and get lawyers inventing reverse-waiver-alternate-DFA-exception-clauses. This is a team that is so close.
As is, they have Trumbo, so they’re better than they were yesterday, even if they aren’t much better than they were last year. That was a small, but necessary, step for a team that made the postseason last year. Now’s the time to get greedy, though. Now’s the time to get greedy and pretend like the future doesn’t exist.
It’s not like I’m paying my bills until things settle down, either. This is just the baseball version of it, and it makes a lot of sense.