Winter is coming: Offseason Review, Baltimore Orioles
Winter is coming and we at the BRKDWN are here to look at each team’s regrettable past moves as well as give our thoughts on what they can do to improve for 2020.
This time it’s the Orioles of Baltimore. Need to catch up? Check out our last piece on the Braves and remember to keep an eye out for the latest and greatest from the MLB team this entire offseason.
Worst Franchise Move: Albert Belle is synonymous with a bad move. In fact, if it wasn’t for Chris Davis’ recent terrible history with the Orioles, it’s fair to wonder how bad the Belle signing was. I’ll jog your memory. Baltimore thought it was stealing away a prize from the Yankees, but instead got a man with anger issues and even worse hips.
Shakira and Albert Belle can both claim their hips don’t lie, but for different reasons. Only two years into his O’s career and Belle was forced into retirement due to chronic and degenerative hip issues. Though he wouldn’t play another inning, Baltimore was forced to eat the remainder of the then-record contract. The O’s had to dish out $65 million to finish the contract.
Now it’s tough to blame an injury on the Orioles, but it’s also even easier to blame them on their ability – or lack thereof – to identify a foreboding warning like degenerative hip osteoarthritis.
One move to make for 2020: Charm City is low on established MLB-ready talent, and even lower on desirable trade chips. Recent bad contracts like Chris Davis and Alex Cobb make it even tougher to build a competitive roster. The few trade chips the O’s do have likely won’t amount to much in terms of a return, but it is unfortunately the only avenue to take to jump start the rebuild a bit.
Jonathan Villar has shown he can produce even when he is surrounded by mediocre talent, and if GM, Mike Elias is smart he’ll try to flip Villar for some more pieces. Villar’s strong season coupled with his hefty arbitration salary of $10.4 million makes him the likeliest to be moved as Elias is on record saying he hopes to lock up Trey Mancini – the other trade chip the O’s hold. The return won’t be jaw-dropping but in this case it’s all about quantity over quality – both of which this franchise lacks.
Worst Franchise Move: Signing Alex Cobb, the obvious one here would’ve been signing Chris Davis to a max extension. However, I feel this move did even worse to the franchise. When the Orioles signed Cashner and Cobb, it had an assumption of we’re going for it and by the trade deadline they were 32-75. Signing Cobb did two things for the organization. First, it not only pushed back their rebuild by not getting the max value for Manny Machado, as he only had half a season left on his contract, but they received little value on other key rebuilding pieces.
Secondly, added another bad contract to their payroll. Think about this, the Orioles had Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb on their payroll. That totaled to $48.5 million in one season. Plus, Cobb has been brutal in his Orioles career; so far, Cobb is 5-17 with a 5.36 ERA and has only amassed 162 innings in two seasons. Signing Cobb with no real direction for the team will haunt the Orioles for years to come as they are stuck with that contract and the inevitable nature of getting good value but not great value for Machado.
One Move to Make for 2020: Keep adding to the farm, this one is self-explanatory as the Orioles won’t have a franchise player after Mancini departs, until Adley Ruschtman is ready. So keep trading your star talent such as Villar, Mancini and Renato Nunez; all will net big returns and start stacking up that farm system. Another move could be try to entice a club for your big contracts, no one wants Chris Davis on their roster, so that’s already out of the question. But you can at least try to get rid of Cobb’s contract maybe in a deal for an even worse contract. But by doing this, you can actually “buy” a prospect. Therefore, circling back and adding to your farm.
Worst Franchise Move: Signing Chris Davis is one of the worst deals in MLB history. After leading the league in home runs in 2015 with 47, the Orioles who were in a competitive window at the time, inked Davis to a massive 7 year $161 million contract. The contract was extremely questionable at the time given his age and it is an aboltross in 2019. Davis batted .168 in 2018 (worse from a qualified player in MLB history) and .179 in 2019. Davis still has 3 years left on his deal and Baltimore has no choice but to keep playing Davis due to the money that is owed to him therefore, not allowing anyone else to play first base. It will be interesting to see how much more painful this contract becomes as Davis reaches his mid-30s.
One move to make for 2020: Continue to bottom-out. The Orioles farm system is so bad that it is going to take a long time for them to just replenish the farm system, nevermind start competing. The Orioles should avoid any significant free-agent signings and focus on the small number of players they feel will help them in the future. The only move to make is sign cheap arms to not shatter the confidence of the young arms that will be pitching for this ball club. Miguel Castro was a bright spot last season and the Orioles should try and make sure he continues to build his confidence as the Orioles are hoping he Castro can be a significant piece of the rotation for the future.