The Baltimore Orioles have a two-year window to win the World Series – period. If they fail to win the World Series, there is a good chance they will have to start the rebuilding process with a depleted farm system.
Under the ownership of Peter G. Angelos, the Baltimore Orioles have increased their payroll from $73M at the end of 2010 which ranked 23rd in the league to $169M at the end of 2016 which ranked 12th. A large reason Angelos has provided the front office with so much payroll flexibility is because he has reaped the benefits of a competitive team on the field. Since 2012, the Orioles have the best record in the American league and have reached the playoffs 3 times in 5 years. So what happens when the Orioles are faced with either signing some of their younger star players to extensions or letting them hit the free agent market? It won’t take long to find out as the Orioles have a 2 year window before they are faced with the possibility of losing several key players to free agency.
Success breeds payroll challenges. The Baltimore Orioles selected Manny Machado with the 3rd overall pick in the 2010 draft. He has proven to everyone that he was every bit worthy of the 3rd overall pick. He is a 3-time All-Star; 2-time Gold Glove winner; and, he has finished in the top 10 of AL MVP voting in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Yes, he has battled knee injuries, but that now appears in the past. MLB Trade Rumors projects Machado to earn $11.2M in arbitration this year which is a complete steal. The Orioles have Machado under team control in 2018 as well, but after that, he’s free to go wherever. Will the Orioles really pay the cash necessary to retain Machado?
Machado’s pending free agency in 2 years is the headliner for the Birds, but it’s not their only potential problem. Consider this: After the 2018 season, the Baltimore Orioles will only have 2 players under contract with, as of today, another 7 who will be eligible for salary arbitration. It could be more than 7 depending on how some of the Orioles youngest players develop. The 2 under contract? Chris Davis and Darren O’Day.
After this season, the Orioles will have the following free agents: Ubaldo Jimenez (goodbye);
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Chris Tillman; Hyun-Soo Kim; and, Ryan Flaherty. Tillman is the biggest name in the group; however, Kim and Flaherty have been key contributors.
After the 2018 season, the Orioles will be hit even harder with the following free agents: Adam Jones; J.J. Hardy; Yovani Gallardo; Zach Britton; Brad Brach; and, the aforementioned Manny Machado. Ouch! That is a list that stings.
The “two year window” is reality. It is unlikely that the Baltimore Orioles will shell out enough money to keep Tillman, Jones, Hardy, Britton, Brach and Machado. So what do you do if you’re Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter? Good question – especially considering their contracts end after the 2018 season as well! Not only could the Orioles be faced with big decisions on their own players, they could also be faced with looking for a new general manager and manager.
The Orioles farm system is depleted. They could really use a system overhaul and by trading players like Tillman, Britton, Brach and Machado, the Orioles could get enough in return to completely redevelop their farm system and turn it into a juggernaut. But why not try to win now when you have players that can take you to a World Series? If the Orioles are really trying to win over the next 2 years, they should go all out and sign Encarnacion and/or Trumbo and/or Bautista. They should also build on strengths by signing some additional bullpen arms.
If the Orioles falter in any way this year or next year, expect a quick pull of the trigger to get a return on some of the team’s star players. The front office really doesn’t have a choice. All bets are off after 2 years, so Dan Duquette has to make quick decisions based on team performance.
What should the Orioles do? Go for it all and risk a rebuild with a depleted farm system? If so, what additions should Dan Duquette make to filed an even more competitive team? The other option is to begin trading some key players. What do you think the team should do?