Baltimore Orioles have too much to lose with Hot Stove decisions
The Baltimore Orioles have to make two major decisions for the 2018 season and they involve buying and selling.
If the Baltimore Orioles do not get this Hot Stove season right, then the team is set up for a long road filled with losses without much hope in sight.
There is so much to lose if the decisions are not perfectly made. And, these big problems are not about what the team doesn’t have approaching the 2018 season. It is about what they will not have when approaching the 2019 season.
The Orioles need to decide what their direction will be. Middle of the road, mediocre, and boring isn’t going to sell tickets. The seats will be as empty as the game played at Camden Yards on April 29, 2015. All the Orioles need to do is look at the Detroit Tigers and what happened to that team in the last few years.
Learn from the Tigers
In 2014, the Tigers had a pitching rotation that included Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and David Price. To provide run support, this team had hitters like J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Torii Hunter. This team finished first in the AL Central and lost in three quick games to the Orioles in the ALDS. Three seasons later, the Tigers finished last in the American League. In the last two months of the season, fans could not give away their tickets.
The Orioles in 2017 did not have the pitching, but they had the hitting. However, those hitters are about to leave the team. And, once they leave, the Orioles will be in worse shape than the 2017 Tigers in September. What is giving Tigers fans hope is the newly stocked farm system. This was achieved by trading away Martinez, Verlander, and the other pieces who were taking up big contracts and not getting the job done. By the time the off-season is over, the Tigers will most likely trade away Kinsler and Jose Iglesias. If they could get rid of Miguel Cabrera, they would.
When farm systems are strong
In a few years, the Tigers could be like the Astros. There will be a few lean years, but the fans have been told what the team’s plan is. They might not love it now, but there are plenty of extremely exciting prospects on the way up. Most of those prospects were picked up in 2017.
Prior to 2017, the Tigers farm system was just as bad as the Orioles system is now. But, their general manager, Al Avila, has made moves to keep the team alive for the future. If Dan Duquette does not do something, there will be very little to work with and very soon. Without a farm system, nothing will be on the way up to offer hope. The Tigers used to fill their roster spots by spending big, but Peter Angelos can’t spend the same way that the Tigers did. And, that spending did not bring a World Series trophy to Detroit.
Is it win now? Or sit in the middle?
In 2018, the Orioles will have an infield filled with talent. The team has a few pitchers, but no one who is a real, franchise ace. As the rotation is now, the team an injury or two away from a 100-loss season. The team is also one season away from not having a general manager and a manager.
In case you haven’t heard, 2019 will be a massive transitional year for Baltimore. Along with managers, Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Brad Brach, and Zach Britton will be entering free agency. Only Chris Davis, Mark Trumbo, and Darren O’Day will be left – along with Jonathan Schoop – who will have one year left before his free agency year. Yup…cause for worry.
Learn from the Royals
This is the issue. It’s happening to the Kansas City Royals right now, but their core won a World Series. The Royals blew it in 2017 when they did not trade Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain. Sure, the team offered them qualifying offers and maybe one will stay, but it’s not the same. The Royals should have traded them and got something of value for them. The Royals got nothing. And, according to the late-season farm-system rankings from Bleacher Report, the Royals are sitting the 29th spot.
Plugging holes? Or ready to win?
The Orioles can sign pitchers with money, but the team needs three of them. There is still a big hole in right field. And, will Chance Sisco catch in 2018? Is Austin Hays ready for everyday play? What Trumbo will show up in 2018? How many strikeouts will Davis have? It is impossible to win without good pitchers, but those are expensive. And, there aren’t many available. So, trades might need to happen. To get something, teams have to give something. There isn’t much left to give as the top prospects include Sisco, Hays, and a few guys in Double-A and Rookie ball.
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This is where Duquette and Angelos need to decide what 2018 is going to be made of. Will the Orioles go all in and spend to win? Or will the team simply plug holes? And, if the holes are plugged, will the Orioles make decisions that will leave them like the Tigers with a farm system that moved from 24th to 17th with serious promise for the future? Or will Duquette hang to the core until the season is over and get nothing, like the Orioles?
Bad decisions stick around
And, remember that the Orioles have traded away a large pot of International Signing Money. Yeah. That’s going to hurt, too. After three consecutive 100-loss seasons between 2011 and 2013, the Houston Astros built a team that won the World Series. That team used the International Money to sign players like Jose Altuve. And, they built the team with smart first-round draft picks like Carlos Correa. The Orioles are picking 11th in 2018. The Orioles need to make winning a priority and it might involve some losing to get there. In baseball, the middle is dull.
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The future is now. The Orioles either need to win now or start over. Mediocrity just isn’t going to cut it and can’t do it for long.