The 2016 Baltimore Orioles were a team loaded with potential but often demonstrated a failure to execute. The very short one-and-done playoff appearance was very symbolic to the season as a whole; Stout starting pitching, only swing for home runs, then choke it away due to bad decision making by the front office and the coaching staff. However, this team went into the offseason with a plan to work on the broken assets and will hope and pray that prospects will live up to their expectations.
A Fresh Start
The offseason started rocky for the Orioles. They chose not to sign a number of key assets to the team such as outfielder Nolan Reimold and pitchers Vance Worley and Michael Bourn. The Orioles organization also chose to not sign DH Steve Pearce, and he has made the venture south signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Yovani Gallardo was traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for OF Seth Smith. This trade can easily be seen to cover the void left by Reimold. With the acquisition of Smith, the Orioles now have a solid, reliable outfield with the likes of Hyun-Soo Kim and Adam Jones alongside.
The Orioles also lost a beloved catcher within the organization in Matt Wieters. After the Orioles didn’t even give Wieters a qualifying offer, the team acquired Welington Castillo, a free agent from the Arizona Diamondbacks. About 2 months later, Wieters accepted an offer from the Washington Nationals.
There’s no need to worry about losing Wieters. He simply hasn’t been performing at his best following his surgery. There’s no need to pay someone $10.5 million a year to bank less than 20 home runs and hit under .250.
Last season, the Orioles’ Achilles heel was without a doubt their starting pitching. Not a single starting pitcher for the O’s made more than 14 starts in 2016, which is a strong symbol of how inconsistent they were, and how often Buck Showalter needed a shakeup in the lineup.
Out of the starting pitchers, newcomer Dylan Bundy had the best ERA of 4.02. In 2016 the Orioles relied way too much on the long ball, attributing to high-scoring games. This season the O’s have tons of room for improvement in starting pitching. Not only in reliability, but also in staying healthy. This club does not have much depth in starting pitching, and a starter in Norfolk or Bowie is not going to get the job done if two starters are out for a month.
The Road Ahead
The Orioles’ schedule seems to be a very Orioles-esque schedule for the 2017 season. The season begins on April 3 with a 2 game miniseries against Tampa Bay and a weekend series against the New York Yankees.
Some of the notables throughout the year include the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs coming to town in mid-July for a weekend series from the 14th to the 17th. The infamous West Coast Trip will take place from August 7th until the 16th. In 9 days, the Orioles will have three 3-game series against the Angels, Athletics, and Mariners.
For the fans that love promotional games, floppy hat night makes a return on June 2nd against the Boston Red Sox. Saturday, July 1st against Tampa Bay features a Zach Britton bobblehead and Orioles hooded sweatshirts will return on Fan Appreciation Weekend Saturday, September 23rd versus the Tampa Bay Rays. A full breakdown of every giveaway game can be found on the Orioles website here.
What to Watch For
The American League East Division has had a reputation over the years as being the toughest in all of baseball, and the 2017 season will be no different. The Boston Red Sox seem to be the biggest threat to the Orioles’ run at their second AL East title since 2014. They have tremendous talent and a great front office.
For the rest of the divisional teams (Rays, Blue Jays, Yankees), these teams are either too old to put up more than 70 wins, too underdeveloped, or just simply overrated and lost too many key assets over the off season. There’s very little hope that any team in the AL East other than the Red Sox and Orioles will win the division.
Here Comes the Money
The Baltimore Orioles have a little more to worry about in 2017 besides the action on the field. The offseason in the fall will not only be a test of the eligible free agents/arbitration eligible players, but also Peter Angelos, the owner.
Over the years he has owned the team, Mr. Angelos has had a reputation of being relatively cheap when it comes to resigning players. In the 2017 season, four key players by the names of Ubaldo Jimenez, Seth Smith, Ryan Flaherty, and Chris Tillman are all free agents at the end of the season. Considering the reputation of Mr. Angelos, two, maybe three of those players will be signed, with the remaining players getting a big payday from a team like the Dodgers or Yankees who can afford to pay player way more than what they're worth.
Of the six players eligible to go to arbitration, four are projected to go on the opening day roster. Arbitration is a complicated subject on its own, so without explaining it, just expect to see deals for players such as Manny Machado, Zach Britton, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman, and Caleb Joseph before Christmas this year.
Within the next few years, Peter Angelos will need to pay a very pretty penny to keep the Orioles winning like they are. A big gap he must address is the length of player contracts. As of March 2017, the Orioles only have one player under contract past the 2020 season; Chris Davis. Good players are worth good money, so paying for a 9 year contract might be worth it for players like Manny Machado.
Playoffs?! Don't Talk About Playoffs!
This season is going to be hit-or-miss for the O’s. Should the team stay relatively healthy throughout the year, the squad could win upwards of 95 games, and cruise into the playoffs. Should the team get “hot” at the right time, we could see a World Series appearance from the team.
However, should the team be plagued by injuries, it could be a very rocky year. The two main factors for the 2017 Baltimore Orioles are consistency and remaining healthy. If the Orioles can accomplish both, the 25th year celebrating Oriole Park at Camden Yards will be one to remember.
*Articles reflect the views of the author and or those quoted and do not necessarily represent the views of CCBC or the CCBC Connection.