York, PA – As we approach the championship series’ of this year’s postseason, it’s especially necessary that time is taken to reflect on this year’s 162 game journey of the beloved Baltimore Orioles.
After losing Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller in the offseason, many O’s fans were rather apprehensive to see what the 2015 season would entail for the reigning American League East Division Champions. Dan Duquette and the rest of the Orioles front office allowed the player who single-handedly carried the team to the playoffs in 2014 (Nelson Cruz), a two-time Gold Glove winning outfielder who was the face of the O’s franchise for almost eight years (Nick Markakis), and an electrifying left-handed reliever who solidified the bullpen down the stretch of the 2014 regular season and throughout the postseason (Andrew Miller), all pack their bags and sign free agent contracts with other teams. Perhaps it was overly insinuated that last offseason was a total disaster. Perhaps not. The point is is that Orioles fans have grown accustomed over the years to team owner Peter Angelos refusing to open up his wallet and bring in more talented players, and last offseason was no different.
So, who did Duquette and the Orioles acquire to replace Cruz, Markakis, and Miller? Acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates arrived 27-year-old outfielder Travis Snider. A young but reliable new right fielder? To be determined. Next, Baltimore acquired relief pitcher Jason Garcia from the Houston Astros. A replacement for Andrew Miller in the bullpen? Not a left-handed arm, but I guess we’ll see what happens? A power bat to replace Nelson Cruz’s league leading 40 homers? The Orioles simply had no answer as Cruz signed with the Seattle Mariners for 4 years/$57 million. Duquette and upper management instead felt that Steve Pearce, Delmon Young, and Nolan Reimold could fill the void at DH while taking up significantly less room on the team’s payroll. Quite a stab in the dark decision considering the nagging health issues for Reimold and a potential fluke year at the plate in 2014 for Pearce. There were also a handful of other players that the Orioles signed but unless your brain just happens to be overflowing with knowledge of players, they were simply just “guys they signed.”
On to the 2015 season…
There’s no sugarcoating how things turned out for Baltimore. Despite Chris Davis’ league leading 47 home runs and Manny Machado’s breakout season, from day one the Orioles were just never able to put it all together. Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, and Matt Wieters all spent significant time on the disabled list. No starting pitcher recorded more than 12 wins. The Orioles prized system arm Kevin Gausman was never able to put together a string of quality starts. The 2014 season did in fact prove to be a fluke for Steve Pearce. The list goes on…
If not for a disastrous stretch during the months of August and September, Buck Showalter and his battery mates may have given the Yankees and Blue Jays a run for their money down the stretch. On August 21, the Orioles held the second of two American League wild-card spots. By September 14, Baltimore was 12 games back in the American League East and 6 games back of the second wild card spot. A meltdown that even the most certain of experts couldn’t have predicted.
Not the season the Baltimore faithful had in store for their birds, but having finished the regular season at .500 at 81-81 and on a good note (a four-game sweep of the Yankees), not the most disappointing season either. Especially compared to those early 2000’s seasons. Yikes.
As we are now almost two weeks into the offseason, for those teams who did not make the postseason, this year’s offseason poses strikingly similar to the Orioles’ 2014 offseason. The Orioles free agents this offseason consist of Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Wei-Yin Chen, Darren O’Day and a few others. What do three of those four names have in common? It almost hurts to say… they’re represented by none other than Scott Boras. O’s fans can and practically have already said their goodbyes to Wieters and Chen. Caleb Joseph and Steve Clevenger have both proven themselves to be major league caliber catchers and will look to split time behind the plate for the Orioles in 2016 and moving forward. Boras will push a hard bargain for Chen who will be seeking a multi-year deal and it will be rather surprising to see the Orioles front office value Chen to that sort of capacity. The real dilemma is Davis. Crush was an absolute animal down the stretch of the regular season and put the team on his back as they climbed their way back to .500 to end the season. Most O’s fans will seemingly say that if any of the three Boras clients could return, they’d want Davis. His 47 home runs and 117 RBI’s obviously carried the offense and it would perhaps be an even tougher task to replace his bat than it was to replace Cruz’s. It’s no secret that Davis and Camden Yards got along very well and it would be extremely heart shattering to see him leave.
The Orioles front office will also face the task of extending Manny Machado as he is quickly becoming the new face of the franchise and is arbitration eligible in 2016. Even though his health poses a risk for the organization, it would be shocking to see Duquette and the front office not dish out an extension as they typically do to their big name players.
Until 2016… #AINTTHEBEERCOLD
Best of luck this offseason Dan! With Angie holding the check book, you’ll most certainly need it!