The Baltimore Orioles concluded their 2016 season with a loss in the American League Wild Card Game to the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite a disappointing end to the season, 2016 should be considered a relative success. The Orioles posted a record of 89-73 while finishing second in the AL East. The Orioles were one of three teams from the AL East to make it to the postseason along with the Jays and the Boston Red Sox. The Orioles, however, must make some good decisions this offseason in order to keep being competitive in a tough division. Here is a breakdown of team needs for the Orioles and how their front office may address them.
Baltimore Orioles Offseason Needs
Re-Signing Mark Trumbo
Trumbo was acquired from the Seattle Mariners this offseason for catcher Steve Clevenger. Trumbo had posted consecutive lackluster seasons between Arizona and Seattle before arriving in Baltimore. Thankfully, Trumbo displayed the power potential in Baltimore that he originally demonstrated when he broke through with the Los Angeles Angels. He led all of Major League Baseball with 47 home runs. For the year, Trumbo appeared in 159 games and posted a line of .256/.316/.533 and a career-high OPS of .850. Trumbo also posted career highs in runs (94), RBI (108), hits (157) and total bases (327).
Bringing Trumbo back to Baltimore should be a top priority for the front office. The Orioles are a team that loves to rely on power hitting. Only one player, outfielder Joey Rickard, posted more than three steals this season, but six Orioles posted 20+ home runs with Trumbo leading the pack. Baltimore boasts a competitive core of players with guys like Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Jonathan Schoop. That being said, the departure of Trumbo would leave a void in production that would be difficult for the Orioles to overcome. Re-signing the powerful Trumbo will give Baltimore’s line up a boost heading into 2017 and a chance to compete for the division title.
Baltimore is in desperate need of upgrading their rotation. The Orioles had two pitchers, Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman, log 30 starts apiece with a quality ERA. The rest of the rotation, however, was a patchwork job at best. Six pitchers started 10+ games for the Orioles but just one of these players, Dylan Bundy, posted an ERA under five. The tough part for the Orioles is that Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Miley and Yovani Gallardo are owed a combined $33 million for 2017.
It is no secret that the free agent market for starters is not good this offseason. A weak market coupled with the money already committed to under-performing pitchers means that the Orioles should investigate trade options for another starter. A top trade target for any team in need of a starter should be Chris Sale. Sale has been a consistent ace for the past five years and owns a high strikeout percentage. Another factor making Sale desirable is his team-friendly contract. Sale is owed $12 million for 2017 with team options for ’18 and ’19 at $12.5 and $13.5 million. The Orioles do have a lot of money tied up, but Sale’s contract makes him a viable option for any team.
Matt Wieters is heading to the free agent market after his eighth season in Baltimore. The Orioles must determine if they should re-sign Wieters or look elsewhere for his replacement. The problem again lies in a weak free agent market. There is only one top-tier catcher besides Wieters on the open market. Wilson Ramos is coming off an All-Star year when he hit .307 and posted a career high 22 home runs and .850 OPS. Unfortunately, Ramos tore his ACL in late September. The injury may have significantly lowered the price tag for Ramos but it also put his availability for Opening Day in jeopardy.
A third player in consideration for the Orioles catching position is prospect Chance Sisco. The 21-year old Sisco posted a .317/.403/.430 slash line while playing for Double-A Bowie this season. The Orioles are hesitant to rush Sisco the majors, but the options for Baltimore are severely limited. It remains doubtful that the Orioles will have enough funds to re-sign both Wieters and Trumbo. An ideal situation would see the Orioles sign Ramos to an affordable deal while letting Wieters walk via free agency. The hope is for Sisco to handle the majority of the catching duties through the first part of the season while Ramos recovers from his knee injury. Rushing a young prospect, though not ideal, provides the Orioles with the best chance to succeed in 2017.