Following a last place finish in the AL East, the Baltimore Orioles are entering 2018 with a pitching staff thrown together at the last minute like a high schooler’s essay on The Great Gatsby, and the faces of the franchise have one foot out the door.
Despite this, and their elite closer being out until the until the All Star break, general manager Dan Duquette said the Orioles are looking to be contenders in 2018.
Baltimore entered Spring Training with only two starting pitchers before signing Andrew Cashner and Chris Tillman during the first week of camp. They’ll join Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy on the rotation. The fifth spot is up for grabs, and is expected to go to someone currently in the bullpen such as Mike Wright, Gabriel Ynoa or Miguel Castro. Prospect Hunter Harvey could also make a push for the spot.
Star third baseman Manny Machado is coming off of a disappointing season. He wasn’t bad by any means but he certainly did not have the MVP caliber year that was expected. Look to see a better version of Machado in 2018. It’s a contract year for him — if he wants big money, he’ll need to put up big numbers.
Whether or not Machado is traded at the deadline or departs in free agency is another story on its own. He will at least start the season in Baltimore. Even if he has mentally moved on, it will still benefit Machado (and the Orioles, by proxy) if he performs well.
Center fielder Adam Jones has also made it clear that his return isn’t guaranteed after this year. Jones said he wants to play for a winner and get a ring. The chances of that happening in Baltimore (this year, and going forward) are slim.
It was reported that manager Buck Showalter held a meeting where he showed some “tough love” for his team. It might be safe to guess there won’t be much screwing around in Baltimore this season.
Even if the team is locked in, it will be very hard for the Orioles to compete. They made no major moves in the offseason, while their division rivals acquired stars like Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez.
Similar to last year, their offense probably won’t suck. Not sucking just isn’t going to be enough this year. For a team like this to rely on their offense, they’ll need to score a lot more runs. The Orioles pitching staff allowed the second most home runs in baseball last year. Now they’ll have to face the leading home run hitter 18 times, all in hitter-friendly parks.
There is always the chance that the entire roster improves, and the pitching staff gets their s— together. If that happens, the team can be decent and make a run at a Wild Card spot.
Realistically though, 2018 will be nothing more than a year of existence for the Orioles. They have shown no signs of committing to a rebuild and significant time might pass until they do.
Owner Peter Angelos’ hesitancy to spend in the offseason and build a good roster on the fly will likely play out just as you would expect: