Quick thoughts about Spring Training 2017

Some brief thoughts from another great trip to Sarasota for Orioles Spring Training…

·         The WBC definitely had an effect on crowds and overall enjoyment.  Most position players get pulled after 4-5 innings this early in Spring Training and that’s fine when it’s Paul Yanish replacing Manny.  Not so much when Janish is starting both home and away games.  The O’s having Jones, Machado, Givens, Schoop, and Castillo in the WBC meant missing out on the best third baseman in the majors, seeing how Givens keeps progressing with his change up, and looking at what Wellington Castillo brings to the table for 2017.

·         Paul and I went to Bradenton twice and though I like Ed Smith Stadium a little bit more, Bradenton’s recent renovations have been excellent. 

·         We left on Sunday, March 19 to come home after five stellar innings from Kevin Gausman.  Despite pitching against Detroit’s B-squad, he located everything really well and struck out 8 while only allowing two hits and a walk.

·         Lido Beach is amazing.

·         Marcello’s on South Tamiami Trail is the best Italian Food I’ve ever had.

·         The Toasted Mango is the best breakfast place I’ve ever eaten at.  You don’t know what you’re missing until you have their French Toast with mango butter. 

·         59 degrees with wind in Sarasota seemed a lot colder than you would think.

Finding a Match for Brad Brach: Houston's Teoscar Hernandez & Colorado's Raimel Tapia

I spend much of each off-season writing out lengthy and detailed plans for the Orioles. Some of the scenarios are pie-in-the-sky fantasies, others are low risk/minimal move scenarios, and most fall somewhere in between. In fact, the reason this blog exists is because sometime during the 2011 off-season Tim tired of receiving long emails from me multiple times a day outlining plan and after plan for the Orioles’ winter. I rarely post any because while they often are grounded in some sort of reality – I try to follow predicted salaries, stay within the presumed budget, and err on the conservative side when it comes to returns in trades – I am just guessing and my guess is no better than anyone else’s.

Nonetheless, these off-season plans are a favorite pastime of mine and I have written an embarrassingly large amount of them this winter already. For the most they are sitting on my computer, never to see the light of day (a few stray ones still find their way to clogging up Tim’s in-box). One of the side benefits is I learn a lot about every other team in the league – including their prospects – during these exercises. Inevitably each winter I land on a player or two that I become convinced is an ideal fit in Baltimore. I have been particularly obsessed with Derek Dietrich over the past couple of years as a semi-versatile (DH, 2B, 3B, OF in a pinch), high-OBP left handed hitter who lacks an everyday role on the Marlins. Dietrich’s 2016 season – in which he got regular at bats for the first time in his career in Dee Gordon’s absence and got on base at a .374 clip – was good for my ego (we will ignore all the misses I have silently suffered through over the years). Dietrich is still on my radar – the Marlins could use a closer after all – but I’ve also landed on a couple of prospects that I think would be interesting – if imperfect – fits for the team’s vacancy in right field.

The Orioles need an everyday right-fielder and if we are to believe what is being reported, are not planning on spending significant money anywhere this winter unless Mark Trumbo agrees to return. There is a lot of smoke around the idea that the Orioles would like to use Brad Brach to get that right fielder they are desperately seeking. We know the Braves turned down a proposed offer involving Mallex Smith and that there was at least some level of talk with the Mets about a Brach for Curtis Granderson and cash swap. In addition to that concrete evidence, Dan Duquette isn’t talking up Brach’s ability to close games on a team that already has the leagues’ best closer just for giggles. Brach is an attractive trade chip for Duquette because dealing a reliever would be dealing from a position of strength and as good as Brach is, his presence or absence from the 2017 Orioles is not going to make or break their season. In other words, he is relatively expendable but should have some semblance of value especially in a market where relievers are being so highly sought after.

If the Orioles pull off a substantial trade this winter, Brad Brach is the most likely Oriole to go. (Credit: CBS Baltimore)

If the Orioles pull off a substantial trade this winter, Brad Brach is the most likely Oriole to go. (Credit: CBS Baltimore)

There are two names – who at least sort-of-kind-of fit the Mallex Smith mold – that I have become stuck on: Teoscar Hernandez of the Houston Astros and Raimel Tapia of the Colorado Rockies. I feel both players are realistic returns for Brach, could realistically be traded by their teams for a good reliever, and would give the Orioles a player who they could take a measured gamble on to man right field next season.

Teoscar Hernandez is a 24 year old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic and currently is the 8th best Astros prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Hernandez forced his way to AA by age 21 with a good season in A-ball as a 20 year old and an even better partial season in A+ next year before hitting a bit of a wall. He struggled in 2015 in AA, posting a lowly .637 OPS. He returned to AA in 2016 and the results were much improved as he slashed .305/.384/.437 in 322 plate appearances. That was enough to earn a promotion to the Pacific Coast League where he continued to hit before a late season promotion to Houston. Over 112 major league plate appearances, the athletic outfielder held his own with a .724 OPS and a very nice .190 ISO. It appears that Hernandez owes his turn around to a better and more selective plate approach. The speedy right fielder has the upside of a 20/20 player according to scouting reports if he can reach his full potential.

Teoscar Hernandez - Houston's 8th best prospect according to MLB.com - has the tools to be a 20-20 player. (Credit: MLB.com)

Teoscar Hernandez - Houston's 8th best prospect according to MLB.com - has the tools to be a 20-20 player. (Credit: MLB.com)

The Astros were aggressive earlier this winter in signing free agents Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran. Reddick is ticketed for right field in Houston while the Astros would probably prefer to have the aging Beltran serve as their designated hitter. The “problem” (a good one to have if you are the Astros) is that newly acquired Brian McCann will likely be their starting catcher and they’d like to find at bats for part-time catcher Evan Gattis, with DH being the most obvious spot for Gattis. That might force Beltran into the outfield on a more regular basis. George Springer is a definite in center for Houston while Nori Aoki, Jake Marisnick, and Preston Tucker are also major league players on the club’s 40-man roster. Hernandez – who plays centerfield according to reports might be better suited for right-field given his strong arm but questionable range – is almost certain to start in AAA unless the Astros clear some room for him.

Houston had a good bullpen in 2016 thanks to good contributions from Will Harris, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, and Chris Devenski. However, Ken Giles – acquired from the Phillies to be their closer – was a disappointment as was lefty Tony Sipp. Giles might have been unlucky if you subscribe to FIP being an indicator of luck, but Sipp was just downright bad. With Giles’ struggles, Harris and Gregerson split closing duties for much of the season. Houston does not need a pitcher like Brach, but without a clear closer and at least a couple of spots open in the pen they could potentially use him. Houston’s aggressive offseason so far is a clear indication they plan on going for it. They would reportedly like to add a starter but if they are unable to add an impact starter (or even if they do) using a spare outfielder to improve an already good bullpen might make sense.

One could argue that a proven major league player like Brach for an unknown commodity with a good-not-great ceiling and one season with positive results from an adjusted approach might not be enticing enough for the O’s to pull the trigger. I could certainly see that and wouldn’t argue against it. Maybe another player – a thrown-in type or a tad more – would have to be added to facilitate a deal from Baltimore’s end. In fact, I would expect that as “all-star reliever for 8th best organization prospect” is a hard sell. I do think there is enough there to work with – assuming Oriole scouts are sold on Hernandez – to entertain a deal. Hernandez would not provide certainty in right-field but it might be gamble worth taking. If he doesn’t stick, the O’s have a couple of backup options in Joey Rickard and Christian Walker, not to mention whoever they sign to be a fourth outfielder/platoon partner for Hyun Soo Kim. If Hernandez does become a passable major right fielder immediately – or doesn’t but grows into the role with experience – the price to obtain him (Brach) would likely be worth it.

As a potential trade match for Brad Brach, Raimel Tapia of the Colorado Rockies is in some ways a better fit than Tesocar Hernandez and in other ways presents a far more complicated potential match.

Prior to the 2016 season, the 22-year old Tapia received little love from the major prospect evaluators with the exception of the good folks at Baseball Prospectus, who considered Tapia to be one of the best one hundred prospects in baseball every year since 2014. Tapia appears to be a classic case of scouting versus results. The scouting reports on Tapia have kept him off of most prospect lists (before now that is). The word on Tapia is that his unorthodox crouch (which becomes more pronounced in a two strike count), aggressiveness at the plate, and a swing that lacks power make it unlikely that he will be able to hit successfully at baseball’s highest level. However, the results show no signs of any of those factors being an issue. Tapia does nothing but hit. His only sub-.300 batting average season was his rookie year in pro ball when he was a 17-year old in the Dominican Summer League. The scouts are leery of Tapia’s approach but that approach has produced a remarkable ability to barrel up the baseball. By all accounts, Tapia is not a slap hitter or a hitter that uses above average speed to leg out infield hits, but rather a line drive hitter with an uncanny ability to make solid contact on pitches all around the strike zone.

On the left, Tapia goes into his "normal" pre-swing couch. On the right, the Colorado prospect crouches down even lower as is his tendency when faced with a 2-strike count. (Credit: BSN Denver & MLB.com)

On the left, Tapia goes into his "normal" pre-swing couch. On the right, the Colorado prospect crouches down even lower as is his tendency when faced with a 2-strike count. (Credit: BSN Denver & MLB.com)

The prospect evaluators have begun to acknowledge that Tapia’s impressive results in the minors might trump his questionable technique. The skinny outfielder landed at #79 on Baseball America’s 2016 mid-season update and similarly, MLB Pipeline currently ranks Tapia as the 71st best prospect in baseball as well as the 4th best prospect in the Rockies organization. In addition to his hit tool, Tapia is a good defender who has the arm to play right field and flashes above average speed. Just don’t expect him to become an efficient base stealer – Tapia owns an unsightly 62% minor league stolen base success rate.

Like his peer in Houston, Tapia received his first taste of the big leagues late last season and performed reasonably well. Tapia collected 10 hits in his first (and only) 38 major league at-bats. It’s a small sample of course, but at least suggests that Tapia’s approach might translate.

Despite making it to the highest level of the Rockies’ organization in 2016, it is unlikely that Tapia finds a starting role in Colorado barring unforeseen trades and injuries. Carlos Gonzalez – who the Rockies indicated they would rather extend then trade – is a lock in right field barring an unexpected trade. Charlie Blackmon is coming off an excellent season and will be in centerfield (again, barring a trade). Former Oriole Gerardo Parra had a terrible first season in the Mile High State but his contract makes it unlikely he will be traded, released or even fully benched. Former top prospect David Dahl made an excellent first impression in Colorado last season and is certainly ahead of Tapia on the depth chart. At best, Tapia is 5th on the Rockies’ outfield depth chart at the moment. He’ll fall even further down the list if the Rockies sign Mark Trumbo or another first base-type as has been discussed, as that would move the newly signed Ian Desmond to the outfield.

Of course, the Rockies do not need to move Tapia by any stretch. He’ll be 23- years old next season which is still rather young and Colorado would likely be happy to have a major league ready outfielder in AAA as depth. It stands to reason that Colorado will need incentive beyond not having room for him on the 25-man roster in order to move a consensus top 100 prospect. The question then becomes, is acquiring a quality reliever like Brad Brach enough to get Colorado to pull the trigger?

While the Rockies have the makings of a solid young rotation, their bullpen picture is rather ugly at the moment. Colorado’s relievers had the worst team bullpen era in 2016 (5.13) and there is not a lot of reason to belief that group will perform significantly better next season. There are rumors that the Rockies were looking to sign Trumbo so they could use an outfielder to acquire pitching. That could mean starting pitching but the bigger need appears to be the bullpen. I think it is reasonable to assume that the Rockies would be willing to trade for a reliever who they believe can bolster the league’s worst pen.

As a relevant aside, just today the Rockies agreed to a 3 year/$19m with Mike Dunn, a very average-ish left-handed relief pitcher. Dunn has been worth a total of 0.7 rWAR over the past three season (0.3, -0.2, and 0.6) compared to 5.1 (0.4, 2.0, 2.6) for Brach over the same period of time. The fact that Dunn throws with his left hand no doubt inflated his worth to the Rockies who were without a lefty specialist with Boone Logan being a free agent. At the same time, that’s a steep price to pay for an okay 32-year old pitcher. Brach will make about $3m next year and assuming he doesn’t have a fantastic season as a closer in 2017 won’t likely make much more than $5m in his final spin through arbitration.

For a trade to work with Colorado for Tapia, the Orioles would have to feel confident that he could be their everyday right fielder in 2017. If not, I would imagine that Duquette would view Brach (a proven major league reliever coming off of a great season) as being too big of a price to pay for a prospect, even a top 100 one. I do think a Tapia for Brach straight up swap is more realistic than Hernandez for Brach straight up is, but if I had to guess I would think the Orioles would still want something else back to hedge their bets a little bit. If I were in charge, I’d swap Brach for Tapia and pray that Tapia’s minor league results are not deceiving but I can understand why the Orioles might be hesitate.

Neither Teoscar Hernandez or Raimel Tapia are the ideal solutions for a contending team looking to fill a relatively important position simply because they are still prospects and both come with significant question marks. Realistically if the Orioles are not going to trade their top tier players and view Brach as their best trade chip, than a major league ready, imperfect prospect is probably a realistic return. To that end, Tapia and Hernandez are the best options I have come across this winter.

Five Thoughts on the Wild Card Game

All wild card games – any single MLB game for that matter – is pretty close to a coin flip. When you factor in how close these two teams played – the 10-9 head to head record and shared 89-win total tells that story – the Blue Jays versus Orioles is about as much of a 50/50 proposition as you could imagine. Even the starting pitchers share similar struggles against the other team. I have no interest – and certainly lack the ability – to make any sort of educated prediction about a game this unpredictable, so here are a handful of random thoughts I have. Let’s Go O’s!!

 The Chris Tillman Advantage

 There has been quite a bit of hand wringing over the Orioles’ decision to start Chris Tillman by fans of the team and there will definitely be even more of that if Tillman is ineffective early. There is certainly cause for concern. Tillman has averaged nearly 93 MPH on his fastball this season according to Brooks Baseball, but has been under 92 MPH since he began dealing with shoulder discomfort in mid-August. In his last start – last week versus Toronto – Tillman struggled to break 90 MPH, lacked command of his fastball and had to lean heavily on his changeup (which to his credit he had working) to get him through the game. On the season, Tillman throws his changeup about 15% of the time but last week he went to the off speed pitch nearly 24% of the time. There is a concern that Tillman is still hurting (he almost certainly is) and his fastball velocity and command will remain off in the wild card game.

The kicker might be that if Tillman’s fastball is better – let’s say an average of 92 MPH with his normal command – and he can keep the Jays hitters believing he might throw 24% changeups again (which will involve throwing a lot of changeups early) he might be at a real advantage. Players from both sides have talked in recent days how there are no secrets between the teams and that they know each other really well. The catch is that the Tillman the Jays saw last week and who pitched well against them is not the same one they were used to. Assuming his fastball comes around tonight, he has the opportunity to keep the Jays’ hitters guessing in a way he would not have been able to without that changeup heavy performance from a week ago.

 My Only Prediction: Liriano Will Get in Early

 The one thing I am most certain will happen – maybe the only thing I am certain about at all – is that Liriano will get in the game relatively early. The Blue Jays – from their general manager on down – have stated that they expect the left-handed starter to make an impact out of the bullpen. While not a flaw unique to him, Marcus Stroman tends to stumble the third time through the order which means the Jays might want to get him out of the game sooner rather than later. Stroman also has struggled against Baltimore this season. The Orioles do not hit left-handed pitching well at all relative to right-handed pitching. With Stroman starting, the O’s are starting left-handers Hyun Soo Kim and Chris Davis, and Michael Bourn. Getting Liriano in early might cause Buck Showalter to burn Kim, Bourn or Alvarez early in the game by pinch hitting for them.

There are so many reasons to get Liriano in the game early that it is difficult to believe John Gibbons won’t do just that.

Does Ubaldo See Action?

If Buck was 100% certain that he was not going to pitch Ubaldo Jimenez unless he had no other options, I doubt the resurgent right-hander would have made the wild card roster. I don’t believe Buck would waste a spot on a player who served no utility. I believe that Ubaldo is on the roster because Buck envisions a way in which he can help. That doesn’t mean he will play – one has to think the ideal plan is for 4-5 innings from Tillman and 4-5 from the short relief group – but I do think Buck has some scenarios in mind where he would like to get Ubaldo in the game. If true and if Buck gets the opportunity it will be interesting to see how he utilizes Ubaldo. Personally, I would be leery of bringing Ubaldo out of the bullpen at all in a must-win game. That doesn’t seem like the ideal role for a starter who has only recently gotten his command and mechanics under control. Buck is very, very good at using his pitchers – especially when he isn’t worrying about tomorrow – so I am interested in seeing how he thinks Ubaldo could best contribute (although hopefully the game goes so well that it becomes a moot point).

The Bench(es)

The O’s are carrying a six man bench comprised of Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph, Pedro Alvarez, Drew Stubbs, Trey Mancini, and Nolan Reimold. Under many other situations, I would assume that most of those guys won’t see significant action. Maybe Flaherty would get in the game as a defensive substitute in the later innings. Maybe Stubbs pinch runs and Reimold replaces Kim in the outfield later for defense purposes. Alvarez could definitely see an at bat against a right-handed reliever late in a normal game. However, this might not be a normal game given the possibility discussed above of the Jays using a two-handed starting pitcher approach. If Liriano does come in early, it will put pressure on Buck to swap out his lefty bats. Does he remove Kim in the fourth or fifth inning knowing that likely means a lesser hitter will face a right-handed reliever late in the game? The same goes for Bourn. Does Buck take him out in the 5th for offensive help and downgrade the outfield defense in the process? At some point I am sure we will see this game of chicken. If Buck does opt to remove a left-handed batter or two, that suddenly thrusts some of the right-handed bench players – Reimold, Stubbs, Mancini – into possibly bigger roles than they would otherwise have in this game.

How Long Could Zach Go?

Buck has used Zach Britton for more than three outs seven times so far in 2016. In fact, he just did it on Sunday against the Yankees with a 5-1 lead in what at first seemed like a curious move. Sure, the O’s needed to win that game in order to control their own playoff destiny but it still seemed like an odd move. Was the primary or secondary motive behind the decision to give Britton a warm up five out save for possible wild card scenarios? I think that at least played a small role in the decision. So the question is – now that Buck has shown the willingness to use Britton for multiple innings (and relied heavily on his best reliever, Andrew Miller, in the 2014 playoffs) and maybe given a hint that he plans on doing it in the playoffs, how far will he push Zach in a winner takes all game?

A two-inning save if the Orioles are holding onto a narrow (one to two run) lead would seem to almost be a given. But what about other situations? Does Buck go to Zach to start the 7th (or during the 7th) if the Orioles have a narrow lead? Does he got to him in a tie in 8th? What about the 7th? Could Britton see action in the 7th inning (or even earlier?!?) during a big spot in the game? Or does Buck stick to what brought them to the dance and roll out his set up men one after one leaving Britton to get three outs at the end of a tight game? Of course, all of this is dependent on the situation – mainly, the O’s having a lead late or being close late. The last thing any manager wants to do in a winner-take-all game is not utilize their best weapons to the fullest and Britton is clearly on the O’s best weapons. It is just the meaning of fullest is a bit trickier to nail down when Buck has no way of knowing what the biggest moment in the game might be.

O's Control Own Destiny with 20 Games Left

With twenty games left to play in the 2016 season, the Orioles are well positioned in the standings. Baltimore is two games out of the top spot in the American League East, which is currently held by the Boston Red Sox. They are tired with Toronto for second place in the division and the first wild card spot. The O’s sit two games ahead of the Detroit Tigers (who they just took a weekend series from) and the surging New York Yankees. At the fringe of the AL playoff scene are the Astros and Mariners who sit 3.5 games back (4 back in the lost column with 19 games left to play) as well as the Kansas City  Royals who are 4 behind with 20 left to go.

Despite the fact that the Orioles occupy a playoff spot, are just one win and one Jays loss removed from sole possession of the top wild card spot, and three wins removed from a division lead, there is a prevailing sense among fans of the team that the odds of reaching the post season at all are not very good.

Much of that has to do with the perception of the teams around them. Prior to Sunday, the Yankees rattled off seven straight wins. Toronto plays its next seven games against sub-.500 teams. Half of the Tigers remaining twenty games are with basement dwellers Minnesota and Atlanta. The Orioles meanwhile play the AL East leader seven times, the Yankees three times, and the Blue Jays three times over their final twenty. When you look at which teams are hot and the schedules, it can make the O’s current standing suddenly feel rather tenuous.

The reality is that the Orioles control their own destiny as much if not more so than any of the other six teams (with the likely exception of Boston). There is only one team who they are competing with for a playoff spot that is actually ahead of them in the standings and that happens to the team they play the most down the stretch. With seven games versus Boston down the stretch – starting with a three game trip to Fenway on Monday – the O’s have the opportunity to do direct damage without having to rely on any other teams for assistance. To a lesser extent, the same is true of the remaining 3-game series with Toronto and New York. When you have to play teams you are competing with for a playoff spot at the end of the season you can look at it as a tough draw or an opportunity to take matters into your own hands. They have more opportunities to directly create space and close the gaps than any other team fighting for a spot.

There are twenty games left in the regular season. If the Orioles go 12-8 (.600 winning percentage) during the race to the finish line they will end up with 90 wins. Assuming that Boston does not relinquish first place in the East, TWO of the following would need to occur for the Orioles to miss out on one of the two wild card spots without necessitating a play-in game:

·         Toronto goes 13-7;

·         New York or Detroit goes 15-5;

·         Seattle or Seattle goes 16-3; or

·         Kansas City goes 17-3.

You can bump all of those win totals down by one for what each team needs to do to reach 90 wins, which in the above scenario would force a tie-breaker game (or two). In either case, the point is that if the Orioles play reasonably well but don’t necessarily go on a run – which is basically what .600 baseball is – at least one other team would have to make a true run to knock them out. If the Yankees hold the advantage in terms of momentum and the Tigers have a schedule advantage, then the O’s advantage is the current standings. It is nonsensical to discount that advantage while simultaneously talking about the advantages of other teams. I have read comments that suggest that every loss over the final three weeks is a huge blow to the Orioles' chances and it simply isn’t true. If anything, that sentiment applies more closely to the teams behind them in the standings.

Obviously winning 12 of the next 20 is no sure thing. It is merely an example of how the team is in very good shape if they continue to play well. Nobody is looking at ways the O’s could back into the playoffs – at least not yet. The “win games” part of the equation is sort of a given. If they don’t win games, it makes it far more difficult to get in. However as demonstrated above if the Orioles do continue to win games at a pace in line with their current winning percentage, they are well positioned to reach the playoffs in one form or another.

Strength of schedule is not something that should be dismissed entirely but I do think it is as important as it is often made out to be. This is Major League Baseball where a bad team winning one, two or even three straight games from a very good team is a regular occurrence. Fans of this team who remember the 2011 season should know as well as anyone that teams out of contention can go on a September tear and play spoiler. The expanded rosters even the playing field as well. If given the choice, I would much rather play the Twins seven times than the Red Sox but to assume that the games are going to play out exactly like they read on paper is incredibly presumptuous.

There are five teams – New York, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, and Kansas City – who would LOVE to be in the O’s spot now (upcoming schedules be damned). I wish more Oriole fans would realize and embrace that rather than assuming that the worst is going to happen over the next three weeks. The race is going to be stressful and likely come down to the end, but the Orioles are in the enviable position of simply needing to win games at a pace they are accustomed to this season and the rest will in all likelihood take care of itself.

Joe Girardi vs. The Baltimore Orioles: A Brief History

Joe Girardi’s hissy fit and subsequent ejection for arguing with the umpires over what he thought was a missed balk call on Orioles’ starter Kevin Gausman last night was another reminder that nobody in baseball complains as much as the Yankees’ skipper. While Joe’s wrath on Thursday evening was directed towards the umpiring crew, he has not been shy about getting into it with the Orioles in the past. Below is a brief and likely incomplete history of Joe Girardi vs. the Baltimore Orioles. Please feel free to let me know any incidents that I might have forgotten.

·         Joe Girardi vs. Jeremy Guthrie and Hit Batters

o   March 30, 2010 – Guthrie hits Mark Teixeira on the wrist during a late ST game. The timing of the incident (occurring right at the start of the season) “irks” Girardi. Girardi takes out his frustration by yelling at something – either at Guthrie or at a Yankee water cooler depending on what you wish to believe.

o   April 29, 2010 – Guthrie hits Jorge Posada leading Joe to passive aggressively wish that Guthrie “had better command.”

o   September 19, 2010 – Guthrie hits Derek Jeter with the first pitch of a game. Girardi is more direct in his criticism this go around: “Too many, just too many. I don’t really understand it, and I know he likes to pitch inside, but it’s too many.”

·         Joe Girardi vs. The Weather

o   August 27, 2011 – With the Orioles organization still reeling over the suicide death of Mike Flanagan three days earlier and with the remnants of Hurricane Irene hammering the east coast, Girardi’s mind is on the important things in life such as rescheduling make up games to best meet the needs and desires of the New York Yankees. He vows to “fight” the Orioles’ decision to reschedule Saturday’s canceled games (the teams were to play a doubleheader) as part of a Sunday doubleheader and on a mutual off day in early September, respectively. Girardi offered two solutions neither of which were legitimate unless the criteria considered is helping out the Yankees. The first suggestion was to shuffle around the weekend schedule in advance and book double headers on both Friday and Sunday. The O’s finished a game in Minnesota close to midnight on Thursday meaning even a single admission double header (which would cost the organization one game of ticket revenue) starting at 4:05 would result in a 12-hour turnaround by the time the team plane landed in Baltimore early Friday morning. Not to be deterred, Girardi also kindly offered up that the teams play a double header in New York when the Orioles visited ten days later. As if money was the only concern with that plan, the Yankees offered to share the ticket revenue with the Orioles. To nobody’s surprise but Joe Girardi’s, the Orioles declined both suggestions. Girardi seemed unaware or indifferent to the fact that he took the organization to task for not pre-planning around the weather a day or two after they tragically lost an active and important member of the organization.

o   May 3, 2016 – After the Orioles finish their round of batting practice somewhere around 5:30, the OPACY grounds crew places the tarp over the field effectively canceling New York’s batting practice session. Girardi accuses Showalter and the O’s of gamesmanship by using the weather to deprive the offensively challenged Yankees of their hitting practice. In Joe’s professional meteorologist opinion, “It didn't seem to rain. I don't know. I wasn't out here, but it didn't seem to rain much." Weather tracking systems that were “out there” show that it did rain during the time the Yankees would have taken BP (even if not very much).

·         Joe Girardi versus Bobby Dickerson and Sign Stealing

o   September 9, 2013 – In the early going of a September game at Camden Yards, Girardi reportedly screams at third base coach Bobby Dickerson who he suspects of stealing the Yankees’ signs. This prompts Buck Showalter to come out of the dugout in between innings in defense of his third base coach which leads to a highly entertaining shouting match between the two managers. 

The Cascading Effects of Signing Pedro Alvarez

In the aftermath of Dexter Fowler spurning the Orioles to rejoin the Cubs, I wrote about a few potential solutions to the Orioles’ hole in right field. One of those acquisition ideas is (almost) a reality with the reported signing of Pedro Alvarez to a one year, $5.75 million contract.

As discussed in that piece, Alvarez represented an imperfect fit for the Orioles given that his presence would shift Mark Trumbo into more of a full time right fielder role. While true, the post also hypothesized that with some clever maneuvering – which Buck Showalter is adept at – Trumbo could end up spending only about 50% of his games in the outfield without the team having to sacrifice much offense to get there. To get to that 50% outfield playing time mark for Trumbo, Buck will have to buy into a few different strategies and then have the healthy personnel in order to pull them off.

Four Potential Solutions to the Orioles' Outfield Problem

In one of the more bizarre turn of events in recent Orioles history, Dexter Fowler went from being a surefire Oriole to being a Cub yesterday. As much as I might want to rant about that whole situation and the entirely suspect manner in which Fowler’s agent Casey Close handled it, that would not make for a very readable blog post. It also probably wouldn’t do much good for my health. So instead – as we often do around here – I want to look forward at the possibilities that exist to fill the hole "left behind" by Fowler. The slow developing 2015-2016 offseason has left one free agent and a trio of trade possibilities on the table who could potentially help the Orioles. I look at each individual’s case below.

Exploring Possible Alternatives to Player Opt Out Clauses

Dan Duquette has publicly stated his opposition to offering player opt-out clauses as part of free agent contracts.  Some have expressed concern that a firm stance against opt-outs could place the Orioles at a competitive disadvantage with free agents.  Is that the case and in any event, what alternative contract structures could the Orioles pursue to attract free agents in an opt-out environment while limiting their downside risk?